This is the third in a series of reports to be released by LifeSiteNews on the Society of St. Pius X. LifeSite asks readers for patience and prayers as we present our findings, which have been collected over the past year. Read part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE.
June 15, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic priest who has been accused by two young women of misconduct and of sexually “grooming” them is considering a defamation suit against the website that has repeatedly promoted their contested accusations over the past year, according to his lawyer.
Some of the alleged “grooming” interactions took place during Confession, meaning the priest is unable to defend himself or speak about what happened.
Father Pierre Duverger is a priest of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), a group of approximately 700 traditional Catholic clergy founded in 1970 in opposition to the liberal reforms of Vatican II. He has been the subject of multiple articles published on Church Militant since April 2020.
Church Militant’s Christine Niles and Michael Voris have frequently cast Duverger in a negative light in their reporting, painting him as a sexual predator whose behavior was “covered up” by SSPX leadership.
In a now-deleted statement defending Duverger, the SSPX priory where he lives in Florida noted that priests have a “duty of silence” regarding spiritual direction, further limiting Duverger’s ability to defend himself. The statement can be read in full at the bottom of this article.
Fr. Duverger was born in France and has two brothers who are also SSPX priests. He has held several prominent positions within the Society in the past, including Director of Communications for the U.S. District. He is currently stationed at the SSPX’s St. Thomas More priory in Sanford, Florida.
Among other things, Church Militant’s Christine Niles has said that “[SSPX] leadership has a deep history of covering for predators.” The SSPX is a “Nazi Pedophile cult,” Church Militant’s Michael Voris has tweeted. Niles has repeatedly accused those who challenge the veracity of her reporting of being “pedo[phile] enablers.”
Church Militant has primarily relied on the testimony of Jassy Jacas for its claims. Although Jacas, who is in her 20s and lives in Kansas, says nothing criminal occured when Duverger was giving her spiritual advice nearly eight years ago over a period of two months, she is now believes there was something inappropriate with his methods. She also says she’s spoken to “hundreds” of other women, including one named Hannah (with whom LifeSite also spoke), who say they’ve been abused by SSPX priests.
But several persons well acquainted with Duverger, including Hannah’s former roommate Kathryn Janot (who also received spiritual direction from Duverger), vehemently dispute what Jacas and Church Militant say about him and the Society of St. Pius X. Multiple additional sources have also spoken with LifeSite on the record in order to, as they say, clear Duverger’s name.
Rosa Armesto is Duverger’s Miami-based attorney. Armesto has known him personally for nearly a decade. She told LifeSite that Jacas’s claims are blown out of proportion. Jacas also relied on “false” allegations made about Duverger’s behavior by Hannah and then went on a misguided crusade to have his ministry unjustly restricted, according to Armesto.
“First off, these aren’t allegations. They’re complaints,” Armesto told LifeSite via email. “Jassy herself admitted that nothing criminal was done to her by Fr. Duverger and that she isn’t a victim. It wasn’t until later, when Jassy heard Hannah’s story, that she thought she needed to do something. Nothing improper occurred with Jassy. Moreover, Hannah’s allegations are nothing more than lies and fabrications made by an unstable person. Yet Jassy relied on them as her sole reason to confront SSPX leadership.”
Armesto added that, “Father Duverger has asked me to file the lawsuit and I intend to do so. At the very least, Mr. Voris and Ms. Niles should retract their assertions that Fr. Duverger and other SSPX priests would soon be arrested by the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI). It has been more than two years since Jassy reported her false allegations to the KBI. Fr. Duverger has not been arrested (nor any other SSPX priest) nor will he be arrested because he has not committed any crime. Mr. Voris and Ms. Niles have no integrity and they use false allegations to fuel their false narrative.”
SSPX authorities who have spoken to LifeSite also maintain that they correctly handled Jacas’s allegations. They state that Duverger was placed under restrictions ministering to and hearing women’s Confessions and that no allegations have arisen since. The SSPX’s U.S. District released a statement last year that said Church Militant’s articles “mix and match real facts with false or unbelievable accusations, in an abhorrent manner.”
If Duverger’s litigation against Voris proceeds, it would be the second defamation suit from a member of the clergy Voris would be facing over the past several months. Father Georges de Laire, judicial vicar for the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, has also filed a suit against Voris recently, alleging that he “intended to besmirch” his reputation with “recklessly false” claims. According to left-wing reporter Christopher White, a U.S. District Court judge denied Voris’s request to have the case thrown out in February 2021.
Jassy Jacas’s testimony
Jassy Jacas is currently a nurse in her 20s. She moved from California to St. Marys, Kansas (the town does not use an apostrophe in its name) as a teenager. Thousands of traditional Catholics live in the area, which was the focus of an article published by The Atlantic in January 2020.
Jacas told Niles during a sit-down interview last year that she first came into contact with Duverger in the confessional in December 2013. Jacas told LifeSite that she had never heard of Duverger before then and didn’t know he was the priest hearing Confessions that day.
Jacas says she told Duverger during Confession that she was abused by her cousin when she was younger and that she began to cry. Duverger allegedly told her he would help her with her problems.
Jacas and Duverger began conversing over email. A month later they had a face-to-face meeting in an office on SSPX property in St. Marys where he asked her intimate questions about her sexual history. Duverger, who was living at the SSPX’s headquarters in Missouri and travelling to St. Marys only occasionally, apparently told Jacas he was available to text, call, or email at “any hour, for anything” especially during times of temptation.
