Rome report questions Jesuits’ treatment of Father Rupnik

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rupnik investigation
Pope Francis meets with Maria Campatelli, director of the Centro Aletti, a center dedicated to research and art that promotes a dialogue between Eastern and Western Christianity, at the Vatican Sept. 15, 2023. The center was founded by former Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, who was expelled from the order in July after being accused of sexual abuse. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

ROME (CNS) — After a six-month investigation into the life and work of a community founded by former Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, the Diocese of Rome said it had discovered “gravely anomalous procedures” that led to the brief excommunication of the priest and his dismissal from the Jesuits after multiple allegations of abuse.

The investigation “generated well-founded doubts even about the request for excommunication itself,” so Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, papal vicar for Rome, has sent the investigator’s report to “the competent authorities,” said a press statement from the Diocese of Rome Sept. 18.

The statement did not specify who the “competent authorities” were, although the phrase was presumed to mean at the Vatican. The diocesan press office said it had no further information.

The statement was issued three days after Pope Francis held a private meeting at the Vatican with Maria Campatelli, a theologian and director of the Centro Aletti, which was founded by Father Rupnik as a community of artists and scholars dedicated to promoting a dialogue between Eastern and Western Christianity.

In December 2022, the Jesuits said Father Rupnik was operating under restrictions on his ministry because of abuse allegations and that the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had confirmed he was briefly excommunicated in 2020 for absolving in confession a woman with whom he had had sex. The excommunication was lifted after he apparently repented.

In June the Jesuits said they would expel Father Rupnik from the order for refusing to uphold his vow of obedience and confront allegations of sexually, spiritually and psychologically abusing some two dozen women and at least one man over the course of 30 years. A month after the notice was published, the Jesuits confirmed the expulsion was final.

Father Rupnik’s petition to leave

Campatelli, writing a letter to “friends of Centro Aletti” in June, said the Jesuits failed to mention that Father Rupnik himself had petitioned to leave the Jesuits in January, “his trust in his superiors having completely failed when they had unfortunately given repeated proof of favoring a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations, which exposed the person of Father Rupnik and the entire Centro Aletti to forms of lynching.”

After the revelations in December, the Jesuits invited other victims to come forward. In February the Jesuits said a team of experts, with a degree of credibility that “seems to be very high,” identified another 14 women and one man who reported being abused by Father Rupnik between the mid-1980s and 2018.

The Diocese of Rome’s statement Sept. 18 said that given the accusations against Father Rupnik and since the Centro Aletti was recognized as a “public association of the faithful” in the diocese, Cardinal De Donatis decided in January to begin a visitation of the community and assigned Father Giacomo Incitti, a professor of canon law, to conduct the investigation.

From multiple visits, group interviews and private conversations, the statement said, “it is clear from this report that there is a healthy community life within the Centro Aletti” and that it “is free of any particular critical issues.”

While “embittered by the accusations received and the manner in which they were handled,” it said, members of the community “chose to maintain silence — despite the vehemence of the media — to guard their hearts and not claim some irreproachability with which to stand as judges of others.”

In his report, given to Cardinal De Donatis in late June, Father Incitti concluded that everything that had happened “has helped people living at the Centro Aletti strengthen their trust in the Lord.”

Cindy Wooden

Cindy Wooden is a journalist with Catholic News Service.