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Pope Francis celebrating Mass with Fr. Rupnik (R) at the Aletti Center’s 25th anniversary celebration. Video screenshot

Editor’s note: The following article contains disturbing descriptions of blasphemy and sexual abuse. 

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The Vatican has decided that there is no reason to prevent its continued use of the artwork of alleged serial abuser Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, despite his alleged victims testifying that his work is intimately linked to his wide-ranging abuse. 

The disgraced Fr. Rupnik is set to enjoy continued promotion at the Vatican, as the Dicastery for Communications — which oversees the Vatican’s Press Office and various Vatican news outlet including the eponymously named Vatican News website — has decided to continue using his images. Such is arguably due to Rupnik’s wide reaching influence in the Vatican, both in his own name but also through loyal members of his Rome-base art center who also work at the Vatican.

In a July 3 report, La Croix’s Vatican correspondent Loup Besmond de Senneville wrote:

In the last few days, a meeting attended by some of the dicastery’s top officials concluded that there was nothing to prevent the continued use of Rupnik’s mosaics. They said the work should stand on its own merits and be dissociated from the personal life of the artist.

As noted by Pope Francis when he set up the Dicastery in 2015, the Dicastery is responsible for the: “Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Holy See Press Office; the Vatican Internet Service; Vatican Radio; the Vatican Television Centre; L’Osservatore Romano; the Vatican Printing Press; the Photo Service; and the Vatican Publishing House.”

READ: Jesuits expel alleged serial abuser Fr. Rupnik, but he remains a priest

Rupnik’s artwork truly pervades the Vatican’s online presence. As widely highlighted since the emergence of the Rupnik scandal back in December 2022 (which LifeSite has covered extensively here), his images are notably used by Vatican News on the website and on the various social media accounts. 

They are found both in the Saint of the Day section of the website, and also on the Liturgical Feasts section, with both sections featuring his artwork throughout the entire year. For July, a Rupnik image is currently featured for the July 22 feast of St. Mary Magdalene, and last month saw his works used for the feasts of Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and the Sacred Heart. 

READ: Pope Francis ignored letters from nuns allegedly abused by Fr. Rupnik: report

Rupnik was expelled from the Jesuit Order on June 9, reportedly for refusal to obey his superiors. He has been accused of psychologically and sexually abusing 20 of the 40 religious sisters in the Loyola Community in Slovenia, of which he was a co-founder. The Jesuits have compiled a 150-page dossier of reported instances of abuse that Rupnik is said to have committed. These date from 1985 to 2018, and Rupnik’s former superior Fr. Johan Verschueren stated the credibility of the allegations against Rupnik was “very high.”

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

Artwork linked to abuse

While Rupnik’s supporters have argued passionately that his artwork is separate from the man, his alleged victims have stated otherwise, arguing also that his abuse took place in his Rome Aletti Center, during painting sessions, after Mass or after Confession. 

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

A former member of Rupnik’s Loyola Community, under the pseudonym ‘Anna,’ stated that Rupnik used his paintings as a way to garner interest in him and to cultivate relationships. “I could not imagine that back then, when he was explaining to me that the bodies drawn on the Kamasutra boards were an art form, he was already a frequent visitor to porn movies,” Domani reported her as saying.

While modeling for his art projects, which involved undoing her blouse, Anna stated that Rupnik kissed her on the mouth on one occasion, stating that this was how he “kissed the altar where he celebrated the Eucharist.”

Anna argued that Rupnik’s art was firmly linked to his sexual desires:

It was a real abuse of conscience. 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.

She added that Rupnik would “request for more and more erotic games in his studio at the Collegio del Gesù in Rome, while painting or after the celebration of the Eucharist or after confession.”

“He had no restraints; he used every means to achieve his goal, even confidences heard in confession,” she stated.

Rupnik reportedly even encouraged her to have “threesomes with another sister from the Community, because sexuality had to be, according to him, free from possession, in the image of the Trinity where, he said, ‘the third gathered the relationship between the two.’”

Another former nun of the community under the pseudonym ‘Klara’ stated that Rupnik began abusing her when she was 16. Rupnik reportedly stated this was “for her own good.” After being psychologically pressured into joining the Loyola Community,  Rupnik “began to sexually exploit me as he pleased,” she said, providing explicit details of the continued abuse. 

‘Klara’ echoed ‘Anna’ in stating Rupnik encouraged her to have “threesomes” in imitation of the Trinity, and how this would involve having to “drink his semen from a chalice at dinner.”

Vatican’s intimate link with Rupnik

Despite the sordid details of alleged abuse provided, the Vatican is unlikely to take action against the priest. Indeed, the disgraced priest continues to enjoy even papal promotion, with Pope Francis highlighting one of Rupnik’s pieces of art in a recent video message. Published online on June 1 by the Vatican, the video showed the Pope deliver brief thoughts to the 16th Marian Congress, then being held in Aperacida.

READ: Fr. Rupnik’s art center defends alleged serial abuser from ‘defamatory, unproven accusations’

In the two minutes and 20 seconds video, Francis devoted just under one minute to show the camera Rupnik’s image of the Mother with the Christ Child, which resides in the Pope’s rooms in the Casa Santa Marta hotel.

The emergence of his images to the world via the Vatican’s online sites is due to the crucial link between personal working both at the Vatican and at Rupnik’s Aletti Center, which is based in St. Mary Major. 

Natasa Govekar is listed as the director of the Dicastery for Communications’ Theological-Pastoral Department. She is also a member of the Aletti Center, where she works on the “theology of images.”

Her presence has been key at the Dicastery since its inception, and she is responsible for monitoring and operating the Pope’s Instagram and Twitter accounts. She has for many years been welcomed as a keynote speaker at conferences on Catholic journalism, due to her leading role at the Vatican.

It is highly likely due to her key lobbying that Rupnik’s art continues to enjoy consistent use and promotion online by the Vatican’s various portals. As La Croix reported, “internally, several sources interviewed by La Croix denounced a ‘conflict of interest’ that would force the Vatican media to provide a minimum service on this delicate matter.”

Speaking to Catholic News Service in 2017, Govekar stated that “the church has never had a problem with its content; the challenge is how to communicate the content in the best way for it to be heard and welcomed.”

READ: Disgraced Jesuit gave homily to Papal household weeks after investigators found he absolved sexual ‘accomplice’

Rupnik himself has enjoyed particular favor from Pope Francis over the years. His art portfolio in the Vatican include painting the official image of the 2022 World Meeting of Families and earlier, upon the request of Pope John Paul II, leading the renovations of the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel.

Only weeks after CDF judges “unanimously” declared Rupnik had absolved a sexual accomplice in Confession — and before the official CDF pronouncement — the priest was invited by Pope Francis to deliver a Lenten homily to the papal household in March 2020.

He has held a number of curial positions, including being a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization. For a number of years he published a weekly homily on the Congregation for Clergy’s website as a consultant. Even while he was facing restrictions on his ministry, Rupnik was featured in videos and other promotional material promoted by the Dicastery for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.