Pope’s vicar for Rome seeks full truth about Jesuit abuse

ROME — The pope’s vicar for Rome called Friday for the full truth to come out about a famous Jesuit priest accused of sexual and spiritual abuses against adult women, and said he was evaluating what to do with the priest’s Rome-based community and diocesan positions.

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis became the latest church official to weigh in about the scandal involving the Rev. Marko Ivan Rupnik, a sought-after artist, preacher and retreat leader whose mosaics grace churches and basilicas around the world. In Rome, where the Slovene priest has lived since the mid-1990s, Rupnik decorated the diocesan seminary chapel as well as the Redemptoris Mater chapel inside the Vatican.

Technically speaking De Donatis, who is Pope Francis’ day-to-day manager for the Rome diocese, has little direct oversight over Rupnik because he is a Jesuit and reports to his immediate Jesuit superior. But in an indication of his influence in the pope’s diocese, Rupnik was also rector of an important Rome church and is a member of the diocesan arts council — two jobs that De Donatis said Friday were now up being evaluated.

The scandal involving Rupnik erupted earlier this month when Italian blogs and websites reported claims by several women that Rupnik sexually, spiritually and psychologically abused them while they were living as consecrated women in a Jesuit-affiliated community in Slovenia in the 1990s.

The Jesuits initially insisted there was a single allegation lodged against him in 2021 that the Vatican’s sex abuse office shelved because it was too old to prosecute. Only under questioning did the Jesuits acknowledge that Rupnik was convicted and excommunicated a year earlier for committing one of the most serious crimes in the church — using the confessional to absolve someone with whom he had engaged in sexual activity. That charge stemmed from 2015, while Rupnik was in Rome, and included allegations of false mysticism that apparently weren’t prosecuted.

The Jesuits subsequently acknowledged that the 2021 case actually involved allegations by nine women.

The case has become problematic for both the Vatican and the Jesuits because many questions remain unanswered, including what role, if any, Pope Francis had in a case involving a famous fellow Jesuit. In addition, the Vatican’s sex abuse office hasn’t explained why it didn’t waive the statute of limitations to prosecute the 2021 allegations, given it routinely makes such exceptions for abuse-related cases, and given the prior conviction for a grave, confession-related crime.

The Jesuits say Rupnik has been under restricted ministry since 2019, and he is now barred from hearing confessions, giving spiritual direction or leading spiritual exercises. But the enforcement of those restrictions seems questionable; Rupnik is still scheduled to lead spiritual exercises in February at the Loreto shrine on Italy’s Adriatic coast, according to the Loreto website.

In a statement Friday, De Donatis said the diocese would provide “every support necessary” to both help the victims heal and to “lead as far as possible to the full light and truth about what happened.”

He also warned that he might have to take unspecified action at Rupnik’s Aletti Center, an art studio and study center that concentrates on the interaction of culture and the Christian faith. The community, which has a strong following, is currently overseen by the diocese of Rome but is also under the Jesuits’ Rome superior.

Leave a Comment