Cardinal Says Rome Diocese Learned ‘Only Recently’ of Father Rupnik Accusations

Reports were published earlier this month containing allegations that Father Rupnik had, around three decades ago, sexually, spiritually, and psychologically abused sisters in a religious institute with which he was formerly associated.

Newsroom (28/12/2022 2:05 PM, Gaudium Press) Cardinal Angelo De Donatis said Friday that the Diocese of Rome learned only recently about the accusations of women abuse against Father Marko Rupnik, a Jesuit priest and artist who has served in the diocese for decades.

In a statement released late on Dec. 23, Cardinal De Donatis said “the Diocese of Rome, which was unaware until recently of the issues raised, cannot enter into the merits of the determinations made by others, but assures, also in the name of its Bishop, every support necessary for the desirable positive solution of the case…”

Cardinal De Donatis is the vicar of the Diocese of Rome, of which Pope Francis is the bishop.

The 68-year-old Rupnik, originally from Slovenia, is a renowned sacred artist whose works decorate Catholic churches, chapels, and shrines around the world, including the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican and the major seminary of Rome.

Reports were published earlier this month containing allegations that Father Rupnik had, around three decades ago, sexually, spiritually, and psychologically manipulated and abused sisters in a religious institute with which he was formerly associated.

Following the media reports, the Jesuits confirmed that Father Rupnik had also incurred automatic excommunication for absolving an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment. The excommunication was verified and shortly afterwards lifted by the Vatican in 2020.

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The Jesuits also said the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith had, in October 2022, declined to pursue a penal process against Father Rupnik for the abuse allegations because they fell outside the statute of limitations.

An auxiliary bishop of Rome, Jesuit Bishop Daniele Libanori, has also said he uncovered accusations of abuse against Father Rupnik while performing his duties as a Vatican-appointed investigator into the Loyola Community, which split from Rupnik in the early 1990s.

The Jesuits said Father Rupnik’s ministry has been under restrictions since 2019 and 2020. While under restrictions, the Jesuit artist has continued to preach online and receive public accolades. In March 2020, he gave one of the annual Lenten sermons to the Roman Curia and Pope Francis.

In his statement, Cardinal De Donatis noted “media-level accusations” against Father Rupnik, who has performed “numerous and valuable services of a ministerial nature to the Church of Rome.”

The artist, he said, has had “a multi-level pastoral relationship with the Diocese of Rome, but he is not in a position of hierarchical submission to the Cardinal Vicar at the disciplinary and possibly penal level.”

Cardinal De Donatis said Rome diocese will collaborate with Father Rupnik’s “legitimate superiors,” the Jesuit order, “within the terms of canon law.”

This collaboration, he said, “will also likely entail, among other things, a series of measures with respect to the diocesan canonical offices — the only ones directly subject to the authority of the Cardinal Vicar — of which Father Rupnik is still invested…”

Father Rupnik is currently the rector of the Church of St. Philip Neri at the Esquiline and a member of the Diocesan Commission for Sacred Art and Cultural Heritage.

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The priest is also the founder of the Aletti Center, a community which has a sacred art school and a theological centre, and organizes and leads frequent retreats and spiritual exercises in Rome and the surrounding area.

Cardinal De Donatis said “the Diocese of Rome is also aware that it must reflect and possibly take action” concerning the activities of the Aletti Center. In June 2019, the Aletti Center became a public association of the faithful of the Diocese of Rome.

“The Church,” the cardinal vicar said, “has two inalienable mandates that are at the same time also duties: to be close to those who suffer and to implement the criteria of truth and justice inferred from the Gospel.”

“We ministers of Christ cannot be less of a guarantor and [less] charitable than a secular state, turning a complaint into a crime de plano [flat-out],” he said.

“The judgments that we see spreading by many with particular vehemence,” Cardinal De Donatis continued, “do not seem to manifest either an evangelical criterion of the search for truth, or a basic criterion on which every rule of law is founded, a verbis legis non est recedendum.”

“A verbis legis non est recedendum” is a Latin phrase and legal concept meaning “from the words of the law, there must be no departure.”

The cardinal referenced twice a decree of Dec. 16, titled “Prot. DIR-SOLI 22/006,” which he said was signed by Father Johan Verschueren, major superior for the international houses of the Jesuits and Father Rupnik’s superior.

He said the diocese assures the Jesuits of “all necessary collaboration” for the implementation of the decree.

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“The entire diocese, faced with this disconcerting communication, especially in the media, which disorients the People of God, is living these hours with concern and dismay,” Cardinal De Donatis said.

The Diocese of Rome, he added, is “aware of the extreme delicacy of the situation, which — it was reiterated — has been amply dealt with in judicial fora that are completely outside the competence of the Cardinal Vicar, and which is now being handled autonomously by Father Rupnik’s legitimate Superiors.”


Raju Hasmukh with files from National Catholic Register

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