Laity for Moral Reform in the Catholic Church

On Fr. Rupnik

Posted: 2023-03-08

In December of last year, allegations against Fr. Marko Rupnik came to light. Fr. Rupnik is accused of committing abuse, including sexual abuse, against women in the Loyola Community, a Slovenian religious community, during the 1990s. It was further alleged that in 2016, Fr. Rupnik absolved an Italian novice of a sin against chastity he had committed with her. [1]

Fr. Rupnik was tried and found guilty of the latter offense by a canonical court, for which he was formally excommunicated in May of 2020. The excommunication was lifted the same month. The allegations of abuse against women in the Loyola Community were investigated as well but no charges were brought against Fr. Rupnik because of the statute of limitations. The statue of limitations for sexual abuse can be waived but it was not in this case.

After the allegations against Fr. Rupnik were made public, the Jesuits asked victims to come forward. On February 21 of this year, the Order announced that additional accusations had been received relating to conduct taking place from the 1980s through 2018, with conduct alleged against people both within and outside of the Loyola Community, and that a new investigation will be undertaken.

Despite his conviction for absolving an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment and serious allegations of abuse, Fr. Rupnik has not been laicized. Instead, he was placed under certain restrictions in order to limit his access to potential victims. These restrictions did not seem to prevent Rupnik from preaching Lenten homilies to the Papal household, having an audience with Pope Francis, running a retreat for priests, and, as late as December of 2022, publishing videos on the internet and serving as an official advisor in two Vatican dicasteries. More severe restrictions, referenced in the Jesuit's latest communication, appear to have been put in place only after the allegations against Fr. Rupnik were made public. One of those restrictions is a ban on public ministry of any kind, yet on Sunday, March 5, 2023, Fr. Rupnik was seen concelebrating mass in a basilica.

St. Peter Damian would not approve of the lax discipline imposed on Fr. Rupnik. Peter Damian’s Book of Gomorrah is primarily concerned with homosexual acts and abuse by priests, but it includes a highly relevant point about clerical abuse of women. In a section of the book addressed to priests who engage in homosexuality, Peter Damian says,

I ask you, if a monk makes an attempt on a nun, is he to remain in holy orders according to your judgment? But there is no doubt that you would judge that such a man be deposed! [2]

He goes on to argue that if a monk should be stripped of holy orders for attempting sexual relations with a nun he should also be laicized for engaging in sexual activity with a male religious. Peter Damian considers it so obvious that a priest who sins against chastity with a female religious should be removed from holy orders that he assumes that even priests who commit sodomy with each other would support laicization in such cases.

Here, Fr. Rupnik has done exactly what Peter Damian and his imaginary interlocutor considered worthy of laicization. It has been proven that Fr. Rupnik had sexual relations with a novice to which he added the further grave crime of attempting to absolve her in confession. In addition, Fr. Rupnik has been credibly accused of abusing multiple women, including religious sisters in the Loyola Community. The allegations made by one such victim, printed in an Italian newspaper and published in English by the Pillar, make for grim reading. Yet, despite this, Fr. Rupnik is not Mr. Rupnik. He is still a priest, and until recently was active in at least some portions of his ministry even after his conviction.

It can sometimes be difficult to determine what a historical figure would say about current events. Here, there is no such difficulty. St. Peter Damian would say that Fr. Rupnik should not be a priest. We agree.

  1. The absolution of an accomplice is not an actual absolution but an attempted absolution. Canon 977 states that any such absolution is invalid except where the party to be absolved is in danger of death.

  2. Hoffman, Matthew Cullinan, trans. The Book of Gomorrah: and St. Peter Damian's Struggle Against Ecclesiastical Corruption (New Braunfels, Texas: Ite Ad Thomam, 2015), 101.