The Father Rupnik Case: A Timeline
A closer look at the sequence of events to-date about the investigation and excommunication of the world-renowned Slovenian priest.
At the start of December, Italian websites published information regarding psychological and sexual abuse allegedly committed in the 1990s by Jesuit Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, a Slovenian priest who is internationally renowned for his mosaics and other artwork.
The Society of Jesus subsequently confirmed that an investigation had been initiated last year into allegations that Father Rupnik had abused several women who were members of a Slovenian religious community he co-founded in the 1980s. But, according to the Jesuit order, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (now DDF, formerly known as the Congregation for Doctrine of the faith, CDF) subsequently ruled that the case would be closed because the allegations fell outside the canonical statute of limitations.
This response by the Jesuits’ leadership appeared to leave many questions unanswered, generating concerns that both the Society of Jesus and the Vatican were not being fully transparent about what was known about Father Rupnik’s actions, about the limitations that were placed on his activities as a consequence, and about whether Pope Francis was personally involved in the handling of the matter.
These concerns intensified Dec. 14 when Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa, the superior general of the Society of Jesus, disclosed that Father Rupnik had incurred an automatic excommunication in 2019 for sacramentally absolving a woman with whom he had sinned against the sixth commandment. The order had withheld this relevant information from its earlier public statements this month about Father Rupnik.
The Following is a Timeline of the Actions and Issues in Play:
Early 1980s: The Loyola Community is founded in Slovenia by Jesuit Father Marko Ivan Rupnik and Sister Ivanka Hosta.
1992-1995: Instances of psychological, spiritual and sexual abuses are alleged to have occurred against women who were members of the Loyola Community, according to a Dec. 1, 2022, blog on the Italian website Left.it. Father Rupnik is then serving as chaplain to the Order. The Italian daily newspaper Il Messaggero reported on Dec. 5, 2022, about similar accounts of two unnamed women, one who herself alleges to have been abused by Father Rupnik in the 1990s and another who said she witnessed numerous complaints from members of the community recounting the priest’s abuse of power, involving psychological manipulation and intimate relationships of a sexual nature. The second woman reports that these allegations were brought forward in the 1990s to Father Francisco J. Egaña, then Delegate for the international houses of the Society of Jesus in Rome.
1993: After disagreements with Sister Hosta, according to Left.it, Father Rupnik moves to Rome together with several sisters and founds the Aletti Center, dedicated to promotion of religious art and its connection with Ignatian spirituality.
1996-1999: Father Rupnik oversees renovation of the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.
First Investigation (Absolution of an Accomplice)
2015: Father Rupnik violates the confessional by absolving an Italian novice with whom he had sinned against the sixth commandment..
October 2018: Allegations of absolution of an accomplice by Father Rupnik in a sin against the sixth commandment are received by the SJ Curia delegate for the International houses in Rome. The Society sets up a preliminary investigation. The act is reported to have happened in the confessional — a grave crime resulting in laetae sententiae (automatic) excommunication — according to reports in Dec. 2022 on the Italian website Messa in Latino and confirmed by Associated Press.
May 2019: The investigation deems the allegations credible. A file is sent to the CDF
2019-2020: A canonical trial is carried out into the allegation, led by Marianist Father Francisco Javier Canseco and two other non-Jesuit investigators, “high-level” Vatican sources told Messa in Latino. This is confirmed by the Jesuits on Dec. 18, 2022.
January 2020: The outcome of the trial results in a unanimous conviction; the investigators say that there was indeed absolution of an accomplice.
May 2020: Father Rupnik is officially excommunicated and the Jesuits say the decree was lifted later that month.
At the time of the conviction, according to Jesuit Superior General Father Arturo Sosa, “precautionary restrictions” are placed on the Slovenian priest, forbidding him to engage in public activities without the permission of his local Superior. The Society of Jesus says “preliminary” restrictive measures were put in place in June 2019 by Father Johan Verschueren, delegate of Jesuits' Superior General and Major Superior for the International Houses. (Father Verschueren told the Register Dec. 17, 2022, that Father Rupnik was to “avoid private, in-depth spiritual contacts with persons, forbidden to confess women, and to give spiritual direction to women specifically in the context of Centro Aletti. In 2020, these restrictions were widened geographically to include anywhere.”)
March 6, 2020: Pope Francis asks or approves of Father Rupnik temporarily standing in for Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the pontifical household, to preach that year’s Lenten homilies at the Vatican.
Second Investigation (Serial Abuse)
2021: Jesuit Bishop Daniele Libanori, an auxiliary bishop of Rome, is commissioned to conduct a separate inquiry into the Loyola Community related to complaints of abuse of power within the community. The inquiry later brings up abuse cases related to Father Rupnik. Bishop Libanori’s inquiry is still continuing.
2021: During Bishop Libanori’s inquiries, members of the Loyola Community report abuse allegations which are sent to the then Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The abuse allegedly involves coercion and control, allegedly perpetrated by Father Rupnik when he was chaplain.
July 2021: The CDF asks the Society of Jesus to conduct a preliminary investigation into the case, according to a Dec. 2, 2022, statement from the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits did so, appointing a non-Jesuit investigator, and the results were later submitted to the CDF. Bishop Libanori files his own report to the CDF, which reportedly concludes that the victims’ testimonies “are credible and their story is solid.” A source in the Diocese of Rome told ACI Prensa that at least nine women made accusations against Father Rupnik of abuse during this inquiry.
July 2021: Restrictive measures increased to include men (although the Jesuits say that up until now no complaints have been received from men) as well as “restrictions in the field of public activity to avoid causing scandal to the victims.” The practice of art, however, remains allowed until now and he can celebrate Mass and preach homilies “in his community context (a private environment).” (Father Verschueren to the Register, Dec. 17, 2022).
