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No comment from Vatican about alleged trial, excommunication of Father Rupnik

December 12, 2022

The Holy See Press Office and the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith have not responded to the National Catholic Register’s requests for comment on Italian reports of an alleged canonical trial and excommunication of Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, SJ—and the alleged subsequent lifting of the excommunication by Pope Francis.

The Society of Jesus previously confirmed that it restricted the ministry of the prominent artist and theologian by preventing him from hearing confessions and preaching retreats, though he remains free to celebrate Mass and preach homilies.

The restrictions followed a report that Father Rupnik sexually abused at least three religious sisters in Slovenia in 1992 and 1993. On December 5, a source in the Diocese of Rome told ACI Prensa that Auxiliary Bishop Daniele Libanori of Rome has “received accusations from at least nine women” (emphasis added). According to the Society, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith closed the case in October 2022 because the 20-year canonical statute of limitations had expired—even though the statute of limitations can be waived.

The Register sought comments on “another, separate case in which Father Rupnik is alleged to have broken the Sixth Commandment with a female Italian novice and then absolved the accomplice in the confessional—a grave canonical crime that automatically leads to excommunication.” The Register continued:

The Italian website Left.it and the traditionalist Catholic website Messa in Latino, drawing on “high-level” DDF sources, have maintained that a second DDF tribunal unanimously handed down a conviction resulting in latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication. But Messa in Latino alleged that a statute of limitations was applied to the case “due to pressure from Father Rupnik” so that “the Holy Father lifted the excommunication, contrary to the tribunal’s decision.” Messa in Latino reported Dec. 8 that this particular canonical investigation took place from the beginning of 2019 and concluded in 2020, and was conducted by Marianist Father Francisco Javier Canseco and two other non-Jesuit investigators.

When the Register asked Father Canseco to comment on the veracity of the report, he “told us to contact the Jesuits for more information.” Asked about the case, “especially about the alleged excommunication and its reported lifting,” Father Johan Verschueren, spokesman for the Society of Jesus, neither confirmed nor denied it, citing “respect for the testimonies and their privacy, especially in view of their precious collaboration in an inquiry ... Transparency is not an absolute value.” Father Verschueren noted that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, not the Society, would handle cases involving the Sacrament of Penance.

The Register “asked both the DDF and the Vatican press office for confirmation of the trial and the alleged conviction, the lifting of the excommunication, and the case of the Slovenian sisters but did not receive a response.”

The reports of a 2019-2020 trial of Father Rupnik—if true—raise profound questions about the 2020 decision to have Father Rupnik take the place of Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, in delivering a Friday Lenten sermon to the Pope and members of the Roman Curia. The decision, which instantly raised Father Rupnik’s stature worldwide, presumably could not have been made without Pope Francis’s approval.

 


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