Bishop Strickland calls for instant removal of all Rupnik art after Lourdes’ bishop delays – LifeSite

LOURDES (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Strickland has called for the immediate removal of all images by Father Marko Rupnik from “all Catholic sites,” days after the Bishop of Lourdes shied away from removing the mosaics at the shrine due to “real opposition.”

In a social media post July 4, Bishop Joseph Strickland issued a call for the instant removal of all artwork made by the alleged serial abuser Father Marko Rupnik.

“There should be no delay, no debate, no consideration, no compromise,” he wrote. “The Rupnick [sic] atrocity should be removed immediately from all Catholic sites and apologies issued to the women violated by Rupnick. Anything short of this supports evil.”

Strickland’s post did not mention Lourdes, but included a picture of the facade of the basilica of the Marian shrine, which is famously and extensively adorned with numerous mosaics by Rupnik. It appeared as a direct response to the ongoing controversy regarding the Rupnik works at the famous Marian shrine.

On July 2, Bishop Jean-Marc Micas of the Diocese of Lourdes issued a statement regarding the future of the Rupnik mosaics. 

“Today, I see that opinions are very divided and often split,” he wrote. “Should these mosaics be left where they are ? Should they be destroyed ? Should they be removed or displayed elsewhere ? No proposal is consensus. The positions are lively and passionate.”

Micas stated that it was his “personal opinion” that it would be good to remove the Rupnik mosaics, but that this was not something shared by all involved. His opinion “even meets a real opposition in some: the subject raises passions,” he stated. “Today ‘the best decision to take’ is not yet mature, and my conviction-turned-decision, which would not be understood enough, would add even more division and violence.”

The bishop had announced formation of a committee to examine the future of Rupnik’s mosaics in Lourdes back in April 2023. Noting Lourdes as a site of “healing” for pilgrims and “victims,” Micas highlighted the “distress” which is encountered upon seeing Rupnik’s artwork at the shrine. 

Rupnik has been accused of sexually and spiritually abusing numerous people, including nuns and male victims. The former Jesuit was also excommunicated for absolving a sexual accomplice in confession, but subsequently had the penalty revoked.

After international outcry, Pope Francis announced in October that Rupnik was subject to an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for said abuse. The credibility of the well documented allegations of Rupnik’s serial abuse is deemed to be “very high” by his former superiors.

It has taken Micas over a year to come to any sort of decision. Speaking to La Croix he added that “my deep, formed, intimate conviction is that they [mosaics] will one day need to be removed: they prevent Lourdes from reaching all the people for whom the sanctuary’s message is intended.”

Micas’s July 2 statement also cited his concern for abuse victims who come on pilgrimage to Lourdes, saying he would continue to work with them “to discern what it will be necessary to do, here in Lourdes, to honor the absolute requirement of consolation and reparation.”

“For victims, Marko Rupnik’s mosaics are a barrier to coming to Lourdes,” he acknowledged during La Croix’s interview.

Instead of taking any action to remove or hide the Rupnik mosaics, Micas is now ensuring that they are not lit up by spotlights as part of the light display which takes place after the evening rosary procession. 

The bishop described this as “a first step.”

“We will discern, with the people of good will who will agree to help us, the following steps,” he announced.

The statement from the bishop of Lourdes came soon after Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), issued a letter to all Vatican dicasteries urging them to cease using art “in a way that could imply either exoneration or a subtle defense” of alleged perpetrators of abuse “or indicate indifference to the pain and suffering of so many victims of abuse.”

O’Malley, who turned 80 three days after sending the letter and thus became ineligible to vote in a conclave, referred explicitly to Rupnik. “We must avoid sending a message that the Holy See is oblivious to the psychological distress that so many are suffering,” he wrote.

Rupnik’s alleged victims state that the sexual abuse they endured is intimately tied to the disgraced priest’s artwork. They allege Rupnik made sexual advances during painting sessions, after Holy Mass or after hearing confessions in his Rome Aletti Art Center.

A former member of Rupnik’s Loyola Community, using the pseudonym “Anna,” stated that Rupnik used his paintings to attract interest in himself and to cultivate relationships.

Anna stated that on one occasion, while modeling for his art project, which involved undoing her blouse, Rupnik kissed her on the mouth, saying that this was how he “kissed the altar where he celebrated the Eucharist.”

Anna argued that Rupnik’s art was firmly linked to his sexual desires:

It was a real abuse of conscience. His sexual obsession was not extemporaneous but deeply connected to his conception of art and his theological thinking. 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.

The permanence of Rupnik’s work at Lourdes appears to be a fait accompli for the foreseeable future.

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