In an open letter published September 19, the alleged victims of the disgraced ex-Jesuit said that Pope Francis in particular had left victims of sexual abuse with a “voiceless cry of new abuse.” It is addressed to Pope Francis, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi (head of the Italian bishops), Cardinal Angelo De Donates (the vicar of the Diocese of Rome), and Cardinal João Braz de Aviz (head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life). The letter follows an investigation by the Diocese of Rome which sought to exonerate the papal favorite.
The diocese’s subsequent report presented the results of a quietly conducted canonical investigation into Rupnik’s Aletti Center, the Rome-based art center which he founded over twenty years ago, and which became his base of operations for projects across the globe.
The canonical visitor, Father Giacomo Incitti, ruled that the Aletti Center had “a healthy community life without particular critical issues.” Commenting on the recent media storm which engulfed the Aletti Center after details of Rupnik’s alleged serial and diverse abuse, Incitti argued the Rupnik saga had “helped people who live the experience of Centro Aletti to strengthen trust in the Lord, in the awareness that the gift of God’s life becomes space also through trial.”
Incitti claimed that he had uncovered “severely anomalous procedures” about the process which led to Rupnik’s excommunication for absolving a sexual accomplice in the sacrament of confession. Pope Francis is alleged to have intervened within “a few hours” to overturn that excommunication.
The report’s publication caused instant outrage and led to accusations that it was “false.”
With “unbearable and untruthful verbal stunts, [Incitti] tries to exonerate Pope Francis from having canceled the excommunication of Father Marko Rupnik,” wrote Vatican news aggregate site Il Sismografo.
In their September 19 open letter, the alleged victims strongly protested the diocese’s findings, as well as the Pope’s receiving Aletti Center director – and staunch Rupnik defender – Maria Campatelli in a private audience last week.
Such actions “leave us speechless, with no more voice to cry out our dismay, our scandal,” read the letter. The signatories took aim at Pope Francis’ much repeated claim that he takes a “zero tolerance” stance regarding sexual abuse.
The signatories stated that the canonical visit and Campatelli’s private audience were “not accidental, even in their succession in time, [and] we recognize that the church cares nothing about the victims and those who seek justice; and that the ‘zero tolerance on abuse in the church’ has only been a publicity campaign, which has instead been followed only by often covert actions that have instead supported and covered up the abusers.”
‘Everyone is welcome’ is ‘empty’ rhetoric
Pope Francis’ theme from the recent World Youth Day in Lisbon – during which he repeated “todos [everyone]” is welcome in the Church – was described by Rupnik’s alleged victims as “staged… rhetoric.”
Francis’ comments were nothing more than “an empty word because in the end there is no place in this church for those who remember uncomfortable truths,” they stated.
The letter further argued that the whistleblowers exposing Rupnik had been censured rather than supported and alluded specifically to Rupnik’s alleged sexual abuse which he had apparently defended by invoking the Trinity.
We have no other words, because all the suffering of the victims we have exposed as an open, and certainly disgusting, wound… And the victims have therefore been censured for not being discreet, but exposing something repugnant: their pain, the manipulation of those who circumvented them in the name of Christ, of spiritual love, of the Trinity. They exposed their pain because the manipulation and abuse hurt their dignity forever.
One of the accusations previously made against the Pope was that he had ignored several letters sent to him by a number of Rupnik’s victims in the Loyola Community he co-founded.
This point was raised in the open letter, which said that the victims “have been waiting for a definitive, clear, maternal answer for more than a year. But they have only received silence.”
Church is ‘mortally wounded’ by papal response
The Diocese of Rome’s report about the Center “exonerates” Rupnik’s collaborators of “any responsibility,” protested the signatories. As such, it “ridicules the pain of the victims but also of the whole church, mortally wounded by such ostentatious hubris.”
The interview granted by the pope to Campatelli in such a familiar atmosphere was thrown in the faces of the victims (these and all victims of abuse); a meeting that the pope denied them, the victims said. He never even gave a response to four letters from religious and former religious of the Loyola Community that were sent to him in July 2021.
“The victims are left in the voiceless cry of new abuse,” the letter closed.
Il Sismografo echoed the themes of the open letter, saying “with lies, you don’t get anywhere and above all you continue to offend the victims of abuse of power, conscience, and sex.
Indeed, the Diocese of Rome’s attempt to rehabilitate Rupnik, despite the findings of the Jesuit order and the Vatican into the priest’s guilt, has caused outrage amongst many, although certain members of the Vatican’s press corps have turned a blind eye to the recent news and the way it condemns the Pope.
But The Pillar reported that, far from living a quiet life after being expelled from the Jesuits, Rupnik remains a welcome and “frequent fixture” at the Aletti Center in Rome. It was in his rooms at the Center that much of his abuse is alleged to have taken place.