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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Bishop Fellay's Former Assistant Reaches Out to Victim of Alleged Clerical Sexual Abuse

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Fr. Arzuaga, SSPX (alleged sexual abuser) Fr. Arzuaga, SSPX (alleged sexual abuser)

Editor's Note: I am pleased to report some good news here at the end of a year marked by bad.

My decision some months ago to try to help a victim of clerical sexual abuse was not an easy one. I had neither personal experience with the victim nor firsthand knowledge of the facts in the case.  And since The Remnant is not an investigative journal, I had to weigh the potential for a good outcome against the certainty of scandalizing the faithful by publicizing the alleged sins of a priest.

In posting Erica Kauffman's heartbreaking video, The Remnant had no desire to indict or discredit the Society of St. Pius X—an organization which for thirty years we have defended against the accusation of schism.  And I am happy to report that at least one prominent SSPX priest obviously appreciated my motives for posting Miss Kauffman's story, which is evidently why he reached out to her.

In the course of the following reply to Miss Kauffman, Father Niklaus Pfluger, SSPX, provides corroboration of Miss Kauffman’s testimony, and thus also and inadvertently justifies my initial decision to post Miss Kauffman's video.  If what she claims is true (and I have notarized documents indicating it is), then a great injustice has been perpetrated against her and a rogue priest is still on the loose.  

The reality is that while most priests are good men there are not a few that have fallen, not just in the Novus Ordo but also inside the enclaves of Tradition. We have never denied this even if I have long been wary of making common cause with certain overzealous whistleblowers who often seem to delight in exposing the sins of traditional Catholic priests.

Nobody here at The Remnant expects perfection from the SSPX or any other priestly fraternity—traditional or otherwise. We are all human and as St. Thomas More put it, on occasion a “bitch gets over the wall.” The important thing is to own it when it happens and throw the dog back over the wall as quickly as possible.

To do as Father Pfluger has done in this case, and reach out to a victim—even when it would have been so much easier to remain silent and hope said victim goes away—only speaks to the integrity of this good priest, which is why I would add my voice to his in petitioning the current leadership of the Society of St. Pius X to reach out in similar fashion to Miss Kauffman, to investigate the whereabouts of her alleged abuser, and to either publicly clear his name (if there are extenuating circumstances that somehow mitigate his guilt) or take the necessary disciplinary action against him.

To that end, I am happy to offer these columns to the SSPX administrators, should they choose to publicize the measures taken to see justice finally done so that all parties concerned can move on, so that future potential victims can be protected and so that further scandal can be happily avoided.  MJM

The Letter from Fr. Pfluger to Miss Kauffman

Dear Miss Erika Kauffmann:

Thanks a lot for your call getting your phone-number.

Sorry, I wasn’t here in the last days, that’s the reason why I didn’t contact you earlier.

Yes, I read Michael Matt’s article in The Remnant, and then I asked him for your e-mail address.

Up until July 2018, I was Bishop Bernard Fellay’s First Assistant and Vicar General of the Society St. Pius X. Now, I’m living in Switzerland without any responsibility. But in 1997, I had to accompany Bishop Fellay for a very long trip in the US-District, almost four weeks. At that time, I was still rector in the SSPX-Seminary in Germany.

When watching your video, I remembered our visit at the Armada Priory in Michigan, in December 1997, that was Ember Friday, I guess December 19thYou say you met Bishop Fellay in January of 1998, but probably that was in December 1997.

Anyway, I didn’t understand English enough at that time, and the Bishop asked me to assist the second part of his meeting with a lady that now I guess was you. I do not remember the details, but at that time I had the impression Bishop Fellay was convinced of your painful report…

Now, in 2020, I wanted simply to express my profound compassion with you and also my shame. I’m blushed to listen now to your horrible story and “experience” with a priest. And I would beg pardon for such a pain the Society did.

Of course, I’m not anymore in the Society high-direction, and my words are nothing and not important. But I would say how profoundly sorry I am for all that priest of the Society did to you. Your testimony is a cry to the whole Church and the Society. We can’t turn back or re-write the history. But we suffer with you and I hope those responsible in the Society will take your cry for help seriously.

I’m a little bit surprised to hear that Fr. Wegner wasn’t helping you. I knew him as a serious Superior, taking care for all the victims. Unfortunately, he had to leave the US-District, and he is now in Austria. I hope you will find the new Superior to be willing to listen to you.

Like you said in the video, and like your e-mail address expresses – juxta crucem! – the one help and medicine for such pains we can and we will find in the most holy Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May He bless you always, and may Our Lady protect you.

I wish you a grace-filled season of Advent and Peace and Joy in the Eternal Mercy.


P. Niklaus Pfluger

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Last modified on Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Michael J. Matt | Editor

Michael J. Matt has been an editor of The Remnant since 1990. Since 1994, he has been the newspaper's editor. A graduate of Christendom College, Michael Matt has written hundreds of articles on the state of the Church and the modern world. He is the host of The Remnant Underground and Remnant TV's The Remnant Forum. He's been U.S. Coordinator for Notre Dame de Chrétienté in Paris--the organization responsible for the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France--since 2000.  Mr. Matt has led the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage to Chartres for the last 24 years. He is a lecturer for the Roman Forum's Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera, Italy. He is the author of Christian Fables, Legends of Christmas and Gods of Wasteland (Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and regularly delivers addresses and conferences to Catholic groups about the Mass, home-schooling, and the culture question. Together with his wife, Carol Lynn and their seven children, Mr. Matt currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.