The Slovenia Times

Prominent Slovenian cleric embroiled in sexual abuse scandal


Marko Rupnik, a Vatican-based Jesuit artist and priest, has been exposed in a sexual abuse scandal that has been growing since his order admitted last week that he had been excommunicated for using the confessional to absolve a woman with whom he had engaged in sexual activity decades ago. This is considered one of the gravest crimes in the Catholic Church.

The first revelations emerged on 5 December when the Italian new agency Ansa and the Catholic News Agency reported that Rupnik had had his ministry restricted due to allegations of abuse against nuns in Slovenia going back to the 1990s. However, the report said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided not to prosecute Rupnik because "the facts in question" had become statute barred.

The reports said one of the women allegedly attempted suicide because of the abuse, which was both sexual and spiritual. A source told another outlet, a Catholic News Agency affiliate called ACI Prensa, that at least nine women had been allegedly abused. None of the complaints involved minors.

Just days later the Jesuit order confirmed that Rupnik had been sanctioned in May 2020 before the Vatican declared as statute barred allegations of abuse of women under his spiritual care. The Vatican lifted the excommunication later the same month after Rupnik, now aged 68, repented.

On 18 December the Italian newspaper Domani published testimony by a former nun who made a complaint against Rupnik in 2021. The testimony describes years of sexual abuse and spiritual manipulation by Rupnik, suggesting he abused "close to twenty" nuns in the early 1990s. The victim also lists repeated attempts to turn him in only to face Jesuit and other superiors who protected Rupnik.

The letter, which includes graphic detail, prompted the Jesuit order to ask any more potential victims to come forward with complaints. Rupnik's immediate superior, Johan Verschueren, said he wanted to clarify some of the questions that have erupted about the case. He appealed for anyone with old or new allegations to come forward.

"My main concern in all of this is for those who have suffered, and I invite anyone who wishes to make a new complaint or who wants to discuss complaints already made to contact me," Verschueren said.

Rupnik is best known in Slovenia for his mosaics in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican, which won him the 2000 Prešeren Prize, Slovenia's top accolade in the arts. Rupnik also created the logo of the 2016 Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis. He is recognised worldwide as a church artist.

Some in Slovenia feel the timing of the scandal is not a coincidence, linking it to infighting in the Slovenian Catholic Church ahead of upcoming bishop appointments.

Commenting for Radio Slovenija last week, Tino Mamič, editor-in-chief of the conservative weekly Domovina, noted Rupnik's links to Pope Francis, the dislike that some Slovenian priests have for the pope, and criticism leveled in the past against the pope by Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rode.

"Considering all that, we can see these people have a motive," said Mamič with the radio presenter noting that Jesuit Stanislav Zore's position as the archbishop of Ljubljana has been precarious for a while.


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