Koper Diocese takes flak for incardinating priest exposed for abuse
The Koper Diocese has drawn criticism from Slovenia and abroad for incardinating Marko Rupnik, an artist and priest who was expelled by the Jesuit order in June over allegations of sexual abuse of nuns and now Pope Francis has requested a review of his case.
Rupnik asked for incardination a month before he was excardinated by the Jesuit order and well after abuse allegations were made against him by several women, who at the time of the abuse were members of the Ljubljana-based Loyola community. Rupnik served as the community's spiritual leader in the 1990s.
The Catholic web portal Silere Non Possum broke the news of Rupnik's incardination in Koper in late August on 25 October. The news was subsequently confirmed by the Koper Diocese.
Bishop Jurij Bizjak granted Rupnik's request after consulting the Apostolic Nuncio in Slovenia, Jean-Maria Speich, as well as Vicar of the Diocese of Rome Angelo De Donatis and Giacomo Incitti, a canon law professor at the Pontifical Urban University and an expert consultor at the Church's supreme canonical court.
Silere Non Possum said the incardination decision means Rupnik is free to practice as a priest, but added that he above all wanted to continue leading spiritual training and make mosaics.
The Koper Diocese's decision to welcome Rupnik has been criticised by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
In a written statement on 26 October, State Scretary Dan Juvan said the Catholic Church should take responsibility of abusers in their ranks instead of rewarding them with roles in dioceses.
Rupnik's former Jesuit superior Johan Verschueren has also taken issue with the decision, telling the news agency AP that he had written "an exhaustive" letter to Bishop Bizjak about the many allegations and noted a guilty verdict that led to excommunication.
Bizjak defended his contentious decision by saying that he had not received any documentation showing Rupnik had been found guilty of alleged abuses.
Verschueren told the AP in an email that he immediately wrote to Bizjak after learning earlier this year that the bishop was willing to take Rupnik in.
The Jesuit said he wrote "about the situation and the many complaints or cases we were dealing with, and I asked him whether he would maintain his offer after having been informed by it". Verschueren also told the AP that his letter included a reference to a 2020 conviction that saw Rupnik temporarily excommunicated.
Pope requests review
Allegations against Rupnik came to light in December last year, when he was accused of physically and mentally abusing Loyola sisters in 1992 and 1993.
By that time, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith had already closed an investigation into the case, finding the allegations to be too old and deciding not to prosecute Rupnik.
However, Pope Francis has now lifted the statute of limitations on the Rupnik case to allow a canonical procedure to take place regarding allegations against him.
The Holy See issued a statement on 27 October saying that in September the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors "brought to the Pope's attention that there were serious problems in the handling of the Marko Rupnik case and lack of outreach to victims."
This is why he asked the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to review the case.
"The Pope is firmly convinced that if there is one thing the Church must learn from the Synod it is to listen attentively and compassionately to those who are suffering, especially those who feel marginalized from the Church," the statement said.