Soon after that meeting, Duverger told Jacas that he had to go to France to visit his ailing mother. He never spoke with her again. “I emailed him everything he asked for and then he disappeared,” Jacas said. “I was confused and upset about it. But I let it go.” The extent of Jacas’s and Duverger’s interaction was one Confession, approximately 15 email exchanges, and one face-to-face meeting.
LifeSite asked Jacas for access to the email correspondence but she said she couldn’t provide it because it was part of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s (KBI) case into Fr. Duverger and that she therefore couldn’t let LifeSite read the emails. Jacas later revised her response by saying she simply deleted the emails and that she couldn’t find them. LifeSite has not been able to confirm if Duverger himself is being investigated by the KBI. When LifeSite contacted the KBI’s office to inquire about abuse cases in the state, they responded that they “do not comment on ongoing investigations.”
Duverger’s lawyer has stated that, “when a person reports to the police allegations against another that are not criminal nor credible, it does not mean that the accused is under criminal investigation by the police. It just means that the accuser was allowed to report her allegations to the police.”
‘Bigger than just Fr. Duverger’
Jacas said that it wasn’t until several years later when she was going to a counselor to deal with the sexual abuse she experienced in her youth that she had second thoughts about Duverger’s tactics.
Jacas informed LifeSite that the counselor told her that there was “another” woman he knew of who had had an interaction with Duverger that involved abuse. The “other” person her counselor was referring to, Jacas said, was a young woman named Hannah who was raised in a large, traditional Catholic family and who used to attend SSPX chapels.
LifeSite asked Jacas if the counselor was willing to speak publicly but she said the counselor was not interested in doing so. (Patient confidentiality records would likely prevent the counselor from doing so, too.)
Jacas eventually reached out to Hannah to learn about her relationship with Duverger. Jacas says Hannah told her that the priest instructed her to perform indecent acts while Hannah and the priest were talking on a FaceTime video chat. Jacas said that despite having some doubts about Hannah’s allegations, she began to think that sexual abuse within the SSPX is “bigger than just Fr. [Duverger].”
Niles assured Jacas during their interview last year that Church Militant was “going to be talking to Hannah in more detail about” the allegation she made against Fr. Duverger but as of the date of this story’s publication, Church Militant has yet to publish anything further on Hannah and her accusations.
As will be outlined below, Hannah's testimony about Duverger is contested by several sources, including one of her former roommates.
Talking to SSPX authorities
Jacas revealed to LifeSite that she worked as a high school summer camp counselor for the SSPX from 2016 until 2019. She says it was at that point that she took her concerns about Fr. Duverger to Father Gerard Beck, the priest in charge of one of the camps.
“I set up a meeting with [Fr. Beck] after Hannah had told me that he silenced her report against Fr. Duverger,” Jacas told LifeSite. Beck allegedly told Jacas that Duverger was already under “some restrictions” due to “imprudent” behavior with a different woman.
LifeSite has learned from the SSPX’s U.S District Communication’s Director Jim Vogel that Duverger did indeed have some sort of allegation made against him by a French woman around 2007 (this will be discussed more below). Whether Beck was referring to that particular incident is not apparent.
Jacas told Church Militant’s Niles that after a couple weeks of not hearing if the SSPX was going to do an “investigation” into Duverger, she reached out to Beck again. Beck apparently told her that Duverger has “serious health conditions and has little to no contact with the faithful right now.” He also allegedly told her he didn’t know if any sort of official investigation was going to happen.
Jacas then reached out to Father Herve de La Tour, the former rector of St. Mary’s Academy in Kansas. She said she contacted de La Tour after Hannah told her that he was the priest who “knew of other reports made against Fr. Duverger in the past.” Jacas said de la Tour admitted to her that he knew “one report [was] made in 2007 or 2008 [against Fr. Duverger].”
Other than that particular allegation (which will be explored in more detail below), LifeSite has not been able to uncover any evidence that Duverger has either been credibly accused of or been found to have done anything illegal or criminal in nature in the United States.
During her interview with Church Militant, Jacas shared an anecdote about a time when she was speaking with Hannah. Hannah had told her that “a friend” of hers “goes into an emotional frenzy” whenever Duverger’s name is brought up. LifeSite has not been able to confirm who that friend is or if the claim is true.
Confronting SSPX authorities
Jacas told LifeSite that she grew increasingly “concerned” about Fr. Duverger’s freedom to minister to women after she spoke with Hannah, so she reached out to Father Jurgen Wegner in late 2019. Wegner was the SSPX’s District Superior of the United States at the time. He has since been reassigned to Austria.
SSPX spokesman Jim Vogel confirmed to LifeSite that the timeline Jacas presents in her testimony about the priests with whom she spoke is correct. He did not contest any of the quotations Jacas has attributed to the priests with whom she spoke.
Wegner apparently told Jacas that Duverger, who by that point had been re-assigned to the SSPX’s St. Thomas More priory in Sanford, Florida, was “restricted on doing Confessions and spiritual direction with women.” According to Jacas, he also said the restrictions “are so severe for him that he literally says Mass and he has to run and hide afterwards because if he is even seen talking to a woman, he's done.”
To that, Jacas says she responded, “Okay, well, what about the children?” And she says Wegner replied, “well, what proof do you have that you should be concerned about children?”
Jacas said she had two concerns: “One, if I were a mother of any of those children sending my kids those camps or that school, I would want to know if these reports were made against him. Two, it it seems like he targeted sexual abuse victims, which are very vulnerable to being confused…and children are vulnerable also.”
