Jesuits ask victims to come forward in artist abuse case

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis’ Jesuit order on Sunday called on more victims to come forward with complaints against a famous Jesuit artist whom the Vatican essentially cleared of responsibility twice despite devastating testimony from women who said he sexually abused and spiritually. to them.

The Jesuits asked for new evidence against the Rev. Marko Ivan Rupnik and offered a timeline on his case in an effort to quell the scandal.

The Slovenian priest is relatively unknown among ordinary Catholics, but he is well known in the hierarchy because he is one of the most sought after artists in the church. His mosaics decorate chapels, churches and basilicas around the world.

The scandal broke last week after the Jesuits admitted they had been excommunicated for having committed one of the most serious crimes in the Catholic Church: using the confessional to absolve a woman with whom he had had sexual relations.

He was declared excommunicated in May 2020, but the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith lifted the excommunication later that month after he repented, an unusually quick turnaround for such a serious violation.

A year later, the same Congregation decided not to prosecute him for another accusation of spiritual and sexual abuse of a former nun, declaring that the statute of limitations had expired. The Congregation, which routinely waives the statute of limitations, is headed by a Jesuit prefect, has a Jesuit sex crimes prosecutor and a former number 2 who lived in the Rupnik Jesuit community.

The congregation has not responded to requests for information about the case, which has exposed the Vatican’s general refusal to consider spiritual and sexual abuse. of the adult woman as a crime that must be punished. Rather, the Vatican has long regarded such abuse as a mere lapse in priestly chastity that can be forgiven, regardless of the trauma it causes victims.

The Jesuits’ appeal came on the same day that the Italian newspaper Domani published the most explosive testimony yet from the former nun who filed the complaint in 2021. She detailed years of sexual abuse and spiritual manipulation by Rupnik and said that he made repeated efforts to deliver it. her alone to take on the Jesuits and other superiors who routinely protected Rupnik at her expense.

“It was really an abuse of conscience,” said the nun, who was not identified but whose account was confirmed to The Associated Press by someone familiar with the case.

“His sexual obsession was not improvised but was deeply connected to his concept of art and his theological thought. Father Marko slowly and gently began to infiltrate my psychological and spiritual world, taking advantage of my uncertainties and fragility and using my relationship with God to push me to have sexual experiences with him.”

She said her first complaint about his behavior dates back to 1994 in Slovenia, but it was ignored as Rupnik’s community, first in Slovenia, then in Rome, grew and gained an international following.

Meanwhile, other sisters suffered similar harm, he said, describing the use of pornography, humiliation and multiple partners “in the image of the Trinity” in Rupnik’s spiritual and sexual abuse.

The scandal has been heightened by conflicting accounts from the Jesuits.

After the first allegations of the 2021 complaint aired on Italian blogs and websites this month, the Jesuits issued a statement referring only to the 2021 case. But when questioned by the AP at a Christmas reception, the Jesuit superior, the Rev. Arturo Sosa, admitted that Rupnik had previously been excommunicated for the confession-related crime.

Sosa said Rupnik’s ministry had been restricted and he was prohibited from hearing confessions, giving spiritual direction or leading spiritual exercises. However, Rupnik is scheduled to perform spiritual exercises from February 13 to 17 at the Loreto Marian Shrine on Italy’s Adriatic coast, according to Loreto’s website.

On Sunday, Rupnik’s immediate superior, the Rev. Johan Verschueren, said he wanted to try to clarify some of the questions that were raised about the case. In a statement, he called for anyone with old or new allegations to come forward. He provided an email address: teamreferente.dir@gmail.com.

“My main concern in all of this is for those who have suffered, and I invite anyone who wants to make a new complaint or who wants to discuss complaints already made to contact me,” he said.

He said that complaints would be accepted in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and German.

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