The Jesuit order expelled the influential mosaic artist Fr. Marko Rupnik June 9 due to “his stubborn refusal to observe the vow of obedience.”
The order said in a June 15 statement that Fr. Arturo Sosa, the superior general of the Society of Jesus, had dismissed the Slovenian priest in accordance with canon law.
While the statement did not say explicitly that Rupnik has been dismissed from the clerical state, it does mean that he is not able to exercise priestly ministry.
The Church’s canon law decrees that when a cleric is dismissed from religious life, he “cannot exercise sacred ministry until he finds a bishop who receives him into the diocese.”
The order said that in February it had received a dossier containing “numerous complaints of all kinds” against Rupnik, relating to alleged incidents over a period of more than 30 years.
Rupnik’s superiors determined “the degree of credibility of what was reported or testified to be very high.”
“Thus, we forced Fr. Marko Rupnik to change communities and accept a new mission in which we offered him one last chance as a Jesuit to come to terms with his past and to give a clear signal to the many injured people who were testifying against him to enter a path of truth,” the statement said.
“Faced with Marko Rupnik’s repeated refusal to obey this mandate, we were unfortunately left with only one solution: dismissal from the Society of Jesus.”
The order said that Rupnik had 30 days to appeal the decision, beginning June 14, the date that he received the decree of dismissal.
“If and only when Fr. Marko Rupnik’s resignation from the Society becomes final will it be possible to explore the issues further. Not before,” the statement concluded.
The 68-year-old artist has been at the center of a scandal that has shaken the Catholic world since November 2022, when Italian blogs reported that Rupnik had been accused of spiritually abusing women religious in the 1990s. Some media sources said that the complaints had been sent to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
On Dec. 2, 2022, the Society of Jesus acknowledged that complaints were sent to the dicastery in 2021 and were investigated.
The Jesuits explained that in October 2022, the dicastery decided not to pursue canonical charges against Rupnik over the abuse allegations, because the relevant statute of limitations had run out.
The order added that since the complaint was sent to the Vatican, the priest had been prohibited from hearing confessions, giving spiritual direction, offering the spiritual exercises, or engaging in public ministry without the permission of his religious superior.
Speaking to journalists on Dec. 14, 2022, Jesuit superior general Fr. Arturo Sosa said that Rupnik had been excommunicated, but that the penalty was remitted after the artist repented of the serious canonical crime of absolving an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment.
On Dec. 18, 2022, the Jesuits appealed for people to report allegations of abuse against Rupnik to contact them.
Rupnik was well known in the Church as the director of the Centro Aletti, an institute founded in the 1990s at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome as a center of art, theology, and culture.
His mosaics decorate some of the most prominent Catholic pilgrimage destinations, including Lourdes and the crypt chapel in San Giovanni Rotondo, which contains Padre Pio’s tomb.
In 2020, the priest preached a Lenten meditation for priests working in the Vatican. He met with Pope Francis in January 2022, and received an honorary doctorate from a Catholic university in Brazil in November 2022 that was later revoked.
Despite facing a rising number of allegations of spiritual and sexual abuse, Rupnik continued to maintain a public profile, concelebrating Mass at a basilica in Rome in March. He also remained an official adviser to several Vatican departments.
The Italian newspaper Domani reported that Rupnik recently defied restrictions by undertaking work trips to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
The artist’s superior Fr. Johan Verschueren said that the journeys were “a serious transgression of the restrictive measures imposed on Fr. Rupnik.”
Editor’s note: This report initially noted that a decree of dismissal from a religious institute requires the confirmation of the Holy See. That was incorrect — Pope Francis removed from canon law that norm of law in Feb. 15, 2022. The text has been corrected.