Wegner allegedly said, “I will look into it and see if there's anything more we can do for the children's safety.”
Jacas said that she became even more upset after learning Duverger was placed in charge of running camps for kids and was tasked with leading a pilgrimage that included women on it. He was also tasked with helping at the school in Florida. Jacas told LifeSite that she believed Fr. Wegner misled her.
“I was willing to accept Fr. Wegner’s decisions up until the point I found out he was lying to me. Fr. Durverger was working with an all female faculty and wanted to plan a private pilgrimage with just him and them. I was told specifically that Fr. Duverger wasn't even allowed to be seen with a woman, yet he worked with a female faculty and they were advertising a pilgrimage with him.”
“It was not my demands but the SSPX’s own protocols that they publicly claim to follow that was [sic] not being followed,” she said.
Jacas also said that she spoke with Father Marc Vernoy, a priest stationed at the St. Thomas More priory with Fr. Duverger. “I end up saying [to him] that the only thing that would ease my conscience would be for him to inform all the parents about the reports or to remove Father Duverger from a position in which he could be hurting people.” Neither of those things happened, she said.
Jacas eventually contacted Father Davide Pagliarani, the Superior General of the SSPX, via email in early 2020 to express concern about Fr. Duverger’s ministry. Pagliarani emailed her back saying the U.S. District is in charge of Duverger and that the situation was in Fr. Wegner’s hands.
Jacas went public with her story in January 2020 in a Facebook post. She has since said that “hundreds” of other “victims” of SSPX priests have contacted her. She has continued to release comments on Facebook in response to the SSPX’s various statements. She now says she’s an “advocate” for other victims.
“If I didn’t come to know of other reports made [by Hannah]…concerning Fr. Duverger, I would not have reported my own experience with him,” Jacas told LifeSite. “There was no crime in my experience with Fr. Duverger.”
As of the publication of this story, LifeSite is not aware of any arrests or lawsuits having been brought against current SSPX priests in the United States for sexual abuse.
SSPX responds to Jacas’s claims
LifeSite reached out to the Society of St. Pius X’s U.S. District to learn the details of the allegations against Fr. Duverger and why he was allowed to be in charge of a school where he would be around women. LifeSite also asked for a response to Jacas’s testimony.
Although LifeSite sent an email to Fr. Duverger, LifeSite has not received a response. Fr. Wegner, however, did reply to LifeSite via email, saying, “as the District Superior, I assigned Fr. Duverger to Florida. The [reason] for this assignment [was] Father had just gone through open heart surgery and had to take the time off for re-convalescence.”
“In Florida he received a clearly defined apostolate. Severe restrictions have been put on his priestly work. No accusations have been made since [those restrictions have been in place] and Jassy Jacas did not bring up any accusation for the period Father Duverger has been under these restrictions.”
Wegner said he didn’t need to reveal to parents Fr. Duverger’s past and that Jacas’s demands were not reasonable, especially after he had already placed restrictions on his ministry.
“Like it is done in families, between parents and children … information is shared on a need to know basis. And there are moments, where there is no danger for the children, where parents keep information from their children.”
Duverger’s attorney, Rosa Armesto, told LifeSite that the situation was blown out of proportion by Jacas, who took Hannah’s “false” claims about Duverger seriously and then went on a misguided mission to have his ministry totally restricted.
“Fr. Duverger was trying to help Jassy deal with some very serious issues. He had no choice but to ask her extremely personal questions. To say that Fr. Duverger was ‘grooming’ Jassy, as Christine Niles grossly claims he was, is ridiculous. I strongly question Christine’s journalistic integrity. Fr. Duverger had a few email exchanges with Jassy and then a face-to-face meeting. That’s it. He never met with her again. This is not the behavior of a predator.”
SSPX spokesman Jim Vogel also responded to LifeSite via email.
“In full disclosure, Fr. Duverger is a long-time friend of my family and someone I've worked with for roughly 10 years,” said Vogel. “When we discussed these most recent allegations, he told me he couldn't comment because it was under or connected to the seal of confession. I'm obviously not going to ask any priest to break the seal.”
“He also told me he requested a canonical trial [regarding the 2007/2008 abuse allegation], but was denied one; I reported this to my superiors who told me there was no need of a canonical trial under the circumstances since canon law provides superiors with various ways of the proceeding; a lighter, shorter procedure was chosen [by Fr. Wegner] to inflict punishment and restrictions on Fr. Duverger.”
“I had been told at some point that Fr. Duverger was accused in France of improprieties with an adult woman,” Vogel continued. “I was never told the details though. But when I asked my superiors [about the improprieties], they told me it was looked into and handled. I still don't know more than that since my job is a ‘need-to-know’ job.”
LifeSite sent another email to Fr. Wegner in August 2020 asking for more details about Fr. Duverger’s ministry. Wegner said that Duverger spent time at the SSPX-affiliated traditional Benedictine Monastery in Silver City, New Mexico, arriving in November 2008. LifeSite asked if that was done as a form of penance for the past instance of misconduct in France.
“Unfortunately I cannot give you any additional information on the situation in France,” Wegner said. “It is true that Fr. de la Tour had brought up with Jassy that there was an offense in France which resulted in the year of penance in Silver City for Fr. Duverger.”
“In my contacts with the General House, it came clear that the victim of this offense [in France], as well as the family, did not want to pursue this offense legally. The lady was not a minor.”
Wegner also told LifeSite that he himself was made aware of the accusations made by Hannah against Fr. Duverger but that “several people (even family members) questioned the credibility of Hannah.”
