ROME, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Slovenia’s Jesuits say they believe sexual abuse allegations against a prominent member of their order are true and have asked for forgiveness.
It is the latest development in the case of Father Marko Ivan Rupnik that has rattled the religious order and the Vatican.
It was only after Italian media reports in November alleging that Rupnik, 68, had sexually and psychologically abused nuns when he was their spiritual director in his native Slovenia three decades ago that Jesuit headquarters acknowledged the case.
They said he is under partial sanctions, including a ban on hearing confessions and leading spiritual retreats, but that the Vatican’s doctrinal department ruled that the case had gone beyond the statute of limitations.
Jesuit headquarters also said the same Vatican department had excommunicated Rupnik several years ago but lifted the excommunication after the priest had repented.
The order’s public statements in Rome have been contradictory, leaving many questions unanswered. Some leading Jesuits have called for a full review of how the order and the Vatican have handled the case.
“We believe in the sincerity of the nuns and other victims who have spoken out about their suffering and other circumstances regarding emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse by our confrere. We sincerely ask for forgiveness from all,” Slovenia’s Jesuits said in a website statement posted on Friday.
It added that statements made by the nuns “show beyond doubt that the competent Church leaders did not take appropriate action, which has increased and prolonged the untold suffering of a number of women”.
The case is embarrassing not only for the Jesuits, one of the world best-known Roman Catholic religious orders, but also for Pope Francis, who is a member of the order.
Francis has not spoken out specifically about the case but may have been referring to it on Dec. 22 when he denounced psychological violence and abuse of power in the Church.
Rupnik, whose whereabout have been unknown for nearly two months, is very well known in the Catholic Church for his artwork, including designing a chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace during the reign of Pope John Paul II in 1999.
Repeated attempts to reach him through his school for religious art in Rome, where he has been based since 1993, have not been successful and he has not responded to messages left there.
Some have called for the case to be reopened. Jesuits in Rome and Slovenia have asked any other victims to come forward.
In December, a 58-year-old ex-nun gave an interview to an Italian newspaper in which she described how Rupnik used “psycho-spiritual” control over her some three decades ago to have sex, including group sex and watching pornographic films.
At the time, he was spiritual director of a convent in Slovenia.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mike Harrison)
Photo – Centroaletti