Newspaper raises allegations of abuse against the Pius Brotherhood

Newspaper raises allegations of abuse against the Pius Brotherhood

Geneva (KNA) The Swiss daily newspaper “Le Temps” accuses the traditionalist Catholic Fraternity of St Pius X of serious shortcomings in dealing with abuse. After months of research in several countries, the paper says it has compiled numerous cases of physical, sexual and psychological abuse within the ranks of the Fraternity. An article published at the weekend mentions around 60 “problematic priests”.

“Le Temps” complains that the superiors’ treatment of the accused is generally lax. Sanctions imposed are hardly enforceable. Reports to the judiciary are made late or not at all. The analysis was based on documents relating to completed court proceedings, internal documents and several witness statements. The allegations relate to almost the entire period since the fraternity was founded in 1970.

In one case, the research led to concrete steps being taken. In the Swiss canton of Valais, the relevant authorities announced an investigation into the primary school run by the Pius Brothers in Econe. A former pupil told “Le Temps” that he had suffered violent assaults there in the 1980s. The now 41-year-old said that he was beaten with sticks in front of his classmates with his trousers down before he was even eight years old.

When asked by the newspaper, the Society of St Pius X emphasised that it investigates every report of abuse. There is no cover-up. “On the contrary, we strongly encourage all persons to inform the judicial authorities and us about cases of which they are aware.” The community co-operates with the state authorities.

The Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X was founded in 1970 by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991). It rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The main points of contention are liturgy, religious freedom and ecumenism. According to Lefebvre, who himself took part in the Council, the teachings of the Council had destroyed the tradition of the Church. The Society of St Pius X sees itself as the guardian of the tradition of the “Holy Roman Church”.

Initially recognised by the Church, Rome withdrew the group’s ecclesiastical licence in 1975. After unauthorised ordinations to the priesthood, Lefebvre was banned from exercising his episcopal office in 1976. By ordaining four priests of his brotherhood as bishops in 1988 without papal authorisation, all five were excommunicated, i.e. excluded from the Catholic Church. Although Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013) lifted this excommunication in 2009, no theological agreement was reached.

According to its own information, the brotherhood now has branches in more than 60 countries. There are currently around 700 priests working in various fields – including missionary work, but also in schools and seminaries. The international headquarters of the community is located in Menzingen in the Swiss canton of Zug.