Fr. Wegner further revealed to LifeSite that the two restrictions placed on Duverger were to not hear Confessions for women and to not offer spiritual direction to them. “At that time, all the restrictions on the apostolate of Fr. Duverger were in place for over a year already,” he said. “No new accusations were brought up, no situation was mentioned in Florida that would have been a reason to adjust the restrictions in place.”
“The element that triggered Jassy’s reaction next was the announcement of a pilgrimage to France which was led by Fr. Vernoy and accompanied by Fr. Duverger. Jassy saw this as proof that Fr. Duverger was put in charge of women again.”
“In her conversations with [me], Jassy wanted Fr. Duverger removed from all apostolate and for all times without showing any evidence that the rules in place were sufficient.”
“We are committed to transparency regardless [of] what Jassy implies. This does not mean we can do detraction, ruin reputations without any reason. The rules put in place spoke for themselves,” he said.
Armesto echoed Wegner’s remarks in a comment to LifeSite. “It was my understanding that the restrictions were placed out of an abundance of caution to avoid even the appearance of any impropriety.”
Fr. Marc Vernoy, the principal of the Florida school Duverger is stationed at, told LifeSite via email that, “Fr. Duverger is currently helping at our school. I [have been] the principal for 10 years. He is the chaplain of our cadets and braves. He also teaches catechism in English and in Spanish for adults and from the pulpit. Father cannot confess women, cannot give spiritual direction to women and he is limited in interaction with women. The restrictions are fully observed for three years.”
‘Severe’ restrictions on Duverger?
A source close to LifeSite who attended the SSPX’s St. Thomas More church on April 26, 2020 spoke with LifeSite on condition of anonymity. The person’s testimony suggests that the restrictions placed on Duverger were not necessarily all that severe, at least for the one Sunday the source was present.
The source said that during Mass at the Florida church (the person does not regularly attend SSPX Masses), Duverger was hearing women’s Confessions and that the priory had made it a point to publicly refute the abuse charges made by Church Militant.
“I visited St. Thomas More Priory in Sanford, Florida as no other churches in the area were allowing safe public Masses [because of the coronavirus],” the source said. “The priest offering Mass that day did make an effort during the homily to say that such matters shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The rest of the homily was spent defending [Fr. Duverger] and asserting this was an attack from Satan.”
The source continued, “I heard the accused priest was hearing Confessions at the same time the homily was going on, and noticed women lined up at his confessional. I haven’t looked into the details, but it seemed more off-putting that they spent so much time writing a bulletin insert and spending the whole homily attacking those who accused their priest.”
The St. Thomas More church has since taken down the electronic PDF bulletin from April 26, 2020 (the date LifeSite’s source attended Mass there) from its website. LifeSite has been unable to retrieve a paper copy of the bulletin or recover it from internet archives.
St. Thomas More Priory has also removed its original response to Church Militant from its website. The response stated that the nature of the allegations of misconduct against Fr. Duverger were “grossly misrepresented” by Church Militant (scroll below to read the priory’s full statement).
Jim Vogel told LifeSite that the SSPX does “not disavow” previous statements issued by the U.S. District but “because the SSPX is an international organization, and most of the accusations are for situations abroad, [SSPX headquarters in Menzingen, Switzerland] wanted their communique to represent the entire Society, not just the U.S. District.”
Vogel added that, “the other communiques were responses in the circumstances of the time, and don't now reflect the broader response that is being worked upon. We're obviously working with Menzingen and sharing with them the information we receive. We are committed to transparency.”
St. Thomas More chapel supports Duverger
On August 4, 2020, Church Militant claimed that several teachers quit the St. Thomas More school and some families left the chapel because of their story on Duverger. Armesto told LifeSite those allegations are “not corroborated” by the facts.
“If Church Militant confirmed that two teachers quit over Duverger, name the two teachers,” she said via email. “Church Militant’s allegations are false. None of the teachers have left over Fr. Duverger. No families have left the school because of Fr. Duverger.”
LifeSite has not been able to confirm with the school if that is true or not. However, a layman who attends the chapel says the claims are false.
“I've been a member of St. Thomas More Church for about a year and a half, and I've attended SSPX chapels for 22 years,” Sean Romer told LifeSite via email.
“I haven't read the Church Militant article, but I can say that the statements [about teachers and families leaving] are not at all correct. Anticipated attendance at the Academy for the next school year is comparable to last year – we have a few students who are not returning, and we will also have a few new students.”
“The reasons for the changes are everyday normal ones common to many families these days, not out of unhappiness. Likewise, most of the changes in the teaching staff were in the works since last year – a marriage, a retirement, a move, those sorts of things; none of the staff left for the reasons alleged. The new teachers coming in are solid Catholics who are full of enthusiasm, and we're looking forward to seeing them work with the students.”
“I'd also like to mention that today the men's Holy Name Society and the women's Altar & Rosary Society at the church stayed after Sunday Mass to express their gratitude for Father by praying a Rosary specifically for him and to present him with the attached letter of appreciation and support. Father is a cherished member of our church family; we are grateful to have him, and we are glad to publicly show our support for him.”
Past accusations from France
LifeSite has attempted with significant energies to learn about the details regarding the incident involving Fr. Duverger in France in the late 2000s. LifeSite contacted multiple sources familiar with the SSPX in that country but none were able to produce any sort of reliable documentation.
One French-speaking source did say that there is reason to believe something serious occurred between Duverger and a woman to whom he was giving marriage preparation advice. The source suggested Duverger may have had a sexual relationship with the woman.
