Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, priest, Jesuit, theologian, is best known for his art in sacred space, which can be described as the preferred art of the Holy See.
(Rome) Is Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik a sex offender? Will the next abuse allegation hit the Church like a thunderbolt? The Slovenian Jesuit is not personally known to most Catholics, but many are familiar with his mosaics, which he in an unmistakable style adorn the sacral spaces of some of the most famous pilgrimage sites such as Fatima, San Giovanni Rotondo and Lourdes and the churches of Kraków dedicated to St. John Paul II and Washington [ugh]. He also designed the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace. Fr. Rupnik is currently completing the mosaics he designed on the facade of the Brazilian national shrine Aparecida. But what about the allegations? Caution is advised.
The art of the Slovenian Jesuit can be described, at least indirectly, as the style of sacred art favored by the Vatican, given the promotion in three pontificates. There were divided opinions about this undue preference, but these are not the subject of this article. In any case, the esteem of the Holy See is so great that in 2016 Pope Francis celebrated a Holy Mass in the Apostolic Palace for the Centro Aletti led by Rupnik. P. Rupnik is a priest, Jesuit, theologian and artist. For many years he has been the central figure of his order's study center “Ezio Aletti”. Has Pope Francis now prevented an excommunication latae sententiae of his brother by his protective, even covering-up, hand?
Who blames the allegations? The website Silere Non Possum (“I can't keep quiet”) and a site called – nomen est omen – Left, which is linked to a left-wing theory magazine. The churchman was guilty of "sexual and psychological violence". On closer inspection, however, it could be a matter of two corners. The news has meanwhile also been picked up by media outlets that are close to tradition and critical of the Pope. Maybe we shouldn't jump on every bandwagon, at least not in haste.
P. Rupnik was born in 1954 in Zadlog, Slovenia. In 1974 he entered the Jesuit order and in 1985 he was ordained a priest. He obtained a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University and studied at the Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts. He has lived at Centro Aletti since 1991, which he managed until 2020. He teaches at the Gregorian and the Pontifical Liturgical Institute and runs two "studios" at the study center, one for spiritual art and one for theology. He was or is consultor of several dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
The Sacrament Chapel designed by Rupnik in the new church in San Giovanni Rotondo
First, a word about Silere Non Possum. The blog has existed since March 2021 and is run by Marco Felipe Perfetti, who at the time went public as a law student at the University of Bologna and who, as the editor of the “Vatican Code of Criminal Procedure”, is now also being questioned by the media about the case of Cardinal Angelo Becciu. The Korazym website mistakenly referred to him as a lawyer, but that would have been a bit too premature. A major concern of the blog is the fight against "homophobia" in the Church, including threats of legal action in state courts against priests who oppose the gay agenda.
This already anticipates that the accusations against P. Rupnik are not of a homosexual nature. A good 80 percent of cases of sexual abuse by clerics are homosexual acts.
Allegations against the Jesuit go back to 1995, when a member of the women's order Comunità Loyola, which was founded in Ljubljana in the 1980s and is close to the Jesuit order, complained that she had been plagiarized and that she had suffered "mental, physical and spiritual abuse" in 1992/93. Father Rupnik was the spiritual assistant and confessor of the community of sisters and a friend of the founder and superior general Ivanka Hosta. The problems which arose ended with the removal of Rupnik after a dispute between Hosta and the Jesuit.
This break was so traumatic for some sisters that they left the order and followed Rupnik to the Centro Aletti in Rome, which he headed. The male members of the center are almost exclusively Jesuits and form a household. But there are also numerous female employees who are in no way inferior to their male colleagues in terms of academic training and who teach at various universities. The women who followed Rupnik to Rome should also be counted in this context.
The matter became public because letters to Pope Francis that three different sisters of the Comunità Loyola had written to him became known. At least one of them has been published. The writer says she has given up the "search for religious life." Because of the refusal to listen to her, she had herself released from the Order. In the letter she expresses her indignation that Father Rupnik, despite “the serious allegations leveled against him, for which I have been called as a witness more than once, continues to lecture throughout Italy and publish his catechesis on YouTube.”
The Rupnik case is therefore a case in another case, that of the Slovenian women's order, and dates back more than 25 years. Whether and what role the women who followed him to Rome might also play does not seem to be the question at the moment. The prosecutor quoted by Left, who remains anonymous, speaks of "knowing at least three sisters" of the Comunità Loyola, upon whom Rupnik inflicted "mental and physical violence" in the early 1990s, but she herself obviously not.
It's also unclear if Left and Silere are quoting Non Possum from the same letter, although they appear to be basing this on the same source. The woman, who claims to have been interviewed by the Vatican on several occasions, concludes “that I was not believed. After so much suffering, I have a legitimate need to know if the Church considers Father Rupnik to be a reliable teacher.” This is an allusion to the fact that the Jesuit publishes catechesis on the Internet. The letters would have reached the Pope "certainly", but there has been no answer to this day.
Cardinal Vicar De Donatis in the chapel of the Great Roman Seminary designed by Rupnik
What happened? In 2019, the women's order founded in Ljubljana underwent a visitation. In December 2020, with the approval of Pope Francis, the Congregation for Religious appointed an Apostolic Commissar. Msgr. Daniele Libanori, Auxiliary Bishop of Rome and himself a Jesuit, was appointed as Commissar. The latter is questionable, although he has been known for his severity in similar cases in the past.
