Diocese of Rome downplays allegations against former Jesuit Father Rupnik, contradicting Vatican ruling – LifeSite

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ROME (LifeSiteNews) — A canonical visitation into the Aletti Center founded by disgraced ex-Jesuit Father Marko Ivan Rupnik has downplayed allegations made against the priest, and additionally concluded the community life is “healthy,” contradicting reports that Rupnik’s serial abuse partly took place at the center and the decisions of the Vatican’s judicial courts. The results raise questions about undue influence on the proceedings of the canonical visitation.

Published September 18, the Diocese of Rome issued the results of a canonical visitation which had been underway at the Rome-based Aletti Center. Founded by Rupnik in the 1990’s, the center has been the base of operations for his international art projects, as well as the community of men and women which he built up around himself.

The diocese’s report greatly exonerates the staff of the Aletti Center and Rupnik himself from wrongdoing, contradicting the independent judgements of the Jesuits and the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as detailed testimonies of alleged victims. 

The diocesan report and visitation were conducted by Father Giacomo Incitti, who is a consultor to the Congregation for Clergy, as was Rupnik who used to pen a weekly reflection which was published on the congregation’s website.

Aletti Center: center of abuse or ‘health community life’?

The Aletti Center has been embroiled in the unfolding scandal, as allegations and revelations of serial abuse of multiple kinds committed by Rupnik emerged into the media in the past ten months.

But, the diocese stated that “it is clear that within the Aletti Center there is a healthy community life without particular critical issues,” according to the findings of the visitation which began quietly on January 16. 

The pontifical visitor was “able to ascertain that the members of the Aletti Center, although embittered by the accusations received and the ways in which they were managed, they chose to keep the silence – despite the vehemence of the media – to guard the heart and not claim some irreproachability with which to stand as judges of others.”

As LifeSiteNews has extensively reported, Rupnik was accused of psychologically, spiritually, and sexually abusing 20 of the 40 religious sisters in the Loyola Community in Slovenia, of which he was a co-founder. The revelations and allegations became public in late 2022. After the Jesuit Order issued an open call for any more victims to come forward in December 2022, a further 15 people accused the priest of having abused them, with male victims also coming forward.

Rupnik was also automatically excommunicated and found guilty by the CDF court of absolving in confession a woman with whom he had sexual relations. He subsequently had the penalty revoked – with much speculation over whether Pope Francis personally intervened to swiftly lift the excommunication.

READ: Former nun details years of ‘satanic’ sex abuse by Jesuit priest Fr. Rupnik  

One of his alleged victims gave detailed descriptions of the instances of abuse that Rupnik performed on her, stating that such events took place “even in his room at the Aletti Center.” The walls of the Aletti Center were home to Rupnik’s demands for the former nun to engage in “threesomes” with another nun, “because sexuality had to be according to him free from possession, in the image of the Trinity where, he said, ‘the third gathered the relationship between the two.’”

Diocese defends Aletti Center’s ‘silence’

In her testimony, “Anna” accused the Aletti Center leadership of failing to act against Rupnik, and of assisting his various actions. 

Indeed, earlier this year when Rupnik appeared to violate the restrictions imposed on him by the Jesuits – of which he was a member at the time – key collaborators from his Aletti Center joined him. Concelebrating Mass in the Basilica of Santa Praessede – in violation of a ban on any public ministry – three of the Aletti Center’s key directorial staff also attended the Mass. The three, all former nuns of the Loyola Community who followed Rupnik to Rome from Slovenia, were Maria Campatelli, Michelina Tenace, and Manuela Viezzoli.

Campatelli has been the director of the Aletti Center since 2020, and publicly defended Rupnik in June, writing that Rupnik had been subject to a “media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations (which exposed the person of Fr. Rupnik and the entire Aletti Center to forms of lynching).” Campatelli was received in private audience by Pope Francis on September 15, with no details of the meeting released.

However, the Diocese of Rome defended the Center, stating that the entire Rupnik saga had “helped people who live the experience of Centro Aletti to strengthen trust in the Lord, in the awareness that the gift of God’s life becomes space also through trial.” 

The diocesan report, seemingly ignorant of Campatelli’s written defense of Rupnik, claimed the center staff “chose to keep the silence – despite the vehemence of the media – to guard the heart and not claim some irreproachability with which to stand as judges of others.”

Rupnik’s culpability lessened?

But the diocesan report also appeared to defend Rupnik from the allegations made against him. It stated how the pontifical visitor to the Aletti Center found “severely anomalous procedures” leading to “well-founded doubts about the request for [Rupnik’s] excommunication.”

With these words, the Diocese of Rome thus took issue with the CDF, which in 2020 had “unanimously” found Rupnik guilty of absolving a sexual accomplice, and declared he had automatically excommunicated himself. That excommunication was reportedly lifted by Pope Francis, who intervened within “a few hours” to overturn the excommunication.

Regarding the separate allegations of abuse, the Jesuit Order compiled a 150-page dossier of reported instances of abuse, dating from 1985 to 2018. Rupnik’s former superior, Father Johan Verschueren, stated that the credibility of the allegations against Rupnik was “very high.”

Expressing doubts about the allegations leading to Rupnik’s excommunication, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome Angelo De Donatis submitted the report to the “competent authorities.”

READ: Vatican to continue promoting Rupnik’s images despite link to his alleged sex abuse  

Rupnik – after being expelled from the Jesuits this summer – enjoys continued promotion at the Vatican, as the Dicastery for Communications has decided to continue using his religious images. Such is arguably due to Rupnik’s wide reaching influence in the Vatican, both in his own name but also through loyal members of his Rome-based art center who also work at the Vatican.

Il Messaggero’s Vatican correspondent described the diocesan report as “a never-before-seen clash with unforeseeable consequences” between De Donatis, the Jesuits, and the CDF in the “handling of the ugliest and most embarrassing case of sexual abuse of women committed by a priest.”

But the findings of the Diocese of Rome’s canonical investigation must also be taken in light of the considerable influence Rupnik wielded in the Vatican but in Rome at large, holding various curial positions, and being promoted by other curial bodies even while under restrictions on his ministry.

The Diocese of Rome regularly focussed on Rupnik and his artwork in their videos, and also posted videos of Rupnik himself while he was supposed to be under restrictions. Rupnik also preached at a clergy retreat in May last year, and at another retreat in August 2022; both took place while his case was under scrutiny at the CDF.

Indeed, Rupnik’s wide-spread influence among the diocese should not be ruled out as being a factor in the diocesan attempt to excuse the former Jesuit from the allegations against him. 

Or perhaps, Rupnik’s apparent rehabilitation is coming from the Vatican rather than the Diocese of Rome, with De Donatis hinting at Pope Francis’ personal protection of Rupnik in a December 2022 statement, described as stating in the “curialese” fashion that “Rupnik is under the pope’s protection.”

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