What Did Jesuits Know About Father Rupnik?
When I was in Rome last week, a couple of priests I met mentioned to me in passing that under Pope Francis, who is a Jesuit, Jesuits have been named to a number of senior curial positions at the Vatican, giving the religious order enormous influence over the future of the global Catholic Church. If you ask me, this is bad news, and not just because the Jesuits are, generally speaking, hyper-liberal (there are individual exceptions). It's bad news because the order apparently cannot be trusted to reform itself when its members sexually abuse others.
The situation with the prominent and powerful Jesuit priest Marko Ivan Rupnik, a popular church artist who stands accused of sexually abusing nuns, and who was treated with kid gloves by the Jesuits and the Vatican. A bishop who investigated the charges against Father Rupnik for the Holy See has now said that they are true, and that the Church's silence on the matter when it knew the truth added to the pain of Rupnik's alleged victims.
Here's an English version of an interview with one of his alleged victims. It makes for grievous reading. Excerpts:
When did you decide to rely totally on Rupnik’s spiritual guidance?
In the summer of 1986, before he left on a trip, we met in his workshop. We celebrated together the Eucharist and then he expected me to undress and let him touch me as usual.
That time, however, I refused, and he attacked me with very harsh and nasty words, saying that I was worthless, that I would never do anything good; he added that for him two other women only mattered, whose names he named, and that he wanted to end all relations with me.
I was desperate because I was now totally dependent on his approval.
It was not love, just fear of making a mistake.
From that time on, I decided to put my doubts aside and rely totally on him. I believed that what we experienced together would make me a better person before God; instead, it was only the beginning of the distortion of my identity and the loss of myself.
So, it was duress?
It was an outright abuse of conscience. His sexual obsession was not extemporaneous but deeply connected to his conception of art and his theological thought.
Father Marko at first slowly and gently infiltrated my psychological and spiritual world by appealing to my uncertainties and frailties while using my relationship with God to push me to have sexual experiences with him.
And so, feeling loved like ‘Wisdom playing before God,’ as is written in the book of Proverbs, turned into a request for more and more erotic games in his studio at the Collegio del Gesù in Rome, while painting or after the celebration of the Eucharist or confession.
Did the abuse only happen in Slovenia?
No, it also happened in his room at the Aletti Centre in Rome.
There Father Marko asked me to have threesomes with another sister of the community, because sexuality had to be, in his opinion, free from possession, in the image of the Trinity where, he said, “the third person would welcome the relationship between the two.” On those occasions, he would ask me to live out my femininity in an aggressive and dominant way, and since I could not do so, he would deeply humiliate me with phrases that I cannot repeat.
The final step in this descent into hell was the move from theological justifications of sex to an exclusively pornographic relationship.
In 1992, while I was in my fourth year of philosophy at the Gregorian, he also took me twice to see pornographic films in Rome on Via Tuscolana and near Termini station. By then I was feeling terrible.
The ex-nun says that she's aware of at least twenty other women Father Marko allegedly abused. One of them broke her arm trying to fend him off. And you knew this part was coming:
Were you helped by anyone at that time?
No one helped me: neither the Superior Ivanka Hosta, whom I eventually turned to, nor the other sisters of the community. Not even Rupnik’s Jesuit superiors and Archbishop Šuštar.
Father Marko was protected by everyone, and I was nothing more than the scapegoat of an embarrassing situation, the weak link in a chain that could be sacrificed for the ‘greater’ good.
This priest's art is pretty awful, in a familiar way: it's the kind of trite crap that defaces so many Catholic churches since the Second Vatican Council. Here's a short TV report from 13 years ago about Rupnik and his work. The creepiest thing are the all-black bug eyes; they look to me like a weird, cartoonish combination of sentimental and dead.
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Look, it surrounds the incorrupt body of St. Pio:
I am trying to help an Orthodox friend right now who feels betrayed by the clergy -- nothing criminal, or even remotely close, but he endured shabby pastoral treatment that has shattered his ability to trust priests. It reminds me of the immense power priests have, and of the deep damage that can be done when they misuse that power, even when the misuse was not technically abusive. T.S. Eliot wrote, "After such knowledge, what forgiveness?" I think it's actually easier to forgive than to permit trust to be restored, which requires putting oneself in a position to be hurt again.