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Gloria Branciani, alleged victim of multiple forms of abuse at hands of Fr. Rupnik. In Rome, Feb 21, 2024. Michael Haynes

ROME (LifeSiteNews) — Two alleged victims of the disgraced former Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik gave public testimony of his alleged multi-faceted abuse at a press conference today, calling for “truth and justice” in the case, raising questions  about Pope Francis’ role in the convoluted and increasingly public case. 

In a groundbreaking intervention in Rome, two women gave public testimony about their contact with the now-notorious Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, confirming by their statements the details they  had pseudonymously provided in late 2022 about the spiritual, sexual, psychological, and physical abuse he is reported to have committed.  

Among the details provided at the press conference – held just yards away from where he is alleged to have committed abuse at the Jesuit church – Rupnik was described as taking women to view pornographic films so that they could mature in their spirituality and ordering them to engage in “threesomes” in order to reflect the “Trinity.”

Mirjam Kovac and Gloria Branciani, from Slovenia and Italy respectively, are former members of Rupnik’s Loyola Community, which he founded in his native Slovenia. Both women joined the Community while still young, and consequently became subject to the dominating influence which Rupnik is described as having exerted. 

Rupnik’s alleged abuse 

Rupnik was expelled from the Society of Jesus this summer in disgrace, officially for not adhering to orders, after he was widely accused in allegations which became public in late 2022 of committing serial abuse in multiple forms. The Jesuits have compiled a 150-page dossier of reported instances of abuse that Rupnik is said to have committed from 1985 through 2018. 

READ: Alleged victim of Father Rupnik: I feel a ‘responsibility’ to ensure ‘justice is done’

While the accusations are yet to be judicially proven, Rupnik’s former superior Father Johan Verschueren, S.J. stated that the credibility of the allegations against Rupnik is “very high.” The Slovenian Jesuits stated in January 2023 that they “believe in the sincerity of the nuns and other victims who have spoken out about their suffering and other circumstances regarding emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse by our confrere.”  

Additionally, Rupnik was automatically excommunicated and found guilty of absolving in confession a woman with whom he had sexual relations by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s court. The penalty was swiftly revoked, leading to much speculation over whether Pope Francis personally intervened to lift the excommunication. The pontiff  has denied this.

Kovac told journalists in Rome today that she was abused by Rupnik “only psychologically,” and that it took her some time to recognize the reality of what was happening around her. She left the community in 1996. 

Branciani began by repeating her previous statement that she had wished to end her life following the abuse she said she received from Rupnik. The woman described Rupnik’s ability to “manipulate” those around him, stating that she suffered “physical, psychological, sexual” abuse from him. 

The lengthy testimony given by Branciani at the press conference in Rome today is consistent with the pseudonymous account she wrote in December 2022, detailing instances of alleged abuse at the hands of the priest.  

READ: Former nun details years of ‘satanic’ sex abuse by Jesuit priest Fr. Rupnik  

“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,” she wrote under the name “Anna” in 2022.  

She stated in the 2022 article that Rupnik’s relationship with her was marked by a “move from theological justifications for sex to an exclusively pornographic relationship.”

Branciani also estimated that, of the 41 women in the Loyola Community in the early 1990s, Rupnik had sexually abused about 20 of them.

In a claim she made in her 2022 article and repeated today, Branciani also stated that Rupnik would make her take part in “threesomes” he described as being in the “image of the Trinity.”

Branciani added that the priest had “deformed” her relationship with God but added that she had “forgiven herself and forgiven Rupnik.”

When asked what message she would send to Pope Francis, Branciani said,“Our desire is that the truth be recognized.”

Anne Barrett Doyle of Bishop Accountability, an organization behind the press conference, called on the Pope to “commission an independent investigation of hierarchy’s handling of the Rupnik case,” while also demanding clarity on Francis’ alleged involvement in covering up for the disgraced cleric. 

Rupnik’s stance in the Church

Indeed, a notable aspect of the Rupnik case is the alleged non-action or coverup on the part of ecclesial authorities. In her 2022 article, Branciani attested that she had informed Church officials and the Society of Jesus about Rupnik from as early as 1994, but she was discredited and nothing happened. 

Francis is accused of more than intervening for Rupnik by lifting the excommunication. The pontiff is also charged with having invited the priest to give a Lenten homily to the Curia just weeks after the CDF had ruled Rupnik had absolved his sexual accomplice, and of ignoring the letters sent to him by alleged Rupnik victims. 

Since the Rupnik case became public in late 2022, the priest has enjoyed continued favor in the Church. Famous for his artwork in numerous religious sites around the world, Rupnik saw his images promoted by Pope Francis in June 2023 and by the Vatican’ Synod office in September 2023. They still remain in regular use by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication. 

After he was expelled from the Jesuits in July 2023, Rupnik was welcomed and incarnated into a Slovenian diocese on his request, with the diocese adding that it was also “on the basis of the fact that Rupnik had not been [given] any judicial sentence.” 

But just days after the widespread news of Rupnik’s Slovenian incardination, Pope Francis ordered the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to “review” the case of alleged serial abuser Father Marko Rupnik. The announcement was believed by some to be an attempt to save face.

READ: Pope Francis asks Vatican to review case of alleged serial abuser Fr. Rupnik  

Some weeks later, the Vatican informed the Loyola Community via the Archdiocese of Ljubljana that the group must be disbanded within a year. 

Indeed, in another peculiarly timed occurrence, just minutes after today’s press conference ended in Rome, the Vatican’s in-house news outlet announced that the CDF had “widened the scope” of its investigation into Rupnik to “identify what procedures will be possible and useful to implement.” 

Rupnik’s case remains very much an uncomfortable reality for Pope Francis and the Vatican, with alleged victims’ voices growing increasingly louder.