Church Militant has also reported that “a reliable European source” informed them that Duverger exploited a woman who was “mentally disturbed and vulnerable.” The site also pointed to an anonymous, defunct French blog as evidence the abuse occurred.
Whatever transpired, Duverger was sent to Silver City monastery as a form of penance. “It is true that Fr. de la Tour had brought up with Jassy that there was an offense in France which resulted in the year of penance in Silver City for Fr. Duverger,” former U.S. District Superior Fr. Jurgen Wegner told LifeSite.
Others who spoke with LifeSite contest the France allegations against Duverger. Christopher and Domitylle Fesq, a Catholic couple with seven children who now live in France but have traveled internationally for their jobs in years past, told LifeSite that they believe the accusation made against Duverger in the late 2000s is politically-motivated gossip and likely untrue.
“Domitylle heard of a rumour only through a couple of Fr. Duverger’s enemies. At the time, Fr. Duverger had been assigned to Bordeaux by the SSPX, when Fr. Laguerie (the SSPX prior in Bordeaux) split from the SSPX. The SSPX church and community was split between SSPX supporters and Fr. Laguerie supporters (who became Institut du Bon Pasteur (‘Institute of the Good Shepherd’)).”
The Institute of the Good Shepherd is a canonically-recognized group of priests originally established by Father Paul Aulagnier in the mid 2000s. Aulagnier, who died in May 2021, was dismissed from the SSPX after expressing support for the canonical accord struck between priests in the Diocese of Campos, Brazil and the Vatican. Father Jean Violette, District Superior of Canada at the time, wrote a letter condemning his approval of their agreement.
“There were lots of politics and Fr. Duverger had bitter enemies,” the Fesqs told LifeSite. “It is from a couple of his enemies that Domitylle heard this rumour. That’s all we can say as we don’t know more than this, and none of our friends who knew him in Bordeaux heard of anything at all. Because it comes from his enemies, because we know him, and because it is a rumour, we dismissed it.”
The Fesq couple said Fr. Duverger “succeeded in keeping the SSPX priory and the Church. So yes, his enemies were bitter. It wasn’t an easy task for Fr. Duverger to prevent Fr. Laguerie and his supporters [from taking] the church/priory from the SSPX.”
The Fesqs also informed LifeSite that Fr. Duverger provided them with beneficial spiritual guidance both individually and together as a married couple and that his methods were “so helpful that it lasted many years, even when we had to move several times … it was most helpful to keep [Fr. Duverger] who knew us best through different moves, even if that meant communicating from far away.”
Hannah’s ex-roommate ‘forever grateful’ for Duverger’s advice
Several other persons have spoken to LifeSite on the record in order to, as they themselves say, vouch for Fr. Duverger’s character and the effectiveness of his spiritual techniques. Their testimonies paint a picture of Duverger that is generally the opposite of what Church Militant, Jacas, and Hannah suggest.
Kathyrn Janot, a former roommate of Hannah’s who is now married with a child, told LifeSite that what Hannah told Jacas about Fr. Duverger doesn’t add up.
“Hannah was my roommate in both Albuquerque, NM and Boise, ID,” Janot informed LifeSite. “She was living in Missouri and I was living in Michigan when I met Fr. Duverger. She was my best friend at the time and strongly encouraged me to confide in him.”
“At one point Fr. Duverger was giving spiritual direction to both of us at the same time. I don't know the details of why Fr. Duverger and Hannah stopped communicating, but there were many complicated issues that Hannah had which made it impossible to maintain a friendship with her.”
“To name only a few issues I experienced with Hannah: She stopped going to Traditional Catholic Mass and encouraged me to stop going as well. She would get extremely jealous when I continued communication with Fr. Duverger (once [she] and Fr. had stopped communicating); for example, she would storm away from a conversation we were having if I happened to mention I had been in communication with him, or she would make insulting comments of how I should stop communicating with him too.”
“A week or so before we stopped communicating, she refused the Christmas present I gave her (she returned it to me unopened) with the message that I ‘wasn't acting like a true friend.’ Then our friendship ended when I received many false-accusations and harassing text messages from her after I moved into my own apartment. The messages kept coming so much that I had to block her on my phone. When I happened to bump into Hannah at a gas station about a year later, she was super nice and acted like nothing had happened between us, which I found very odd.”
LifeSite asked Janot if she knew anything about Duverger instructing Hannah to perform indecent acts via video chat, as Jacas said Hannah told her he did.
“In all the time I was Hannah's friend she confided to me many things; however, she never said anything about this to me. She never said he asked her to do anything inappropriate and she never said anything negatively about him.”
LifeSite asked Janot if Duverger, whom she personally met on a pilgrimage around 2013, ever gave her improper spiritual advice, made advances on her physically, or urged her to engage in behaviors she felt were uncomfortable. Her response indicates Duverger used almost the same approach on her as he did with Jacas.
“He encouraged me to start spiritual direction with a priest back at my home parish after I had brought up some childhood sexual abuse in confession,” she said. “He also offered to direct me from a distance if I would be more comfortable with that. A month or so later I decided to accept his help from afar.”
“In the months following [the pilgrimage], we talked a few times until he got a gist of my background. Fr Duverger then asked me to write it down in detail for him and send it to him in an email.”
“After he read what I wrote, he made some commentary on certain events that I wrote about, questioned other points and stories, and through questions and talking etc., he helped me rationalize everything that happened to me from a child and onwards in a logical manner. This alone (rationalizing through all the traumatic events) helped me realize the severity of what I went through, and helped me realize/rationalize that I needed professional help if I wanted to move forward with my life.”
