KIRKBAMPTON, England (LifeSiteNews) — Three English dioceses will ban images designed by Father Marko Rupnik as a response to the scandal engulfing the priest over allegations of serial abuse.
In the continued fallout over the numerous allegations of abuse made against former Jesuit Fr. Rupnik, a handful of English dioceses are taking steps as yet unmade by the Vatican.
Antonia Sobocki, who leads an English clerical abuse victims’ advocacy group called LOUDfence, announced on September 26 that the Archdiocese of Southwark had “now committed to banning all rape art including works by Marko Rupnik.”
Sobocki had recently taken part in the plenary assembly of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, where she presented her testimony and had a brief meeting with Pope Francis.
Following her September 26 post, Sobocki wrote that the Diocese of Plymouth along with that of Hexham and Newcastle was following suit. LifeSite contacted the two dioceses asking for confirmation.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Plymouth stated that “in line with the position being adopted by other dioceses, it has been decided that it would be totally inappropriate to continue to endorse, display, or use any copies of Fr Marko Rupnik’s artwork in any way.”
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle told LifeSite that “our Diocese has reached a decision not to use imagery from the work of Fr Marko Rupnik in future media. This has applied since our recent Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes and the artwork was removed digitally from photos taken during the pilgrimage.”
The Archdiocese of Southwark did not respond to LifeSite’s request for comment, but in a later statement a spokesman “committed to ending abuse” and stated that “as part of this work, we will review the artwork on display on any Archdiocese property to ensure it is appropriate and puts the dignity, care, and love of all first.”
The three English dioceses are not alone in making changes regarding Rupnik’s images. The priest’s work is heavily featured at the Marian shrine of Lourdes in Southern France; his 2008 work marks the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. The local bishop and the rector of the shrine announced in March that the status of Rupnik’s works at Lourdes was under review.
The Rupnik case has dominated headlines since it was first broken by Italian Catholic blogs last December. Rupnik is accused of having abused numerous women, and at least one man, in a variety of forms – sexual, spiritual, and psychological. The abuse is alleged to have taken place against at least 21 of the 40-strong Loyola Community of religious women, which he co-founded in his native Slovenia. A further 15 alleged victims have come forward in the past ten months.
The priest – who was expelled from the Jesuits during the summer for refusing to comply with restrictions placed upon him – was also briefly excommunicated for having absolved one of his sexual accomplices in Confession.
One alleged victim, using the pseudonym ‘Anna,’ stated that “his sexual obsession was not extemporaneous but deeply connected to his conception of art and his theological thinking. Father Marko at first slowly and gently infiltrated my psychological and spiritual world by appealing to my uncertainties and frailties while using my relationship with God to push me to have sexual experiences with him.”
Despite this intimate link between his alleged abuse and his art, Rupnik has continued to enjoy regular promotion by the Pope, the Vatican, and the Diocese of Rome. Recently, the Diocese of Rome attempted to rehabilitate the priest by casting doubt on the process of excommunication. The diocesan statement added that Rupnik’s Rome-based Aletti Center was home to “a healthy community life without particular critical issues,” even though it was a center of Rupnik’s alleged abuse.
Prior to that, the Dicastery for Communications officially decided to continue using his religious images. This decision has been suggested to be due, at least in part, to Natasa Govekar, a member of Rupnik’s Aletti Center, where she works on the “theology of images,” and who is also listed as the director of the Dicastery for Communications’ Theological-Pastoral Department.
Even the Synod on Synodality has come under fire for its own promotion of Rupnik’s work. On the English version of the Synod on Synodality’s homepage, an image of Rupnik’s was used to promote a post urging readers to “Pray for unity, pray for the synod.”
Following an online outcry, the image was quietly removed during the late afternoon (local time) of September 27.
That same day, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors issued a call to the Synod on Synodality’s participants to address sexual abuse. The statement called for the Synod to “address, in a comprehensive way, the threat posed by sexual abuse to Church’s credibility in announcing the Gospel.”
The Commission asked synod members that the issue of sexual abuse “permeate your discussions as they address teaching, ministry, formation, and governance.”
As a community of the reconciled, the Church’s sacred worship should also find adequate inclusion and expression of this most intimate of Church failures. While at times it may seem like a daunting set of questions to face, please rise to the challenge so that you may address, in a comprehensive way, the threat posed by sexual abuse to Church’s credibility in announcing the Gospel.
The agenda of the synod discussions has not been altered in light of this call from the Vatican’s safeguarding Commission, although certain questions relating to sexual abuse were already part of the discussions topics.