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Father Arnaud Rostand, SSPXSSPX

Update: This report has been updated to include details of an April 15 statement from the SSPX.

(LifeSiteNews) — The former U.S. District Superior of the Society of St. Pius X has admitted in court to abusing seven minors, in a case which is marked by apparent inaction from the Society despite the priest’s own prior admission of such a “tendency.”

On April 4, French news outlets reported that Father Arnaud Rostand had admitted in court in Gap, France to molesting seven underage boys, between 2002 and 2018 in France, Spain and Switzerland. According to the reports, Rostand did not challenge the charges made against him, but admitted his actions and made an apology in court, saying “I apologize to the victims and deeply regret everything I have done. I’m here to be punished.”

58-year-old Rostand served as U.S. District Superior for the traditional Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) from August 2008 through August 2014, on the request of then-SSPX Superior General Bishop Bernard Fellay.

Highly explicit detail about his actions was provided by his victims in the courtroom, and detailed in the French reports, though which will not be further relayed on LifeSiteNews. Rostand added, when questioned about why he did not report himself to the police, that “I realize today that I should have acted differently.”

The local diocesan prelate, Bishop Xavier Malle of the Diocese of Gap-Embrun, issued a statement distancing himself completely from Rostand due to the priest’s membership of the SSPX and not being a priest of the diocese.

Rostand had been arrested in December last year, having been based in the Monastery of Our Lady of Montgardin in the Western Alps since 2021. The monastery, in an idyllic setting, has been styled the “golden cage” due to being used as a place of seclusion for priests (including disgraced SSPX clergy) to dedicate themselves to a contemplative life. 

The prosecutors are seeking a sentence of four years monitored living, “with a care injunction, a permanent ban on exercising a voluntary or professional activity with minors,” along with an order to compensate the victims. His sentencing will come in early June.

Case of besmirched timelines

The reason prosecutors are seeking monitored living, or “socio-judicial” living is due to Rostand having been under psychiatric care since 2019. This, his defense lawyers argue, should be taken into account since Rostand is “a weak, fragile, condemnable man,” in their words.

In fact, Rostand attested that he informed the SSPX via letter in 1998 that he had an “attraction” to children. He stated that he informed the SSPX about this again in 2000, then in 2006 and 2013. 

French reports state that Rostand stated he had “always fought against this attraction.”

The SSPX published a since-deleted statement on the affair on April 5, though without naming Rostand. 

They stated about the timeline of Rostand’s actions that “in 2014, after ambiguous and inappropriate attitudes were brought to their attention, the Fraternity’s superiors immediately dismissed the offending priest and withdrew him from the apostolate. For the past ten years, the accused has been subject to appropriate disciplinary supervision within the Fraternity.”

“The Society of Saint Pius X cannot find strong enough words to condemn these acts of irreparable consequence,” the SSPX added. “It wishes to express its profound compassion for the victims, whom it intends to support as much as possible. It deeply regrets not having been able to protect the children entrusted to its care, and having put its trust in this priest.”

On April 15, the SSPX issued a new statement, broadly similar to the deleted April 4 version, but this time explicitly stating that “At no time and in no way were the actions of this priest covered-up by his Superiors.”

“As far as we know, no crime was committed by this priest in the United States or Canada,” the new statement added.

However, questions have been raised about how seriously SSPX leadership took Rostand’s self-professed concerns. As noted by Rostand himself, his career in the order has involved significant responsibility along with much contact with children. 

Screenshot of Rostand’s LinkedIn page

Ordained in 1993, he was a head of school in Paris, between August 1998 and August 2006. 

He was then District Superior of Canada between August 2006 and August 2008, before serving as U.S. District Superior from 2008 until August 2014. 

At that point, according to the SSPX’s deleted April 4 statement, the Society became aware of “ambiguous and inappropriate attitudes” in 2014, at which point they “immediately dismissed the offending priest and withdrew him from the apostolate.”

The Society added that “[w]hen, in 2019, the Brotherhood’s superiors learned of the existence of facts relating to the tribunal, they reported them to the judicial authorities, and strengthened the disciplinary framework. Following this report, the necessary investigations were launched.”

Rostand’s own public details record that he worked as SSPX Communications Director in the Society’s general headquarters in Menninger, Switzerland between 2014 and April 2019. The role entailed having to “coordinate the collaboration between the various institutions of the priestly society and oversee public relations matters.” 

After this, he was named district secretary of Canada from April 2019 through June 2022 – according to his public details. 

The victims group Collectic Victims FSSPX stated that the “measures” against Rostand “were ineffective, contrary to what is claimed, as the touching continued until 2018. This was the year in which Superior General Davide Pagliarani put him back in contact with the faithful in Menzingen, after 4 years on communications assignments. We had to wait until 2019 for psychiatric follow-up, 21 years after the first warnings!”

LifeSiteNews has contacted the SSPX General House for comment on the matter and the timeline, but has not yet received a response.

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