The Rupnik affair is casting a long and growing shadow

Catholic World Report [San Francisco CA]

July 24, 2023

By Christopher R. Altieri

Pope Francis has been dining out on a paper revolution that made it easier to prosecute crimes of abuse and coverup, and trading on promises to take the abuse of adults seriously.

Marko Rupnik is no longer Fr. Marko Rupnik SJ, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you. Marko Rupnik is still—intolerably—Fr. Marko Rupnik, though without faculties—unless a bishop or other religious institute takes him. The disgraced celebrity muralist cum inveterate pervert and abuser of mostly religious sisters is radioactive these days, so I suppose it is unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

I was about to ask if maybe there’s a job open in APSA, but then I remembered Bishop Zanchetta and realized there doesn’t need to be a job open for him to get it.

The statement from the superior of the Jesuits’ international houses, Fr. Johan Verschueren SJ, is an astounding piece of work, too.

Among other things, it says the Jesuits regret that Rupnik had to be expelled for disobedience—never mind that he’d done pretty much as pleased him for years, even when under various more-or-less secret restrictions (that were very strictly interpreted and loosely enforced)—rather than prosecuted for serial sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse of more than a dozen “very highly credible” victims over three decades.

Verschueren cited “various reasons” for the lack of prosecution, “including the current limits of the norms relating to similar situations,” which, “did not allow this.”

Well, “various reasons” is doing a lot of work there, because it’s pretty easy for the head man—that’s Pope Francis—to waive the statute of limitations for crimes of abuse and cover-up. But Francis is on the record as saying he just doesn’t like to do so in cases involving adults.

Pope Francis has been dining out on a paper revolution that made it easier to prosecute crimes of abuse and coverup, and trading on promises to take the abuse of adults seriously. However, he has been extremely reluctant to use the new laws. He may decide at last to step in and deal with Rupnik, but it will be an act of sheer power if he does, inevitably perpetuating the notion that his pontificate is one of special cases and personal rule.

The writing was on the wall way back in 2018, when Pope Francis extra-judicially defrocked two ancient Chilean bishops. He did so in lieu of any housecleaning of that sorely tried country’s episcopate, which he’d promised in the wake of l’Affaire Barros.

It was clear to any with eyes to see, even then, that Pope Francis could not begin to address the leadership crisis at its root by displays of raw power brought to bear on secluded perverts or tired old has-beens, but only by exercising transparency in governance and especially by letting justice be seen to be done.

“Very highly credible” is how the Jesuits themselves described the victims and their claims in June of this year, by the way. That’s important, not least because other Jesuits—Rupnik’s superiors in Rome and his native Slovenia—either ignored reports of his criminally perverse antics or else actively worked to discredit his accusers, starting in the ‘90s.

It was another Jesuit who said so, Bishop Daniele Libanori SJ, after he investigated the Loyola Community of women religious Rupnik had helped found in Slovenia before leaving the country and setting up shop in what came to be called the Centro Aletti, which began as a work of the Jesuits but became a public association of the faithful under the Rome diocese in 2019.

“I cannot help but greatly regret this insistent and stubborn inability to deal with the voice of so many people who have felt hurt, offended, and humiliated by his behavior and his way of acting and behaving towards them,” Verschueren said, but that’s not what got him booted, nor is Rupnik the only one who hurt, offended, and humiliated the victims.

“What has been said does not exclude the good he has done,” Verschueren also said, “and the spiritual fruit of which he has been the intermediary for many and for many others in the Church.” Never mind that Rupnik’s art was part of his sick modus operandi, built into his lurid schtick.

“We must remember what Jesus taught us,” Verschueren went on to say.

Verschueren wasn’t talking about Matthew 18:6 and millstones, or Luke 21:12-18, but Matthew 5:23-24 and the lines about being reconciled.

Pope Francis wants his legacy to be genuine reform, a real recovery of participation in pilgrimage, the practice of piety in all forms, a return to the fundamentals of Christian life. To judge by the way he has governed, however, Rupnik may deserve to be the poster boy of his pontificate.

There is still time for him to turn this thing around and make good on his promises, but the window of opportunity is closing, and he isn’t making it any easier on himself.