Why Is Pope Protecting a Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse and Using His Crude Art at the Vatican?

Marko Rupnik is credibly accused of molesting 25 nuns, some in blasphemous occult rituals.

Catholics erupted with indignation after Rupnik’s artwork, printed on the cover of the Book of the Gospels, was held aloft in procession at the installation of US papal nuncio Cardinal Christoph Pierre to his titular church of St. Benedict Outside St. Paul's Gate, Rome, on April 21.

By Jules Gomes Published on May 1, 2024

Editor’s Note: This story contains sexually graphic information and descriptions of shocking blasphemies.

Pope Francis is facing an avalanche of pressure to defrock Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, a celebrity priest and personal friend of the pope, after the ex-Jesuit’s artwork was prominently displayed at a Mass for the installation of the papal ambassador to the US on April 21.

Rupnik, a world-famous mosaic artist, has been credibly accused of sexually, physically, emotionally, and psychologically abusing at least 25 nuns — sometimes in groups, and sometimes forcing them to drink his bodily fluids from a consecrated chalice.

While global outrage over the allegations forced Francis last October to lift the statute of limitations preventing Rupnik from facing a church trial, the Vatican has thus far failed to reveal if it has begun judicial procedures against him.

Rupnik Artwork on Book of the Gospels

A cascade of complaints was unleashed on social media and in the Catholic press after the Vatican published its Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook) for 2024 with Rupnik listed as a consultor for the Dicastery for Divine Worship.

Days after Catholic media outlets exposed the scandal, the Vatican body in charge of regulating the liturgy for the Roman Church scrubbed the priest’s name from its website.

Rupnik was excommunicated in May 2020 for absolving a sexual partner in sacramental confession, but was rehabilitated within a month due to the direct intervention of the Holy See. Though Pope Francis denies it, many believe he personally ordered that action.

In March, the Centro Aletti, an art studio Rupnik cofounded in Rome, confirmed to a Rome-based journalist that Rupnik was continuing to live at the center even though several nuns alleged that he had seduced and abused them on the premises.

Bishop Licenses Predator Priest

Despite the heinous accusations against Rupnik, the testimonies of multiple victims, and his expulsion from the Society of Jesus, Rupnik was incardinated into the diocese of Koper in his native Slovenia by Bishop Jurij Bizjak last October. This gives him ecclesiastical license to hear confessions and exercise public ministry anywhere in the world.

Laura Sgrò, a lawyer known for her role in multiple Vatican cases, filed five new complaints from Rupnik’s victims to the Holy See in April, bringing the total number of complaints against the priest to at least 20.

Two of the new complainants, former nuns Miriam Kovac and Gloria Branciani, shared public testimonies against Rupnik at a press conference in February.

The Jesuits expelled the Slovenian priest from their ranks in June 2023 — not because he had violated his vow of chastity or even his vow of poverty while running a million-euro art company, but because he broke his vow of obedience by infringing travel restrictions imposed on him.

Rupnik owns 90% of Rossoroblu, a limited liability company registered in Italy which recorded a turnover of 1,176,500 euros and a profit of 119,607 euros in 2022, the Italian newspaper Domani reported. The other 10% is owned by Rupnik’s collaborator Manuela Viezzoli, a former sister of the Loyola Community (Skupnost Loyola) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where the abuser perpetrated much of his sexual abuse against the nuns.

Rupnik was excommunicated in May 2020 for absolving a sexual partner in sacramental confession, but was rehabilitated within a month due to the direct intervention of the Holy See. Though Pope Francis denies it, many believe he personally ordered that action.

Victims Write to Pope Francis

In a letter to Pope Francis published in September 2023, former nuns of the Loyola Community said they were “left speechless” by Rome’s cover-up of the serial abuser, and that the Vatican had “left their suffering exposed as an open wound” by publicizing Pope Francis’s meeting with Dr. Maria Campatelli, director of the Centro Aletti.

The Holy See Press Office issued a photograph of Pope Francis meeting with Dr. Campatelli, one of Rupnik’s close collaborators, but did not publish details of the conversation.

“The interview granted by the pope to Campatelli in such a familiar atmosphere was thrown in the face of the victims,” the letter lamented, complaining that Francis had refused to meet Rupnik’s victims and “has not even replied to four letters” sent to him in July 2021.

Nuns Testify Against Serial Abuser

Five former nuns have so far given detailed testimonies to the Italian media about the abuse they suffered at Rupnik’s hands while he served as confessor to the community of religious sisters he cofounded in Slovenia over 30 years ago.

Four nuns initially testified under the pseudonyms of Anna, Esther, Roberta, and Klara, while revealing aspects of their background. A fifth nun revealed how Rupnik abused her at Centro Aletti after she fled an abusive religious order and sought refuge at his studio.