Jan 2022: The investigation concludes there was a case to answer. The results are sent to CDF with a recommendation of a penal process.
October 2022: The Vatican declines to carry out a canonical process related to the 2021 allegations due to the statute of limitations.
October 2022: The Jesuit procurator general, a canonical adviser to the superior general, asks to send Father Rupnik back to trial because the abuse was “gruesome,” but the statute of limitations is again cited, according to a report by Messa in Latino.
Father Rupnik’s Activities Post-Investigations
Jan. 3, 2022: Pope Francis receives Father Rupnik in private audience.
Feb. 22, 2022: A talk Father Rupnik gives on Eucharistic Adoration is posted on YouTube by the Diocese of Rome. Father Rupnik also continues to record his homilies and talks and broadcasts them on the website of the Aletti Center. The latest was posted on YouTube on Dec. 10.
May 19, 2022: Father Rupnik preaches a video retreat in Larino, Italy.
August 2022: Bishop Maksimilijan Matjaž of Celje, Slovenia, invites his priests to a retreat with Father Rupnik in Santa Severa, north of Rome, sources in Slovenia have told the Register.
Aug. 9-13, 2022: Father Rupnik holds a course of spiritual exercises in Castel d’Ario near Verona, Italy.
Nov. 30, 2022: Father Rupnik receives an honorary doctorate from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná in Brazil.
Dec. 1-4, 2022: Italian websites Left, Silere non Possum and Messa in Latino bring Father Rupnik’s conduct into the public eye for the first time, reporting on the investigations and their findings as well as the fact that Father Rupnik has been allowed to continue preaching, traveling and collecting awards despite restrictions imposed on him in 2019.
Dec. 2, 2022: In response to these press articles, the Society of Jesus issues a statement in Italian confirming that it received a complaint in 2021 concerning Father Rupnik’s “manner of ministry,” noting that “no minors were involved” but that investigations had taken place. It also says that in 2021 Father Rupnik had been “forbidden to engage in public activities without the permission of his local Superior,” including being prohibited from “exercising the sacrament of confession, spiritual direction, and giving the Spiritual Exercises,” and that “these measures are still in force today, as administrative measures, even after the response of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
Dec. 7, 2022: Father Sosa gives a Portuguese interview in which he repeats much of the Dec. 2 statement of the Society of Jesus. He asserts that from the moment the preliminary investigation was opened, Father Rupnik was “immediately” forbidden from “hearing confessions, conducting spiritual exercises, spiritual direction and making any public statements, teaching and any other such activity that had to be authorized by his local superior.” He later adds that the restrictive measures “were maintained” and “respected.” He says that Father Rupnik is “not in prison,” “has very important artistic commitments” and that the measures “must be proportionate to the facts.” Father Sosa makes no mention of the excommunication.
Dec. 8, 2022: Pauline Books and Media announces that it is withdrawing the English editions of three books by Father Rupnik.
Dec. 9, 2022: Messa in Latino raises the issue of the earlier excommunication, asking, “What happened to the excommunication and why was it blocked”? The Society of Jesus, the Vatican and Father Canseco subsequently fail to respond to repeated press inquiries, including from the Register, asking whether Father Rupnik was excommunicated and then had the excommunication lifted, and why the statute of limitations was not waived for the other abuse allegations given that it did not have to be applied to such cases, according to the DDF’s 2020 Vademecum on clerical sex abuse.
Dec. 14, 2022: In comments to reporters in Rome, Father Sosa admits that Father Rupnik had been convicted of attempting to sacramentally absolve a woman with whom he had engaged in sexual activity and was excommunicated.
The DDF “said it happened; there was absolution of an accomplice,” Father Sosa said, according to the Associated Press. “So he was excommunicated. How do you lift an excommunication? The person has to recognize it and has to repent, which he did.”
Asked why the Jesuits hadn’t previously revealed the confession-related conviction, Father Sosa said that “they were two different moments, with two different cases.”
Father Sosa contradicts the Jesuits’ earlier statement by saying the restrictions on Father Rupnik’s ministry actually dated from the 2020 conviction for the violation of the Sacrament of Confession, and not the 2021 preliminary investigation into the serial abuse. The Jesuits reveal Dec. 18 that preliminary restrictions were first put in place in June 2019.
Asked what, if anything, Francis knew about Father Rupnik’s case in general or whether he intervened, Father Sosa says he “could imagine” the Holy Father would have been informed of such a decision by the prefect of the DDF, Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria. The Society of Jesus tells the Register on Dec. 17 that they had not informed the Pope of the investigations into Father Rupnik.
Dec. 18, 2022: Father Verschueren issues a statement inviting anyone who has suffered abuse at the hands of Father Rupnik and who "wishes to make a new complaint or who wants to discuss complaints already made" to contact him.
Dec. 18, 2022: A former religious sister in the Loyola Community gives an interview to the Italian newspaper Domani detailing the extent of the depravity she experienced, and claiming Father Rupnik abused half the community of women religious to which she once belonged.
Dec. 19, 2022: In a letter to Italian priests, Bishop Libanori confirms the abuse claims are true and that the women Father Rupnik is alleged to have abused have “seen their lives ruined by the evil suffered and by the complicit silence,” the Associated Press reported.
Dec. 20, 2022: In comments to the Register, Father Verschueren explained that Father Rupnik has been able to continue certain public activities because “a few exceptions” were made for him. “The local superior had the right to allow exceptions,” Father Verschueren said, and “could judge whether there were opportune or not.” He added: “I admit that this did not work well. We made these rules ‘absolute’ after complaints reached my ears.” Father Rupnik continued to post his preaching on YouTube until Dec. 10.
Editors' Note: This story is still unfolding and the timeline will be updated as further information becomes available.