Timeline: What we know about former Jesuit Marko Rupnik’s alleged abuse—and the questions that remain
The Society of Jesus announced in a statement on June 15 that it had dismissed Marko Ivan Rupnik “due to stubborn refusal to observe the vow of obedience” in regard to restrictions imposed on him last year after allegations of his abuse of adult women became public. His expulsion from the Jesuits comes more than five years after the order, according to its own timeline, first received accusations against this prodigious priest-artist whose mosaics adorn the walls of countless chapels, churches and cathedrals around the world.
As more details of Father Rupnik’s abuses have surfaced and reputable news sources have verified the allegations and surrounding facts, a clearer timeline has been established. What has emerged is a deplorable history of abuses by the Slovenian cleric that trace back to his early years as an ordained priest. With a fuller understanding of the sequence of events new inquiries also arise: Who knew what and when, and what disciplinary lapses have there been along the way that have now necessitated such a serious measure on the part of the Jesuits?
Here is what we have been able to piece together and verify from the information provided in the Jesuits’ own timeline and news sources. But while the currently available information can establish a basic timeline, there are many deeper questions that still need attention to understand how Father Rupnik’s abuses went unchecked for nearly three decades and to determine what further systemic reforms beyond his dismissal are necessary.
Father Rupnik is ordained a priest after completing his theology studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He pursues studies in missiology at the same university and graduates with a doctorate in 1991.
Skupnost Loyola (Loyola Community) is established in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The community is an institute of vowed religious of diocesan right, which means it is under the local bishop’s authority rather than answerable directly to Rome as is a religious order of pontifical right, such as the Jesuits.
Father Rupnik presides at Mass, hears confessions and offers spiritual direction to the community’s members—although he is never explicitly missioned to minister to the Loyola community by the Society of Jesus. The involvement of Father Rupnik and the specific nature of his official role and authority within the community remain unclear—some sources suggest he co-founded the community alongside Sister Ivanka Hosta, who served as the Loyola community’s first leader.
There are deep questions that still need attention to understand how Father Rupnik’s abuses went unchecked for nearly three decades.
In a letter addressed to Pope Francis in summer 2021 and shared with the Italian blog Left.it, a former member of the community alleges Father Rupnik was “a friend of the founder and of various early sisters. He had a constant closeness and presence in the personal life of all the sisters and of the community as a whole.” But, she adds, “his responsibilities have never been fully clarified” and were “practically covered up.”
At this time, Father Rupnik lives in Gorizia, about an hour’s drive from the Slovenian capital, at the Jesuit Morning Star Center (Stella Matutina), where his primary work appears to have been with youth.
Father Rupnik appears to cease direct involvement with the Loyola community, allegedly because of tensions within the community, especially between the founder and its members.
He relocates from Gorizia to Rome that September, where he teaches in the spiritual arts division at “Centro Ezio Aletti,” a new research center of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. He also teaches at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Saint Anselm Pontifical Liturgical Institute and offers seminars and lectures at other academic centers in Europe.
Pope John Paul II officially inaugurates the Centro Aletti in December 1993. The center is a ministry of the Society of Jesus and comprises a staff of artists and scholars, and is attached to a Jesuit community. The center is intended to bridge a divide between the Eastern and Western church traditions, encourage academic research, theological reflection and artistic production, and promote deeper communion among Christians.
In December 2022, a woman interviewed by Domani, an Italian newspaper, under the pseudonym Anna, has said that the abuse did not happen only in Slovenia, but also occurred in Rome at the Centro Aletti while she was in studies at the Gregorian University. This raises the question of how much contact Father Rupnik had in Rome with members of the Loyola community, despite reportedly having ceased contact with them in Slovenia.
Father Rupnik is appointed director of the Centro Aletti.
Not much is heard about Father Rupnik in this period. He continues as director of Centro Aletti and works internationally on artistic commissions. His mosaics can be seen in houses of Christian worship in the Vatican and across the world.
Please note: While the information that follows appears in chronological order to paint a clear picture of the order of events, it does not reflect the order in which events were brought to light in blogs, news media and from official sources at the Society of Jesus. For example, the 2019 investigation by the Vatican’s then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith into Father Rupnik’s absolution of an accomplice was only revealed by the Vatican and the Jesuits after media organizations reported in December 2022 that the C.D.F. had investigated Father Rupnik in 2021 for allegations concerning his abuses in the 1990s at the Loyola Community.
Father Rupnik hears the confession of a woman with whom he had sexual relations, and attempts to absolve her afterward, as first reported by The Associated Press. A priest absolving someone who was an “accomplice” in his own sin is considered a grave crime in church law and incurs an automatic, or latae sententiae, excommunication. This excommunication was not publicly disclosed or acknowledged at the time; there is also no evidence that Jesuit or church authorities were aware of it until allegations were made in 2018.
