Jesuit artist Father Rupnik has been practising ministry despite Vatican restrictions

Catholic Herald [London, England]

December 6, 2022

By Mark Lambert

A prominent Jesuit priest has been continuing to practise his ministry despite the fact that it was restricted by the Vatican in January 2022 following allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.

According to reports on a number of Italian news sites, 68-year-old Father Marko Ivan Rupnik was in January 2022 ordered to stop practising his ministry following a series of complaints about his conduct going back to 1992.

However, despite the ban, Fr Rupnik received an honorary doctorate from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná in Brazil on the 30th of November. He has also featured in a regular YouTube slot every Sunday commenting on the Sunday Gospel. The Diocese of Rome also posted a video of Rupnik speaking about Eucharistic adoration in February this year.

Fr Rupnik is a high profile figure in Rome and known as a friend and advisor to Pope Francis. 

He is the director of the Christian cultural organsation Centro Aletti in Rome and has designed religious works of art for over 30 years. Rupnik is the artist who created the official image of the 2022 World Meeting of Families.

The Jesuit has been particularly prolific in the USA in recent years producing artwork for the Holy Spirit Chapel at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut and the Pope Saint John Paul II Shrine in Washington DC among others.

He is perhaps best known for overseeing the renovation of the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, which reopened in 1999 after three years of work. 

The allegations against him originate from the Loyola community in Rupnik’s native Slovenia, although he has been incardinated in the Diocese of Rome since the early 1990s.

The first reports of “gruesome” psychological and sexual violence by Rupnik date back to 1992 when a solution was found in agreement with the bishop of Ljubljana to remove Rupnik from the Community. 

The Vatican received a complaint against him in 2021 but declined to carry out a canonical process due to the statute of limitations (the complaint did not include minors), according to a statement released by the Jesuits on the 2 December.

However, following a further investigation by his religious order into allegations of abuse against religious sisters in Slovenia, Rupnik was in January 2022 banned from hearing confessions or conducting spiritual direction. 

The Jesuit order confirmed that the restrictions on Rupnik’s ministry were still in effect and technically banned him from leading Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and engaging in public activities without the permission of his superior.

The Italian website “Silere non possum”, Latin for “I cannot keep quiet”, which is run by law and religion scholars, has published a story with reports that Rupnik had abused and violently assaulted consecrated women in the Loyola Community.

According to Italian site Messa in Latina, which has regularly been at the forefront of breaking Vatican news, a highly-placed source has stated that the sentence concerns a trial for the acquittal of an accomplice in confession. This is a very serious canonical crime reserved for the Tribunals of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, a fact confirmed in the Jesuits’ statement, and is punishable with a latae sententiae excommunication.

According to the Jesuits’ Press Release, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) asked the order to conduct a preliminary investigation into the Slovenian priest. In early October 2022, the Vatican “found that the facts in question” fell outside the statute of limitations, the Jesuits said.

Messa in Latino report that the Tribunal did ascertain that Fr. Rupnik was excommunicated pursuant to canons 977 and 1378 first paragraph. However, a few hours after the notification of the sentence, Pope Francis himself lifted the excommunication, contrary to the decisions of the court. The Jesuits who had a statement on the matter ready were reportedly stopped from releasing it. Their post accuses the Holy Father of selective justice.

A CNA report confirmed yesterday that the diocese had been informed of the precautionary measures against Rupnik by the provincial of the Jesuits who had suggested that his pastoral activities in the diocese be limited. The report also confirms that no investigation was performed by the Diocese of Rome because the accusations concerned alleged abuse in Slovenia, not in Rome.

However, a CNA source confirmed that Rome auxiliary Bishop Daniele Libanori had conducted a separate inquiry, unrelated to Rupnik, into the Loyola Community. During the canonical visitation, which is still ongoing, nine women came forward with accusations against Rupnik, who was the community’s confessor and spiritual director for a number of years.