“Through communication with him, he encouraged me to not only move from an abusive situation, he encouraged me to get professional help (because as he said he is only a priest, not a therapist), encouraged me to go back to school rather than working 2 jobs and barely supporting myself, along with so many other things that changed my life for the better.”
“Nothing was ever forceful, or against my will, or made me uncomfortable,” she continued. “It was not easy bearing my hidden thoughts/secrets to someone, but it helped, more than I could ever have imagined! In the beginning I was in contact with him very often, but the more he gave/taught/encouraged the tools I needed to help myself (therapy, moving, doctors, applying for school, going to school, prayer etc…) the less I communicated with him because he gave me what I needed to help myself – something no one else had ever done. My husband Adam and I got married in 2018. We both are forever grateful for all he has helped me with. None of which was malicious, abusive, or wrong etc.”
Janot is not the only person who rejects Hannah’s accusations against Fr. Duverger. Duverger’s attorney, Rosa Armesto, does as well.
“As to the credibility of Hannah, it should be noted that Fr. Pierre Duverger is only the latest target of Hannah's false accusations,” Armesto said. “Before accusing Duverger, Hannah had already publicly accused her own parents of sexually abusing her starting when she was 6 months of age according to her. She has accused her female roommate and others of raping her, too. Hannah is an equal opportunity accuser and she alleges among other things, to be the victim of incest, a lesbian rape, drunken rape by her live-in boyfriend, and priestly voyeurism. She has posted this on Facebook and on her blog. Her family explains that she has bipolar schizophrenia.”
Hannah speaks to LifeSite
LifeSite reached out to Hannnah to allow her to speak on her own behalf. Hannah had posted multiple statements on Facebook but LifeSite wanted to obtain a public comment on the record.
“Hi, Hannah. I am a journalist with LifeSiteNews,” this journalist (Stephen Kokx) messaged her via Facebook. “I've seen your name mentioned in multiple reports on Church Militant. Would you be willing to talk with me about what you've experienced with the SSPX? I am trying to get all sides of this very important story.”
“Hi Stephen, I’m not comfortable speaking with you about what I went through,” she replied.
“With all due respect,” Kokx continued, “you've been publicly posting on Facebook about very serious allegations that purportedly happened at the hands of priests. I'm really only interested in a couple topics.”
“I’m comfortable speaking about what happened on my terms,” Hannah said. “And written by my hands. I am not comfortable with the more biased view that is usually taken when written by a reporter.”
Kokx then asked, “Totally get it. Could you tell me in your words then? I'm simply out for the truth.”
“No. I do not wish to. Because as I’d rather only do it with my writing, I can only do it in my time. The trauma I underwent makes it very difficult to relive at the pace of those who haven’t gone through it. I do not expect you to understand, but I ask that you respect my space.”
Kokx advised Hannah that unless she speaks publicly on the record about her allegations with a news organization (as opposed to simply making statements on Facebook), readers may doubt the truthfulness of her claims.
“Understood. Realize though that by not answering journalist's questions it may cause some people to not believe your claims. Thank you for your time.”
“Most already don't,” she said.
Days after that interaction took place, a woman named Ruth Ann Parks sent Kokx a message via Facebook chastising him for the questions he sent Hannah.
LifeSite has since learned that Parks, who lives in Kansas, is a member of a secret Facebook group that appears to be clandestinely coordinating with Church Militant on how best to strategize in order to stifle this journalist’s reporting and to smear his public reputation.
Some of the members of the group are ex-Catholics who mock the Church and curse SSPX priests online. More will be written about this group in a future LifeSite report.
“Hi there,” Parks wrote to Kokx. “It has come to my attention that you are actively seeking victims of SSPX sex abuse. Several of your messages to them have been shared with me. Firstly, you cannot and will not be trusted. When you are dealing with a traumatized person, you don't get to say ‘that if you don't talk to me people don't believe you’ (I'm paraphrasing, but it's the jist of what you said).”
“Your impatience, insistence, and unwillingness to give them time to vet you will cost you in the long run. Did you take any humanities training, or does your bias against them (the victims), just speak that shrilly for you? Seriously, most of them are being VERY cautious about what they say and to who. They have no reason to trust the SSPX and they have no reason to trust that you will not be biased based on the context of your line of questioning. Maybe try not seeming so arrogant next time.”
This correspondent told Parks that he wants to get the truth out about SSPX abuse cases and that he’s asked alleged victims about their experiences but that it’s sometimes difficult to get clear answers so he needs to ask follow-up questions.
Kokx also said none of the persons he’s spoken to have ever told him they are traumatized. He then asked Parks if she has any information on abuse cases. She has not yet responded to him by the time of this story’s publication.
Niles has also publicly condemned Kokx’s questions to Hannah, stating that they “did not appear to seek truthful answers, but instead appeared to be attempts to undermine victims' testimony and exonerate the SSPX.”
Jacas defends Hannah
LifeSite asked Jacas why, given her apparent doubtfulness of Hannah’s claims, she relied on them as part of her effort to have Fr. Duverger’s ministry’s restricted. After all, Jassy herself told LifeSite in April 2020 that, “if I didn’t come to know of other reports made [by Hannah] … concerning Fr. Duverger, I would not have reported my own experience with him … there was no crime in my experience with Fr. Duverger.”
Jacas said she was initially skeptical of Hannah’s testimony but that she came to believe in it in time and that what was most upsetting to her was how Fr. Wegner “lied” about Duverger being around women.
