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Diocese of Rome
Diocese of Rome
World News

Jesuit abuse case widens as victim speaks, order seeks witnesses

by Reuters Journalist

 A case of sexual abuse rattling the Jesuits has widened with a former nun describing how her complaints against a prominent priest were ignored and as the religious order urged others to come forward with any new evidence.

The woman, now 58, told the respected Italian investigative newspaper Domani on Sunday of her alleged abuse by Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, a Slovenian priest known in the Church for his artwork.

She alleged how the priest used his "psycho-spiritual" control over her some three decades ago to have sex, including group sex, and watch pornographic films. At the time, he was spiritual director of a convent in Slovenia.

Rupnik is at the centre of scandal that has engulfed the Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests and brothers, of which Pope Francis is a member. 

The order's statements have been contradictory, leaving many questions unanswered. Some top Jesuits have called for a full review of how the order and the Vatican have handled the case.

It was only after media reports about Rupnik's alleged abuse of nuns did Jesuit headquarters issue a statement on Dec. 2 saying he had been disciplined.

It said it had commissioned an unnamed non-Jesuit to investigate Rupnik, 68, after the Vatican received a complaint last year. The Jesuits put restrictions on his ministry.

The Jesuits gave the results to the Vatican doctrinal department, which closed the case in October, citing the statute of limitations. The Jesuits kept in place restrictions barring Rupnik from hearing confessions or leading spiritual retreats. 

On Dec. 7, Jesuit leader Father Arturo Sosa said nothing had been hidden, but later contradicted himself. A timeline released by the Jesuits on Sunday showed that a separate process had taken place years earlier, between 2018 and 2020, which resulted in Rupnik's excommunication.

That case involved the "absolution of an accomplice" in confession, referring to when a priest has sex with someone and then absolves the person of the sin. The timeline showed that the Vatican imposed the excommunication in May 2020 and lifted it that same month, after Rupnik repented.

The information released by the Jesuits did not show any attempt to discipline Rupnik more severely or to defrock him.

Repeated attempts to reach Rupnik through his school for religious art in Rome were not successful and he did not respond to messages left there.    

On Sunday, the Jesuits effectively reopened the case, posting a letter on their website asking anyone wishing to make new complaints or discuss existing ones to contact them.

Calls to the Jesuit press office for comment on the latest developments went unanswered on Monday.

In the interview with Domani, the former nun describes in detail her time in the convent between 1987 and 1994. She said she believed Rupnik had abused as many as 20 women.

She said her complaints to her female superior and a Church leader in Slovenia at the time were not heeded.

"He should have been stopped 30 years ago," the woman told Domani.     

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