An ultraconservative Catholic church in Farmingville that still celebrates Mass in Latin has misused donations from parishioners to spread anti-Semitic and anti-U.S. propaganda, a lawsuit filed by a Miller Place attorney alleges.
St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, part of a network of churches founded by excommunicated Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of France, is promoting “virulent, vicious and anti-Semitic literature and dogma,” attorney John Ray said at a news conference in his office Monday.
The lawsuit, filed April 6 in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, alleges that the church and its small school used nearly $50,000 in donations earmarked for a new school building for anti-Semitic literature that denies the Holocaust occurred or that Hitler’s Nazi regime used gas chambers to exterminate Jews.
“It’s more than disturbing that in this day and age [there] can be such poison . . . in a Catholic church and school,” said Madeleine Kristoffersson, Ray’s wife and also a plaintiff in the suit, along with their daughter.
The Rev. Nicholas Gardner, rector of the church and its Our Lady of Good Success Academy, said Monday he could not comment pending instructions by superiors in the Society of St. Pius X, the group Lefebvre founded before his excommunication in 1988.
Lefebvre branched off from the Roman Catholic Church in 1968 after disagreeing with changes made by the Vatican II reforms. He died in 1991.
Ray and his family said they have been parishioners at the church since 2012, and that Kristoffersson had become the director of its choir. They had hoped to place their daughter in the school full-time.
After they discovered allegedly anti-Semitic books and materials in the church’s bookstore and complained about them — along with the allegedly misused donations — church leaders verbally attacked them, Ray said.
Kristoffersson said Gardner publicly scolded and belittled them from the pulpit during three Masses this past Holy Week and asked them to drop out of the church.
“It was a witch hunt from the pulpit of God,” Kristoffersson said at the news conference.
The lawsuit, which also names the school’s principal, Thomas B. Gabriele, and other local church workers, also alleges teachers are underqualified and that school funds are being used to send them on a “first-class” art tour of Italy.
The school teaches students that “the USA is evil, that it has been taken over in a historical conspiracy of Jews, who they say caused the Civil War, WWI and WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the war in Iraq and Syria, and the War on Terror, and that the Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attack,” the lawsuit states.