Ta’ Pinu mosaics will stay, despite expulsion of artist over abuse allegations

Times of Malta

July 2, 2023

By Matthew Xuereb

‘No one would remove Caravaggio’s paintings because of his grave moral mistakes’

The Gozo diocese has said it is “distinguishing between the artist and the work of art” following the expulsion from the Jesuits of the famous artist priest Marko Rupnik, who is behind the mosaics that adorn Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary,  in Gozo.

Catholic commentators have raised the question of what should be done with Rupnik’s art after he was accused of “spiritual, psychological or sexual abuse” of multiple women, including nuns, over the course of more than 30 years. 

Asked a similar question, the spokesperson for the Gozo diocese told Times of Malta that one had to distinguish between the artist and the work of art.

“No one would ever imagine removing Caravaggio’s paintings because of the grave moral mistakes he committed. Even though we are here speaking of sacred art, the same argument applies,” he said.

A similar conclusion was reached by the editor of Our Sunday Visitor, an online Catholic newspaper that reaches millions.

“If the reality manifested by a work of art is not the beauty of God made known in the sacraments, it does not belong in a church. But if it is, it does, regardless of the artist’s state of soul,” wrote Fr Patrick Briscoe OP in an article about Rupnik’s art.

Fr Briscoe dismissed other options too, such as installing signs explaining his crimes where his art hangs.

Writing in America The Jesuit Review earlier this month, Greg Erlandson said: “If Fr Rupnik is guilty of abuse, he should be punished but perhaps we need more time before we condemn his mosaics as well.”

Parallels with Caravaggio

Both writers drew parallels with the masterpieces of Caravaggio, who was found guilty of murder in 1606 and whose works adorn churches including St John’s Co-Cathedral, in Valletta.

Rupnik, known around the world for his mosaics, was dismissed from the Society of Jesus for lack of obedience last week after he refused to follow orders by his superiors following the allegations made about him.

Criminal charges will not be filed against him since the crimes are  time-barred. However, the 68-year-old priest had his ministry restricted, including a ban on hearing confessions and conducting spiritual direction.

A Rupnik mosaic depicting Our Lady presenting Jesus is installed above the main door of the Ta’ Pinu sanctuary and more works by the priest are mounted on walls around the church parvis.  The mosaics were inaugurated in 2017.