In an explosive interview with the French magazine La Vie, Sr. Hermana Samuelle recounted that Rupnik would invite her to discreet meetings after 10 p.m. at the Aletti Center, where he would then caress her shoulders and neck and toy with the closure of her bra.

In June 2022, Anna, who revealed how Rupnik forced her into a ménage à trois with another nun at the studio, wrote an open letter to the superior general of the Society of Jesus, copying concerned cardinals, bishops, provincials, superiors, and laymen.

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“The first time [Rupnik] kissed me on the mouth, he told me that he kissed the altar in this manner when he celebrated the Eucharist, [and he kissed me in his way] because with me he could experience sex as an expression of God’s love,” Anna wrote.

“The last step of this descent into Hell was the passage from the theological justifications of sex to an exclusively pornographic relationship,” she lamented, noting that the priest “was already a frequent visitor to porn cinemas.”

None of the 18 clerics (mostly Jesuits) or laity who were informed of the abuse responded to the email or intervened to denounce Rupnik.

Esther, who worked for Vatican Radio, testified how the mother superior Ivanka Hosta, who cofounded the Loyola Community with Rupnik, colluded with him to cover up his sexual abuse of nuns.

Esther confirmed Anna’s account of Rupnik’s group sex and said many of the nuns suffered “serious physical and mental problems due to the psychological and spiritual violence they suffered” under Rupnik.

Roberta, a student of art history, said the Loyola Community served as a “hunting reserve for Rupnik.”

“One day, while I was still a novice, he put his hands on my butt, commenting on its shape with pleasure,” Roberta said. “I remember one of his ‘lessons’ on the importance of the color white in women’s underwear and his invitation to wear slightly transparent white blouses that revealed the bra as a sublime sign of purity and spiritual beauty.”

Klara said she met Rupnik when she was a 16-year-old nursing intern, and that he later entrusted her to one of his sexual partners to prepare her for orgies.

In 1986, a year before Klara joined the Loyola Community, Rupnik visited her in her sublet apartment. She stated that Rupnik “invited me to enter the bathroom with him where he began to masturbate in front of me over the sink.”

He then forced her to fellate him, telling her, “You need it because you haven’t received enough love and attention from your father.” He warned her not to tell anyone about the incident.

Critics Expose Rupnik’s Art

Rupnik’s mosaics, installed in churches and shrines across the Western world, have come under fire from Catholics demanding their removal.

The shrines which commissioned Rupnik’s art include the Redemptor Hominis Church and the Luminous Mysteries Chapel at the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C., the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil.

Pope John Paul II commissioned Rupnik to decorate the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel with his mosaics.

Victims and art experts are now exposing Rupnik’s creations as a perversion of the ancient Byzantine art.

“His sexual obsession was not extemporaneous but deeply connected to his conception of art and his theological thought,” Anna revealed.

Likewise, artist Hilary White explained in a Substack article. “The art is a perversion of Byzantine standards and is intrinsic to his perversion of theology that he used to justify and perpetrate his crimes; they are all of a piece.”

White described Rupnik’s mosaics as “art that is deliberately theologically and aesthetically transgressive,” aiming “not to illustrate or even didactically explain Christian theological ideas, but to distort them.

“It takes the extreme precision and rationality of Byzantine Christian art and creates chaos with it, visual gibberish,” she observed. “Rupnik’s work is a childish rebellion against philosophical foundations of Christian thought, that whole body of metaphysics that says real things are real and not subject to our personal whims and preferences. … It should not have surprised anyone that his perversion of these traditional artistic forms were matched by other kinds of perversions.”

The Centro Aletti continues to promote Rupnik’s mosaics and artwork on its website.

The Stream‘s John Zmirak wrote several years ago about art such as Rupnik’s being used by priests, bishops, and even Pope Francis:

[E]ven when the pictures have some vague religious connection, they’re always rendered crudely. They’re like abandoned art projects of some sullen, talentless child. They’re childish, not childlike, since kids do the best they can. But these images were crafted by well-paid adult professionals, designed to seem like the work of innocent children. There’s something deeply sinister there. Like a strange man dressed in a clown outfit, crashing some children’s party. … What these bishops are doing is keeping up the atmosphere where sex abuse tends to happen, along with every other kind of evil. They’re playing the mood music for sin, like jazz pianists in a brothel.

 

Dr. Jules Gomes, (BA, BD, MTh, PhD), has a doctorate in biblical studies from the University of Cambridge. Currently a Vatican-accredited journalist based in Rome, he is the author of five books and several academic articles. Gomes lectured at Catholic and Protestant seminaries and universities and was canon theologian and artistic director at Liverpool Cathedral.

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