After Fr. Marko Rupnik publicly concelebrated a Mass Sunday despite restrictions on his ministry, one Jesuit official has qualified those restrictions, claiming Rupnik can concelebrate Masses in the presence of his local religious community.
Rupnik, who has been accused repeatedly of sexual and psychological abuse, concelebrated Mass Sunday at the Basilica of Santa Prassede in Rome, according to Italian news agency Domani.
The Jesuit priest concelebrated the Mass alongside the Fr. Milan Zust, who is local superior of Holy Trinity House, the Jesuit community at the Centro Aletti, a Rome-based center for arts and culture launched by Rupnik.
Rupnik, a well-known artist, has been prohibited for years from public priestly ministry, because the priest abused the sacrament of penance to abet acts of sexual misconduct, and faces allegations that he spiritually, psychologically, and sexually abused religion women in Slovenia in the 1980s and 1990s, and has committed other acts of sexual abuse.
About 25 women have accused the priest of sexual abuse, allegedly ocurring as recently as 2018, according to the Society of Jesus.
The Jesuits have emphasized in recent months that Rupnik is prohibited from both public sacramental minstry and public artistic activity, “especially involving religious structures,” and are presently undertaking a canonical process that could see him dismissed from the order.
But after Rupnik was seen concelebrating Mass Sunday along Zust and other members of the Centro Aletti community, the Jesuits told reporters that the priest is allowed “to concelebrate Masses in the context of the Aletti Center, which is his inner circle, his community.”
That qualifier raises questions about whether Rupnik will be permitted to engage in other public ministry - like concelebrations of Sunday Masses in churches open to the public - as long as he does so in the presence of members of his local religious community.
And while Rupnik has been accused of sexually abusing and manipulating religious sisters while creating religious art, it is is not clear if he is also permit to continue artistic creation, if it is done in the context of his religious community.
The Jesuits have in the past permitted Rupnik activity which seems to contravene restrictions on the priest’s ministry.
Shortly after the priest was declared excommunicated in 2020, the Society of Jesus announced that Rupnik had been commissioned to install a set of mosaics in the Sanctuary of the Cave, a Spanish church connected to the cave where St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuits’ founder, composed his famous “Spiritual Exercises.”
The church, in Manresa, Spain, is an important site for Jesuits, and a destination for pilgrims from around the world.
Before the mosaics were liturgically dedicated, the Jesuits were informed by the Vatican that Rupnik had allegedly committed spiritual and sexual abuse against consecrated women in Slovenia.
Despite that allegation, Rupnik and Jesuit Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa jointly celebrated the dedication of the priest’s mosaics, during a July 2021 Mass attended by Jesuits from around the world. Sosa has subsequently claimed Rupnik was on restricted ministry at the time of both the mosaics’ installation and their dedication.
The Society of Jesus claimed last year that the order imposed restrictions on Rupnik’s priestly ministry in June 2019, and that the DDF imposed restrictions in May 2020.
But those restrictions were not announced when they were issued, and Rupnik has remained a prominent ecclesiastical figure – he remains an official advisor to several Vatican departments, gave a Lenten retreat talk for Vatican officials in 2020, has lectured and spoken around the world. The priest was also permitted to design the logo for the Vatican-sponsored 2022 World Meeting of Families after his excommunication, and was featured in videos released by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.
In 2021, the priest was investigated for other allegations of serious sexual misconduct, involving religious sisters in a community he had helped to found in Slovenia decades ago. But while investigators recommended a penal process at the Vatican, the DDF determined the case could not proceed because of the statute of limitations.
Since the allegations have emerged recently in the public, there was have been questions about who was responsible for the decision not to waive the canonical statute of limitations.
In a January interview, Pope Francis told the Associated Press that he had declined to intervene to waive the statutory limit, and that he generally preferred only to do so when a case against a priest involved the abuse of minors.
The internal process now underway in the Society of Jesus is a canonical process similar to the ones Rupnik has already faced, but differs in several important elements. It came after widespread opposition to Rupnik’s continued ministry, and to the Vatican’s handling of allegations against him.
According to the Society of Jesus, the new process will examine accusations against Rupnik which could result in his expulsion from the Jesuit order.
The society noted last month that canon law allows a religious order, like the Jesuits, to begin a process to expel a member for reasons including “repeated violations of the sacred bonds; stubborn disobedience to the legitimate prescripts of superiors in a grave matter; grave scandal arising from the culpable behavior of the member.”
In such cases, the society’s statement noted, the process does not come under the canonical criminal code, per se, but is an internal disciplinary matter for the society and, as such, is not subject to the canonical statute of limitations which prevented previous allegations against Rupnik from being prosecuted at the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.