Society of St. Pius X priest admits to years of sexual misconduct with minors — By: Catholic News Agency

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CNA Newsroom, Apr 11, 2024 / 06:45 am (CNA).

At a hearing for a criminal trial in France, a priest of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) who spent six years in the U.S. has admitted to sexual misconduct with French minors over a period of 15 years, local media reported Sunday. 

Speaking at the criminal court in the city of Gap in southeastern France, Father Arnaud Rostand on April 4 admitted to the accusations, according to La Provence newspaper, saying: “I ask for forgiveness from the victims and deeply regret everything I have done.”

The 58-year-old is charged with misconduct against seven boys, often during church-related activities like scout camps in France, Spain, and Switzerland, the paper said, noting the abuse allegedly took place over a 15-year period between 2002 and 2018.

During that time, the priest held several roles, including that of a school principal in France, but also served as U.S. district superior from 2008 to 2014. In a “farewell letter” published in July 2014 but no longer linked on the current website, he announced his departure from that role, writing he had been assigned to manage communications for the society from its general house in Menzingen, Switzerland.

In a statement published April 5 on its website, the SSPX expressed deep regret over the abuse.

“The Society of St. Pius X cannot find strong enough words to condemn these acts, which have irreparable consequences. It wishes to express its profound compassion for the victims, whom it intends to support as much as possible.”

The accused priest, according to the SSPX, had “been the subject of appropriate disciplinary supervision within the fraternity.” 

Furthermore, the statement said, “when, in 2019, the fraternity’s superiors learned of the existence of facts relevant to the tribunal, they reported them to the judicial authorities and strengthened the disciplinary framework.”

In a critical response to the statement, the victim advocacy platform SSPX Victims Collective noted that Rostand held senior roles and positions of authority, and that at least two other priests had been accused.

“For the third time in nine months, a priest of the fraternity [of St. Pius X] finds himself before a French court for sexual assault or rape. Not to mention multiple proceedings abroad,” the group said in a statement.

The sentence in the Rostand case is expected to be passed in early June.

The SSPX is a traditionalist group founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 that has an irregular canonical status. The group is not overseen by the Catholic Church or any diocese within the Catholic Church.

In 2020, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation launched a multiyear investigation for alleged sex abuse by clergy, including SSPX members and four Catholic dioceses. The report, released in 2023, identified 188 suspects but did not result in charges.

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