2016-7: Father Rupnik hears the confession of a woman with whom he had sexual relations, and attempts to absolve her afterward, as first reported by The Associated Press.
In October, the Society of Jesus received “allegations of sexual misconduct and an allegation of the absolution of an accomplice by Father Rupnik in a sin against the sixth commandment [adultery].” Upon receiving the allegation, the Society of Jesus immediately sets up a preliminary investigation into the matter.
By June, the Society deems credible the allegation that Father Rupnik was guilty of sexual misconduct and had absolved an accomplice, and reports its findings to the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (C.D.F.).
Precautionary restrictions are imposed by Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, S.J., the then-delegate of the Jesuits’ superior general for the international houses in Rome, who is effectively Father Rupnik’s major superior in Rome. The scope of these restrictions is unclear.
The Centro Aletti becomes a Public Association of the Faithful of the Diocese of Rome, which effectively brings it into the care of the Diocese of Rome.
In July, the C.D.F. asks the Society to set up what is called a “penal administrative process,” which is a formal investigation by the Society of Jesus into the allegations of abuse lodged against a member of its congregation.
By June 2019, the Society deems credible the allegation that Father Rupnik was guilty of sexual misconduct and had absolved an accomplice.
While this investigation is taking place, further restrictions are imposed by Johan Verschueren, S.J., who replaces Father Guerrero as the superior general’s delegate for the Jesuit houses in Rome. (Father Verschueren succeeded Father Guerrero, who had been subsequently appointed prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, succeeding Cardinal Pell, who had been convicted and incarcerated in Australia for the abuse of a minor. Cardinal Pell’s conviction was later overturned on appeal.) These include, according to comments Father Verschueren made to the National Catholic Register, that Father Rupnik is to “avoid private, in-depth spiritual contacts with persons, forbidden to confess women, and [forbidden] to give spiritual direction to women, specifically in the context of Centro Aletti.”
The Jesuits’ formal investigation into the absolution of an accomplice concludes in January and finds that Rupnik had indeed committed the canonical crime and confirms his automatic excommunication.
Father Rupnik stands in for Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the papal preacher, at the Vatican’s Lenten retreat, which is generally understood to be the highest honor a preacher can be offered. Once the allegations became public, this substitution raised suspicion about the stringency of restrictions imposed and whether these were obeyed by Father Rupnik and monitored by his superiors.
After Father Rupnik repents of the canonical crime of the absolution of an accomplice, the excommunication is lifted, as allowed by the church’s law.
A 3-year period of “administrative restrictions” are imposed on Father Rupnik, and he “ceases to be director of the Centro Aletti,” according to the official timeline provided by the Society of Jesus. Despite that claim, he still seems to hold a position of seniority at the center during this time. At the time of publication, Centro Aletti’s website still lists Father Rupnik as the director of the “Atelier Dell’Arte Spirituale” (a studio and art school) and dean of the “Atelier di Teologia,” (theology studio) along with his roles as consultant to several Vatican dicasteries. In December 2022, the Jesuit superior general, Arturo Sosa, S.J., told 7MARGENS that Father Rupnik’s resignation stemmed from “reasons internal to the organization of the center, because he had been in the role a long time and already had committed to many artistic projects.”
2020: The Jesuits’ formal investigation into the absolution of an accomplice concludes in January and finds that Rupnik had indeed committed the canonical crime and confirms his automatic excommunication.
Around the beginning of the year
A canonical visitation of the Loyola community in Slovenia is requested by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the cardinal vicar of Rome—the pope’s delegate who oversees the daily, local operations of the Diocese of Rome, outside of the Vatican—to investigate tensions within the Loyola community. This appears to coincide with the start of an investigation by the C.D.F. into allegations of abuse surrounding the priest.
Bishop Daniele Libanori, auxiliary bishop of Rome and also a Jesuit, is appointed to visit the community and investigate reported tensions.
In the course of the investigation, multiple women from the community disclose to Bishop Libanori that they had suffered various forms of abuse under Father Rupnik. “This was the real reason for their division,” said Bishop Libanori. “Some had left the institute, others were still suffering, having never been able to count on professional help to overcome the trauma.”
Bishop Libanori asks the women in the community to provide him with written testimony of their abuses and passes these on to the Dominican friar appointed by the Society of Jesus to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of abuse against Father Rupnik.
The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, contacts Father Sosa about allegations of spiritual and sexual abuse of members of the Loyola community in the 1990s against Father Rupnik—which appear to have come about as a result of the women’s testimonies after the canonical investigation—and asks the Society to investigate further.