I did not want to believe everything Hannah told me was because I loved the SSPX and I had a hard time accepting that so many priests were aware of Hannah’s report and chose to handle it the way they did. In particular, I had helped Fr. Beck and believed him to be a good priest. Hannah had told me that her parents would tell the priests that she was a liar and made up stories … so it’s not that I didn’t believe in Hannah but I thought there could have been a misunderstanding on the part of the SSPX … I thought if the SSPX had heard from her family that she wasn’t credible maybe that was why the SSPX wasn’t taking her report seriously so I gave [the] SSPX [the] benefit of doubt up until the time I was lied to by Fr. Wegner. I do believe Hannah has suffered abuse both from her parents and Fr. Duverger.
It makes sense that if there was abuse in her family that her family would also want to discredit Hannah. This happens many times in cases of family abuse … Hannah believed her family and went to 3 different psychologists who ran tests and said the only thing they could diagnose her with is severe PTSD and panic attacks. Hannah’s mother wrote to Fr. Novak with concerns about Fr. Duverger demanding that Hannah keep her phone on her through the night and Hannah’s sister admitted to me that she knew of Fr. Duverger’s abuse of Hannah and was sad it wasn’t handled back then.
After speaking with Fr. Vernoy, the priest who was supposed to be watching Fr. Duverger, it was clear he didn’t even believe the reports. The main point is that there wasn’t an investigation after a few reports. Fr. Wegner himself admitted to believing in the reports and he went against the SSPX protocols and then lied about how he handled it. I didn’t need any proof about Fr. Duverger with children to know that as a mother, I would want to know if I was sending my children to a school with a priest with multiple accusations against him.
Fr. Wegner himself promised Fr. Duverger had bare minimal contact with the children, which was another lie…he was allowed to run camps, play with the children at recess and call them to his office for no reason.
After my talk with Fr. Wegner, he put cameras in the school proving he himself knew he was potentially putting children at risk. If the SSPX is going to be true to their word about full transparency, parents should be made aware when a priest has had multiple reports made against them. Again it was not my demands but the SSPX’s own protocols that they publicly claim to follow that were not being followed.
If I was not lied to I would sadly have trusted them to the ends of the earth…and the head of the SSPX did not respond to the issue but passed the buck back to Fr. Wegner, who was the one responsible for not handling multiple reports. I would have expected Fr. Pagliarani to have responded, “this seems serious” and that he “would need a few weeks to look into it.” Instead he didn’t address the issue at all.”
Fr. Wegner told LifeSite that he contests each of these claims. He says that Fr. Duverger was placed under restrictions out of an abundance of caution after hearing Jassy’s and Hannah’s initial allegations.
Wegner also said that the restrictions resulted in no new complaints and that Fr. Vernoy was overseeing Duverger’s actions on the pilgrimage. It was therefore not necessary to inform the parents at the school of past “reports” made against Duverger that were found to not be criminal or credible. He believes Jassy was demanding something unreasonable.
Jacas responds to critics, Duverger’s defenders
LifeSite asked Jacas what she has to say to those Catholics who think she overreacted, and who say Fr. Duverger’s spiritual methods have helped them and that Duverger seemed to be genuinely interested in assisting her but couldn’t because his mother got sick and he was later reassigned to Florida.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for any priest … to know in detail every sexual thing that happened to me in my childhood along with details about temptations and sins,” she said. “Asking me to call him at any hour or in times of temptations is highly inappropriate and out of line.”
“If I didn’t come to know of other reports against Fr. Duverger. I would have never put in a report myself and I also would have assumed that maybe Fr. Duverger got caught up in some modern psychology nonsense and got carried away … it is only in light of multiple reports that lead me to think he was grooming … if Fr. Duverger was truly intending to help me, why did he decide to disappear without a word?”
She also said the following:
If a priest is abusing their position and power in the confessional, it is even more important that it is brought to light because of how damaging it is to souls. If Fr. Duverger did do something wrong in the confessional I would still have spoken about it.
Do people unjustly accuse people of abuse? Yes. I do believe in the SSPX circles the victims have more to lose than gain from telling their stories and those I have heard personally I believe wholeheartedly. Also, 95% of the abuse stories I have heard within the SSPX were committed outside of the confessional, so I do not think there is a problem with priests being able to answer for themselves.
I did completely trust Fr. Durverger and that is why I obeyed every word he asked of me, even though I felt pressured and uncomfortable … Our spiritual life hinges upon our relationship with God. We trust priests because we depend on them for sacraments and they are called to live holy lives. I have now seen and heard of enough corruption in the church that I believe the priests need us as much as we need them to keep each other Catholic in mutual charity.
‘Nothing but praise for Fr. Duverger’
Rosa Armesto has known Fr. Duverger for nearly 10 years. She’s practiced law for more than two decades in the Miami area. In 2016, she was part of a group of parents concerned with financial and personnel changes at their children’s parish school in the Archdiocese of Miami. They hired a private investigator to look into the priest in charge.
That investigation ultimately revealed that their priest violated archdiocesan policy by hiring someone with a criminal record related to prostitution. The priest also fired longtime school maintenance staff in order to hire his friends and went on lavish vacations and outings with the man arrested for prostitution. The priest also typically spent “four nights a week” at the man’s condominium.
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski rebuked Catholic laity who uncovered the priest’s inappropriate relationships, as LifeSiteNews reported at the time.