The Commissar was dispatched quietly. The starting point was not P. Rupnik, but the accusation of abuse of power and the oppression of fellow sisters by the founder of the order and general superior Ivanka Hosta. However, a significant number of the sisters defend themselves against this Roman intervention, which is seen as an "act of persecution", and reject the accusations.
But did P. Rupnik also become a case in this case? Has it been too "idealized" up until now? Wasn't the prosecutor believed because the person she accused is held in high esteem or because her testimonies are not credible? She herself indicated that she had thoughts of suicide. At that time, a quarter of a century ago, P. Rupnik was also her confessor. However, the allegations remain vague. Sexual violence is also hinted at, but everything seems blurred.
“In the beginning, the community was characterized by abuse of conscience, but also emotional and allegedly sexual abuse by Fr. Marko Rupnik. As a friend of the foundress and several sisters from the very beginning, he had a constant closeness and presence in the personal lives of all the sisters and the community as a whole. When the final separation from Father Rupnik was completed due to the great suffering of some sisters, it was a great burden for the sisters. Rupnik's responsibilities have never been fully clarified; on the contrary, they were practically hushed up and not denounced by those directly involved, but also by Sister Ivanka, who knew about it.”
The accusation becomes doubtful when the author completely leaves the factual level of the already less than concrete allegations, which seem to come more from hearsay, and generalizes her allegations by calling on the Pope to "take all means to protect them and to give voice, dignity and freedom of conscience to other many victims of these new religious movements and new communities.”
Is someone leading their very private, exaggerated campaign? The anonymous source cited by Left claims that harsh sanctions were imposed not only on the women's order but also on Father Rupnik in January 2022. He has to lead a life of seclusion, "no sermons, no public celebrations and a ban on confession," writes Silere Non Possum.
The fact is that Father Rupnik already gave up the management of the Centro Aletti in 2020, but still runs an artistic and a theological "atelier" there. His resignation could be put in the distant future with the Commissioner's appointment a few months later, but not January 2022. What happened earlier in the year?
On January 3, 2022, Father Rupnik was received in audience by Pope Francis. The Vatican press office did not name a function. Today, the management of the Centro Aletti is held by the theologian Maria Campatelli, who manages the publishing house of the study center and the theological studio "Cardinal Špidlík". P. Rupnik was therefore only ad personam with the Pope, which is rarely the case.
Awarded an honorary doctorate by the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná
Nothing became known about the content of the audience, since neither the Holy See nor Father Rupnik commented on it. However, it does not look like the Jesuit will be punished. In the event of a conviction, distance is sought and contact is avoided. The anonymous prosecutor, on the other hand, sees the audience as a moment when Francis personally informed his confrere about the "tough sanctions" imposed on him. A rather erroneous interpretation given Vatican customs.
There is little sign of a travel ban and other strict conditions: Last May Fr. Rupnik led a retreat for priests in the Italian province. On November 30, he received an honorary doctorate from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná in Paraguay. The Jesuit is free to move about, appears in public and is active on the Centro Aletti website as before.
The anonymous source says the priest "forced her, with pressure and blackmail, to do things that I reported to the right place in good time." But "everyone has spread the cloak of silence over it". And further: "After my first report, nobody helped me, neither the community nor the then Archbishop of Ljubljana nor Father Rupnik's superior, with whom I spoke and tried to explain what had happened."
The woman would like to know the result of the investigations against Fr. Rupnik by Msgr. Libanori and the competent dicastery. The question is whether and in what form Msgr. Libanori was commissioned to do this at all. In any case, his appointment as acting head of the women's order Comunità Loyola has nothing to do with an investigative assignment. The same source, while seeking clarity, claims that Monsignor Libanori has concluded that "the victims heard are credible and their narrative stands". That is an act of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The presentation is confusing and doesn't seem to hold up.
Silere Non Possum and Left raise the question of whether Pope Francis is covering up "the abuse of Rupnik" and recall the Inzoli case, which once brought such an accusation to the head of the Church in Italy. Now it is known that the so-called “Bergoglio system” has beneficiaries. Especially in connection with homosexuality, which shouldn't bother Left or Silere Non Possum. However, this does not allow any generalization. The mere reference to an allegedly prevented excommunication latae sententiae raises serious doubts. An excommunication in connection with a crime cannot be “prevented” at all. Anyone who commits the act automatically incurs excommunication. Therefore, excommunication as a penalty after due process is the rule.
According to what has become known so far, the charges against P. Rupnik are too thin, much too thin. What if he's guilty? Then more concrete evidence is needed. But what if he's innocent? Then an attempt is made to throw dirt at him, because, as is well known, something always gets stuck. What remains for the time being are doubts that smack of character assassination. And it is in the nature of doubts that they gnaw. Pope Francis did what he always does when he wants to defend someone who is under attack: he showed himself demonstratively together with Fr. Rupnik.
On January 3, 2022, Pope Francis received the Slovenian theologian and artist in audience
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Centro Aletti/Giuseppe Nardi/Facebook/VaticanMedia(Screenshots)
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