Further restrictions are imposed on Father Rupnik at this stage. These include “the prohibition of the exercise of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction and the accompaniment of the Spiritual Exercises,” according to a statement made by the Jesuits in December 2022, when asked for clarity on the nature of the restrictions. In addition, “Father Rupnik was prohibited from engaging in public activities without the permission of his local superior.” It is unclear whether these restrictions were observed by Father Rupnik or enforced by any Jesuit superior at the time.
Father Sosa asks Father Verschueren to set up a preliminary investigation into the allegations, to be led by people outside the Society of Jesus.
Bishop Libanori is appointed by Archbishop Stanislav Zore, O.F.M., of the Archdiocese of Ljubljana, Slovenia, to take over the governance of Skupnost Loyola.
November Despite restrictions already imposed on Father Rupnik’s ministry in May 2020. Father Rupnik preaches on the Gospel in a YouTube video for Centro Aletti; Left.it’s anonymous source says this prompted her and others to reach out to Bishop Libanori because they saw this as a violation of the restrictions on him.
The Society’s investigation, as requested by the D.D.F., concludes that Father Rupnik has “a case to answer.” The findings of the investigation are communicated to the D.D.F., along “with a recommendation of a penal process [criminal proceeding for a canonical crime].”
January 2022: The Society’s investigation, as requested by the D.D.F., concludes that Father Rupnik has “a case to answer.”
The D.D.F. decides it is not able to process those allegations because the events occurred beyond what is known in canon law as “the prescribed time,” commonly called the statute of limitations in civil law. In canon law, there is a 20-year window allowed for the reporting of abuse by an adult.
That 20-year limit is often waived in abuse cases, but it was not in this case. Pope Francis, when asked about this decision by The Associated Press, denied having been involved in Father Rupnik’s case except to intervene procedurally to ensure that the second set of accusations from the nine women of the Loyola Community was assigned to the same Vatican tribunal that had heard the first set of accusations, regarding the abuse of the sacrament of confession, against him. He also said in that interview that he does not generally waive the statute of limitations on cases involving the abuse of adults who are not considered “vulnerable.”
In early December, three Italian blogs—Silere non Possum, Left.it and Messa in Latino—begin revealing the Loyola community members’ allegations that Father Rupnik abused them spiritually, psychologically and sexually.
Dec. 2 — The Jesuits issue a statement acknowledging that there had been a complaint against Father Rupnik in 2021 that the Vatican had declined to prosecute because it was past the statute of limitations. The Jesuits’ statement omits that they had received the accusation regarding abuse of the confessional in 2018 or that Father Rupnik had been excommunicated and rehabilitated in 2020. The same day, Father Rupnik, again in clear contravention of restrictions imposed on him, receives an honorary doctorate in person from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil.
Dec. 7 — Responding to questions from journalists in Portugal, Father Sosa expresses pain and sorrow at the allegations but again makes no mention of the excommunication.
Dec. 14 — At a media briefing where reporters primarily questioned Father Sosa about the unfolding scandal around Father Rupnik, Father Sosa admits that Father Rupnik had incurred an automatic excommunication for absolving an accomplice in the confessional and that it had been lifted in May 2020. This information had first been reported by Messa in Latino and confirmed by The Associated Press.
Dec. 18 — Domani publishes its interview with Anna, who describes a slow process of grooming that led to Father Rupnik eventually pressuring her into sexual activity using spiritual language, and how he was doing this to other women as well. She describes how Father Rupnik kissed her on the mouth and told her kissing her was like kissing the altar when he celebrated the Eucharist, and that sex was an expression of God’s love. She explains that at times when she would refuse his advances he would shame her in front of others. In the interview, she says Father Rupnik “slowly and gently infiltrated my psychological and spiritual world by appealing to my uncertainties and frailties while using my relationship with God to push me to have sexual experiences with him.”
Why has it taken so long for religious authorities to respond, so that Rupnik’s victims might begin to feel heard?
Dec. 19 — The Jesuits subsequently open a new investigation into Father Rupnik’s alleged abuse and invite any additional victim-survivors to come forward. In the end, they receive complaints from 15 additional people: 14 women and one man.
Dec. 22 — Cardinal De Donatis issues a statement announcing an independent investigation into Father Rupnik’s activities in Rome, which could include his role as director of the Centro Aletti, his term as rector of the Church of St. Filippo Neri all’Esquilino, and his service as a member of Rome’s Diocesan Commission for Sacred Art and Cultural Heritage.
On the same day, the bishops of Slovenia release a unanimous statement in which they express their support for Rupnik’s alleged victim-survivors, and they call anyone with more information about Father Rupnik’s alleged abuses in Slovenia to come forward.