Armesto informed LifeSite that she is working with Fr. Duverger on a defamation case against Church Militant’s Michael Voris and Christine Niles. According to Armesto, the suit “is in the works.”
“It is ironic that Christine Niles accuses St. Thomas More Priory of wrongdoing for publishing a statement that Fr. Duverger was not under criminal investigation when she is the one falsely claiming that Fr. Duverger is under criminal investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation when she knows that the KBI has never stated that Fr. Duverger is under any criminal investigation,” said Armesto.
“When a person reports to the police allegations against another that are not criminal nor credible, it does not mean that the accused is under criminal investigation by the police. It just means that the accuser was allowed to report her allegations to the police.”
Armesto says that in her experience with law enforcement, they will typically arrest a subject or file charges as soon as they receive any credible evidence that a crime has been committed. “It is obvious that law enforcement has not found Jacas' allegations against Fr. Duverger to be credible nor anyone else's allegations credible,” she said.
LifeSite asked Armesto, who attends both SSPX Masses and the diocesan Traditional Latin Mass, why, if Duverger is so innocent, the SSPX disallowed him from providing spiritual advice to women and from hearing women’s Confessions.
“It was my understanding that the restrictions were placed out of an abundance of caution to avoid even the appearance of any impropriety. He complied and there haven't been any allegations since. Father is an excellent administrator and so he was given control of the school and to go on the pilgrimage. Jassy has no proof he was or was going to be a threat to the women on the pilgrimage or the women who worked at the school. She demanded things that were totally out of proportion. Fr. Wegner surely knew Fr. Duverger wasn’t a serious risk.”
“Moreover, Hannah’s claims are nothing more than lies and fabrications. Yet Jassy relied on them as her sole reason to confront SSPX leadership. She didn’t bring forth allegations. She was just complaining. Fr. Wegner was cordial in responding to her the way he did but he obviously knew how to handle a priest under his authority (and for whom he will be held accountable to God for) better than a twentysomething lay woman who didn’t have all the facts.”
Armesto says she became acquainted with Duverger when her son joined the troop of the Catholic Cadets, which Duverger ran with other SSPX priests. The Catholic Cadets is similar to a Catholic version of the original Boy Scouts of America.
As part of the group, Armesto’s son went on camping trips with Duverger. Her daughters have also gone to Confession with him. Armesto says that she and her husband “have nothing but praise for Fr. Duverger, as do the other parents of cadets.”
“Fr. Duverger is a gentleman and doesn’t have any issues being around young children, as Jacas and Niles baselessly insinuate. I have gone to confession with him many times. So have my daughters. They are friends with him.”
“Any reputable news media organization would have investigated the backgrounds and the stories of their witnesses before publishing numerous articles of accusations from less than trustworthy witnesses. Unfortunately, Voris and Niles from Church Militant ran with the false accusations without double checking their sources.”
“Jassy is a troubled young soul that Church Militant is exploiting for their own benefit,” Armesto concluded. “They are wantonly and recklessly destroying and maligning people … I believe that Fr. Duveger has a legitimate defamation case against Church Militant.”
LifeSite has reached out to the Kansas Bureau of Investigations to receive an update on its efforts and to know if Duverger specifically was under investigation. Nicole Hamm, a public affairs specialist, replied via email saying, “the Catholic Clergy Task Force is still actively investigating the Catholic clergy within the state … but we aren’t inclined to discuss individual cases at this time as we are still actively in the investigation phase.”
If you, or someone you know in the state of Kansas, has been the victim of sexual misconduct committed by members of the clergy, contact the Kansas Bureau of Investigation by calling 1-800-KS-CRIME (1-800-572-7463) or emailing [email protected]
Below is the full statement St. Thomas More Priory published and then deleted:
We have learned of an article published recently by a website calling itself “Church Militant,” in which allegations of serious misconduct are made against priests of the Society of Saint Pius X, including priests of Saint Thomas More Priory. Beyond noting that this website has a very public anti-SSPX agenda, it is not our place to address all of the allegations raised in the article. With respect to the allegations made involving our own priests, however, we believe it necessary to affirm the following points:
1) As any properly-educated Catholic knows, priests cannot violate the Seal of the Confessional even to defend themselves from attacks made by penitents. This duty of silence also applies to a priest giving spiritual direction. Thus, any Catholic publishing statements alleged to have been made in these contexts must realize they are attacking someone who cannot defend himself.
2) Outside of information learned through the Confessional or in the course of spiritual direction, the priests of Saint Thomas More are aware of, and fully comply with, their obligation to report allegations of the abuse of minors to the authorities. With respect to allegations involving adult victims, we encourage them to inform law enforcement if they believe they have been the victim of a crime – which is precisely what the accuser of Father Duverger was told.
3) We are not aware of any criminal investigation involving such misconduct, either current or past, directed at any priest of Saint Thomas More Priory – all of whom have, per our policy, received a national and local criminal background check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
4) The nature of the allegations of misconduct against Father Duverger has been grossly misrepresented in the article. Voluminous written documentation of the alleged misconduct was provided by the accuser to Father Wegner, which far from revealing any criminal conduct, did not even evidence any sin against purity. It seems that, failing to get the desired affirmation of her narrative from either the authorities of the Society or the civil authorities, this young woman has decided to look for, and not surprisingly found, a sympathetic ear among the Society’s avowed enemies.
While believing that, in view of the very public nature of the attack on our priests, we could not remain completely silent, the faithful should not take this statement as an occasion to satisfy idle curiosity by reading, much less sharing, this scurrilous article.