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Colleen DulleJune 21, 2024
Father Marko Rupnik, a mosaic artist, is pictured in a 2015 photo in Rome. As evidence mounts of sexual crimes by the priest, a former Jesuit, church communities are resisting calls for his expensive sacral artworks to be removed from public display. (OSV News photo/Cristian Gennari, KNA)

The head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication has defended his department’s use of expelled Jesuit priest Marko Rupnik’s artwork in its official materials.

In a question-and-answer session with journalists at the annual Catholic Media Conference in Atlanta, Ga., on June 21, Paolo Ruffini, head of the dicastery, affirmed that while his department would not publish any new photos of the disgraced priest’s artwork, existing images of the art will remain on its website for now, with no plans for removal.

“To have an anticipation of a decision is something that in our opinion is not good,” Mr. Ruffini said in answer to a question posed by America, referring to the ongoing investigation by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith into allegations of sexual and spiritual abuse by Father Rupnik.

However, according to reports, the dicastery has continued to feature Father Rupnik’s artwork in several new publications.

Mr. Ruffini attended the C.M.A. conference with Natasa Govekar, the dicastery’s pastoral-theological advisor, who has co-authored three books with Father Rupnik and is listed as a team member on the website of the Centro Aletti, the art institute Father Rupnik founded in Rome.

Marko Rupnik has been accused of sexual and spiritual abuse by several women; one of them said he abused 41 members of the Loyola community, an order of nuns in Slovenia to which the woman had belonged. Years later, now living in Rome, after news broke that Father Rupnik had been excommunicated for granting absolution to a woman he had had sex with—an excommunication that was later lifted—the Vatican invited any additional victims to come forward. After 14 women and one man alleged abuse by Father Rupnik, and following an internal investigation by the Jesuits, Father Rupnik was dismissed from the Society of Jesus last year for refusing to comply with his superiors’ orders, “to give a clear signal to the many aggrieved people who were testifying against him to enter a path of truth.” Despite being removed from his order, he remains a priest and is working in a diocese in his home country of Slovenia, where he has been received into ministry by the local bishop.

[READ MORE: Timeline: What we know about former Jesuit Marko Rupnik’s alleged abuse—and the questions that remain.]

Mr. Ruffini told journalists that there was also a “Christian” reason for not removing the art. He alluded to Jesus’ teaching against judging others. “Who am I to judge?” he asked rhetorically. “We have to pray for those who are to judge.”

Mr. Ruffini added that the Jesuit Curia had not removed Father Rupnik’s artwork from its chapel, calling the decision “inspiring in terms of being Christians.”

Finally, he said that “removing, deleting, destroying art does not ever mean a good choice.”

Father Rupnik’s alleged victims have said that his art and abuse were intertwined. One victim, going by the name of Anna, told the Italian news agency Domani: “His sexual obsession was not extemporaneous but deeply connected to his conception of art and his theological thought.”

Following up on Mr. Ruffini’s responses, Paulina Guzik of OSV News pointed out that Mr. Ruffini had made no mention of victims in his comments. “What would you tell victims today?” she asked.

“The closeness of the church to the victims and the closeness of the church to any victims is clear,” he responded. “But it’s clear, also, that there’s a procedure going on, so we have to await the procedure.”

Mr. Ruffini said, “We are talking about stories we don’t know. Who am I to judge the Rupnik stories? I answered about art on our website and in many centers around the world. This is another story. I feel as Christians we have to understand the closeness to the victims is important, but I don’t know that this [removing Father Rupnik’s art] is the way of union [with them].”

He added that Father Rupnik’s art may be “healing others, maybe.”

He concluded by speaking directly to Ms. Guzik: “This is not the way to be close to the victims, to think that if I pull away a photo of an art[work] from my website, our website, I would be more close to victims. Do you think so?”

Ms. Guzik said she did.

“Really? You think so? Well, I think you’re wrong,” Mr. Ruffini said.

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