The Jesuits in Slovenia issue a public statement that addresses Father Rupnik’s abuses. “We believe in the sincerity of the religious sisters and other victims who spoke about their suffering and other circumstances regarding emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse by our brother,” the statement reads. “We sincerely ask everyone for forgiveness.”
Following the 15 additional allegations, Father Verschueren tightens the restrictions against Father Rupnik. In addition to his being banned from sacramental ministry; from public communication; and from leaving the Lazio region of Italy, where Rome is located, he is also banned from any public artistic activity. The Jesuits informed Father Rupnik’s alleged victim-survivors about the tightened restrictions.
During this time, Father Rupnik refuses to speak to the Jesuits’ investigative team, respond to the allegations, or to move to a new community as ordered by his superior.
To what extent was Father Rupnik’s connection to the Loyola community part of his Jesuit mission—did the Society know he was the community’s de facto chaplain?
June 9 — Father Rupnik is informed that he is dismissed from the Jesuit order and has 30 days to appeal the decision. The decision is made public on June 15. Father Verschueren explains in a statement that the Society had “offered [Father Rupnik] one last chance as a Jesuit to come to terms with his past and to give a clear signal to the many aggrieved people who were testifying against him to enter a path of truth. Faced with Marko Rupnik’s repeated refusal to obey this mandate, we were unfortunately left with only one solution: resignation from the Society of Jesus.”
Pending appeal, Father Rupnik remains a Catholic priest but is no longer a member of the Society of Jesus.
On June 9, Domani also reports that Father Rupnik, despite the restrictions on leaving the Lazio region, had traveled to the city of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to Hvar in Croatia to work on artistic commissions.
June 17 — Centro Aletti issues a statement defending Father Rupnik and accusing the Society of Jesus of having “repeatedly shown themselves to favor a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations.” According to the statement Father Rupnik had in fact submitted his resignation from the Society in January. The statement added that owing to the alleged smear campaign against Father Rupnik, “the other Jesuits of the Aletti Center also requested an indult to leave the Society.”
July 24 — Father Rupnik’s expulsion from the Society of Jesus is final. He remains a Catholic priest but is no longer a Jesuit. The Jesuits informed him of the decision on June 9, and he had one month to appeal, but he decided not to, confirming the expulsion. “I cannot but greatly regret this insistent and stubborn inability to confront the voices of so many people who have felt hurt, offended and humiliated by his behavior and conduct toward them,” Father Verschueren said in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, confirming the decision and responding to criticisms that the artist remains a priest and is now effectively unsupervised and able to continue in ministry.
Questions that still remain
Father Verschueren, in a press briefing in February with The Associated Press and La Repubblica that addressed the findings of the Jesuits’ investigation since December 2022 into alleged abuses by Father Rupnik, found that the claims of victim-survivors “were credible and confirmed a ‘pattern’ of psychological, sexual and spiritual abuse, and abuse of conscience.”
Given such a pattern, there are further questions that arise regarding how such abuses were allowed to develop, and why and how this abuser priest’s actions were not dealt with as seriously and swiftly as his conduct merited. Why has it taken so long for religious authorities to respond, so that his victims might begin to feel heard?
Why did the Congregation/Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s chief office responsible for responding to allegations of sexual abuse by its members, decide not to waive the statute of limitations in cases of adult sexual abuse—especially since it had already dealt with a prior case of sacramental abuse and sexual misconduct by the same priest?
Questions about governance in the Society of Jesus also require more attention, especially regarding the Jesuits’ involvement in the roles Father Rupnik had in the Loyola community and Centro Aletti. Why, after allegations came to light, was there not greater oversight and control over the restrictions imposed on a restricted member of its congregation who was found credibly accused, and who had repeatedly disobeyed orders from his religious superiors?
Even earlier than that, what were the alleged tensions in the Loyola community, with members and founder, in Slovenia that prompted Father Rupnik’s move to Rome, and was his role in such tensions, if any, ever investigated? To what extent was Father Rupnik’s connection to the Loyola community part of his Jesuit mission—did the Society know he was the community’s de facto chaplain?
When Father Rupnik began to establish the Centro Aletti community, apparently involving some of the same women who had been in the Loyola community, did any ecclesial authorities governing the community in Rome know or ask about the history of the Loyola community in Slovenia? What is the Society’s relationship to the Centro Aletti now, since it was made a public association of the lay faithful of the Diocese of Rome in 2019—what prompted the change and how does this relate to the Jesuits residing at the center?
This timeline will be updated as additional details emerge and are verified.
Colleen Dulle and Jim McDermott, S.J., contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately reported that the abuse of a woman by Marko Rupnik that led to his excommunication took place in 2015. The abuse occurred in 2016-17.