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Gina Christian - OSV NewsDecember 16, 2023
A screen grab shows the notice on the website of the Archdiocese of Ljubljana, Slovenia, of the Vatican's decision to suppress the Community of Loyola, a women's religious community founded in the early 1990s with the assistance of Father Marko Rupnik, who is facing multiple allegations of abuse, including of women in the community. (CNS photo/nadskofija-ljubljana.si)

The Vatican's decision to close a religious community co-founded by accused abuser Father Marko Rupnik is prompting wary praise from survivor advocates in the U.S. and Canada, as well as calls to do more to heed and protect survivors.

On Dec. 15, the Slovenian Archdiocese of Ljubljana announced that the Vatican had ordered the Sisters of the Community of Loyola to be dissolved within one year, following a decree issued by the Vatican's Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Vatican decree, dated Oct. 20, was presented to the community Dec. 14, both to those who had been summoned in person to the archdiocesan offices and "to those who were connected online," said the statement, noting that in attendance was Canossian Father Amedeo Cencini, papal delegate, accompanied by Sister Marisa Adami, S.F.F., and Franciscan Father Victor Pope.

The Slovenian Archdiocese of Ljubljana announced that the Vatican had ordered the Sisters of the Community of Loyola to be dissolved within one year.

The decision is "due to serious problems concerning the exercise of authority and the way of living together," said the archdiocese in its statement.

Several former members of the community are among the two dozen women Father Rupnik, who was dismissed from the Society of Jesus in June for disobedience, has been accused of sexually, spiritually or psychologically abusing over a 40-year period.

"I am grateful to know that the Vatican is taking the ongoing concerns about the Loyola Community seriously, but I can't help but wonder how many people could have been protected from harm if church leaders had responded more quickly to reports of abuse within the community," said Sara Larson, executive director of the independent nonprofit Awake Milwaukee, which works to raise awareness of and heal sexual abuse in both the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Catholic Church as a whole.

In a Dec. 15 statement, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said while it was "grateful for this decision … we observe that it only came after intense public outcry over Father Rupnik's case."

That case has taken a number of dramatic turns since the Loyola Community was established in Ljubljana during the early 1990s by Father Rupnik and Sister Ivanka Hosta, who served as its superior general.

The two parted company in 1993, with Father Rupnik moving to Rome along with several Loyola members to open the Centro Aletti, a scholarly and artistic center in Rome. Father Rupnik's mosaics have been installed in numerous churches and religious sites throughout the world, including the Vatican.

The archdiocesan statement said that in 2019, Archbishop Stanislav Zore of Ljubljana sought to visit the Loyola Community, completing his inquiry in February 2020 and informing "the competent Roman dicastery … about the results."

"...the fact that it took a public outcry to bring about the canonical trial and the closure of the convent shows us that while the Church continues to say they have changed, their actions belie it."

The dicastery then "handed the matter over to the Diocese of Rome," in which the community's generalate is located. An appointed commissioner held "several conversations with all the sisters" and then sent a final report to the dicastery in September 2022 through the apostolic nunciature.

In June, Sister Ivanka -- who is reported to reside in a monastery near Braga, Portugal -- was removed from her role as superior general, prohibited from any form of temporal or spiritual leadership in the community and banned for three years from contact with current or former members. In his June 21 decree, Rome Auxiliary Bishop Daniele Libanori also ordered her to undertake monthly pilgrimages to pray for Father Rupnik's victims.

Lea Karen Kivi, author of "Abuse in the Church: Healing the Body of Christ," told OSV News she was "deeply disappointed to read that Sister Ivanka Hosta has been required to do external penance, while Father Rupnik has faced no such chastisement."

Instead, in August the Slovenian Diocese of Koper moved to accept Father Rupnik as one of its priests, despite his dismissal from the Jesuits -- a move that SNAP denounced at the time and in its Dec. 15 statement.

"Following his expulsion, in the wake of accusations that he had sexually assaulted as many as twenty-four adult women, the priest was inexplicably incardinated in August by the Diocese of Koper in Slovenia," SNAP, based in Chicago, said in its Dec. 15 statement.

The group noted that the move "shocked his accusers and sparked a huge public outcry," and that "subsequently, Pope Francis waived the statute of limitations that was preventing a canonical trial on the accusations," at which Father Rupnik could face charges.

"The dissolution of the religious community Fr. Rupnik co-founded is another step in the right direction," said SNAP in its statement. "However, the fact that it took a public outcry to bring about the canonical trial and the closure of the convent shows us that while the Church continues to say they have changed, their actions belie it."

"I pray that somehow these women can find a new, safe community in which to shine God's light."

In its statement, SNAP called Father Rupnik "a dangerous predator, likely made even bolder by the fact that up to now his actions have resulted in no permanent consequences," adding, "we cannot help but wonder how many less prominent perpetrators have been left in ministry because their cases did not provoke a public outcry."

Kivi told OSV News she felt "a deep sadness" about the dissolution "not only because of the abuses of authority alleged to have taken place there, but also because the gifts and talents of these women religious -- women who offered all to Christ -- were 'hidden under a bushel,' and were rendered spiritually barren.

"I pray that somehow these women can find a new, safe community in which to shine God's light," she said.

Larson echoed the same hope.

"As the dissolution of the Loyola Community moves forward, I hope and pray that all those who have been harmed in this abusive environment will receive the understanding and support they need to find healing and peace," she said.

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