Rome Newsroom, Sep 19, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).
Victims of Father Marko Rupnik’s alleged spiritual and sexual abuse on Tuesday expressed “bewilderment” with the Diocese of Rome’s recent statement praising the art and theology center founded by the former Jesuit artist, saying that it “ridicules victims’ pain” and shows little care for those seeking justice.
In an open letter published on Sept. 19, former members of the Slovenian religious community Rupnik is accused of abusing said they were “left speechless” by the diocese’s concluding report on its canonical investigation of the Aletti Center, an art and theology school in Rome where Rupnik lived and served as the director from 1995 to 2020.
The diocese described the Aletti Center — where Rupnik has been accused of engaging in sex acts with consecrated women — as currently having “a healthy community life … that is free of particular serious issues” and added that the investigation raised “doubts” about the procedures that led to Rupnik’s excommunication.
“This report …. which exonerates Rupnik of any responsibility, ridicules the pain of the victims, but also of the whole Church, mortally wounded by such blatant hubris,” the open letter said.
The letter was signed by Fabrizia Raguso and other former sisters of the Loyola Community, a Slovenian community co-founded by Rupnik and Sister Ivanka Hosta. The letter was posted to the website Italy Church Too, an online platform for victims of clerical abuse.
Pope Francis meets Maria Campatelli, director of the Aletti Center, at the Vatican on Sept. 15, 2023. The Aletti Center was founded in Rome by the former Jesuit priest Father Marko Rupnik. Credit: Vatican Media
The women said that Pope Francis’ recent meeting with Maria Campatelli, the current director of the Aletti Center and a close collaborator of Rupnik, further caused them pain because the pope never responded to letters from members and former members of the Loyola Community.
“That meeting granted by the pope to Campatelli in such a friendly atmosphere was thrown in the faces of the victims (these and all victims of abuse); a meeting that the pope denied them,” the open letter said.
“The victims are left with a voiceless cry of new abuse,” it added.
Rupnik was dismissed by the Jesuits in June after having been accused of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse spanning more than three decades.
The Diocese of Rome announced on Sept. 18 that a canonical investigation into the Aletti Center conducted by Monsignor Giacomo Incitti, a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, had concluded and cleared the community of having any serious problems.
Last year, a woman claimed in an interview with the Italian newspaper Domani that Rupnik had previously abused her in his room at the Aletti Center in Rome when she was a religious sister.
The statement released by the diocese said that the visitation was “able to ascertain that the members of the Aletti Center, although saddened by the accusations received and the ways in which they were handled, chose to maintain silence — despite the vehemence of the media — to guard their hearts and not claim some blamelessness with which to stand as judge of others.”
It said that the investigation also had examined the main accusations against Rupnik and the procedures behind his excommunication.
Rupnik previously received an automatic, or “latae sententiae,” excommunication for hearing the confession and then attempting to grant absolution to a woman with whom he had sexual relations. The Jesuits’ internal investigation confirmed Rupnik’s excommunication in January 2020, which was lifted in May 2020 after Rupnik repented of the canonical crime.
According to the Diocese of Rome, the visitation identified “gravely irregular procedures” that “generated well-founded doubts about even the request for excommunication itself.”
In light of these “doubts,” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar of the Diocese of Rome, submitted the report to Church authorities.
The announcement from the Rome Diocese came days after Pope Francis met with Campatelli, the director of the Aletti Center, who published a letter in June defending Rupnik against “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations” and claiming the Jesuits had withheld documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”
In the letter posted to the Aletti Center website on June 17, two days after the public announcement of Rupnik’s expulsion from the Society of Jesus, Campatelli accused the Jesuit order of withholding information from the media, including documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”
She said that Rupnik had in January requested to leave the Jesuits after losing trust in his superiors for favoring “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations (which exposed the person of Father Rupnik and the Aletti Center to forms of lynching).” She also said other Jesuits who are part of the Aletti Center had put in requests to leave the religious order.
The canonical visitation of the Aletti Center took place between Jan.16 and June 23, and included community meetings and interviews with members of the center.