Catholic News Agency - EWTN [Denver CO]
February 10, 2023
By Almudena Martínez-Bordiú, Hannah Brockhaus
The ministry of Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, accused of the sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse of women from a religious community with which he was formerly connected, was and continues to be under restrictions, according to the Jesuit order.
Those restrictions included a ban on hearing confessions and engaging in spiritual direction with women. Rupnik was also prohibited, the order said last December, from engaging in public activities without the permission of his local superior. The order did not say at the time who Rupnik’s local superior was.
Father Johan Verschueren, the major superior for the international houses of the Jesuits, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, this week that he has been Rupnik’s superior since January 2020.
Verschueren also revealed which Jesuit priests were Rupnik’s superiors since 2004.
In religious orders such as the Jesuits, a priest is supervised by, and takes direction from, his local superior.
Father Milan Zust (2004–2017)
Upon arriving in Rome from Slovenia, Rupnik was under Zust’s supervision from 2004 to 2017. At that time, Zust was superior of the Centro Aletti, the school dedicated to the promotion of religious art in Rome where Rupnik arrived after his years in the Loyola Community of Slovenia.
Zust was born in Slovenia and entered the Society of Jesus in 1986. He is currently a professor at the Gregorian University in Rome.
Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves (2017–2019)
From 2017 to December 2019, Rupnik’s superior was Guerrero, a Jesuit priest who resigned as prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy “for personal reasons” in November 2022.
Pope Francis had appointed him to that position on Nov. 14, 2019, replacing Australian Cardinal George Pell.
Guerrero, a Spanish priest, was during those three years delegate of the superior general for Houses and Interprovincial Works in Rome and general counselor of the Society of Jesus.
During this time, and despite the fact that the Society of Jesus was aware of the accusation of sexual abuse and of the sacramental confession that Rupnik heard, which incurred the state of excommunication, he was allowed to continue with his public appearances.
The timeline released by the Society of Jesus notes that in June 2019, after the then Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considered the accusations credible, the Jesuits imposed certain restrictions on the priest, although they did not specify what they were.
Asked by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, about the application of these restrictions, Verschueren said on Dec. 15, 2022, that “the weak point of them is the interpretation of the local superior; hence the last public appearances of Father Rupnik were in accordance with the measures. The local superior allowed it.”
“We are aware of this problem, and we are honestly upset about it. It is obvious that we need to adjust the weak point of the measures as they were put in the previous decree; we are working on it,” Verschueren said.
Asked again in January 2023, Verschueren confirmed to ACI Prensa that between 2018 and 2020 the restrictions on Rupnik were limited to prohibiting him from hearing confessions, giving women spiritual direction, and leading the Spiritual Exercises.
Father Johan Verschueren (2020–present)
From 2020 to today, the superior of the priest accused of sexual abuse is Verschueren, current general councilor and delegate for Houses and Interprovincial Works of the Society of Jesus in Rome.
Verschueren was born in Berchem, Belgium, in 1960, entered the Society of Jesus in 1985, and was ordained a priest in 1995. He has studied botanical sciences, philosophy, and theology.
In statements to ACI Prensa, Verschueren expressed his confidence that the testimony of the alleged victims of Rupnik “now opens up hope for many persons to come without fear.”
Although he did not confirm the current whereabouts of the priest accused of abuse, he said he had asked Rupnik not to leave Italy’s Lazio region because of new ongoing investigations that he hopes will be made public in February.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.