Speaking to reporters on December 14, the Jesuit superior general, Fr. Arturo Sosa, recalled the extension of the guarantee protocols for minors in all the administrative units of the Society of Jesus. And he added: «As regards vulnerable adults, there remains a long way to go both on our part and on the of the Catholic Church and society”.
An admission that illuminates the subsequent passage concerning Fr. Marko Rupnik: “It’s a good example of a lot we still have to learn, especially about people’s suffering.” Canonical and civil laws are important, as is the ability to communicate effectively, but it remains to “understand and tune in to the suffering of the people involved”.
On December 18, in a letter to the clergy of his own sector of Rome, Msgr. Daniele Libanori, former Jesuit (bishops leave their congregation when they are ordained) and visitor to the Slovenian community “Loyola” (place from which the allegations of abuse against Fr. Rupnik in the 1990s came from) wrote : “Wounded and offended people, who have seen their lives ruined by the evil suffered and by complicit silence, have the right to be compensated publicly in their dignity, now that everything has come to light”.
We have “the duty of a serious examination of conscience and those who know they have responsibilities must acknowledge them and humbly ask the world for forgiveness for the scandal”. The two positions are different, but not opposed and mark the polarities of the debate in the Society.
The internal debate on the Rupnik case is not between gravediggers and complainants, but between those who, with some uncertainty, are willing to take further steps on the abuse front and those who call for greater self-criticism, courage and decision.
The testimonies and the pain
The testimonies of the victims weigh like a boulder on all of them. Devastating that taken from Tomorrow on December 18th.
The interested party recalls the progressive spiral of Rupnik’s intrusions, the porn films seen together, the embraces and copulations up to threesome erotic games, «because sexuality had to be – according to him – free from possession, in the image of the Trinity where, he said, “the third collected the relationship between the two”».
“It was a real abuse of conscience. His sexual obsession was not extemporaneous but deeply connected to her conception of art and his theological thought».
Polarity and convergences
The reference to the positions of individual Jesuits is functional in reconstructing the constellation of positions not without, at least some, uncertainties and contradictions, but converging in leading the Society out of any ambiguity on the subject of abuse.
The provost general, p. Arthur Sosa, in a first statement (December 2) recalls only one of the investigations, concluded with the prescription under canon law (that relating to the “Loyola community”, after the canonical visit of Msgr. Libanori), without mentioning a previous conviction relating to the “absolution of the accomplice” (or rather to the confession of the victim) which provides for excommunication, later revoked. He attributes the precautionary measures (prohibition of confession, spiritual direction, preaching of retreats) to the second case and not to the first.
The replacement of Fr. Rupnik to the management of the Centro Aletti is attributed to internal turnover and not to the outcome of the sentence. An inaccurate story that leaves to average the impression of some contradiction and at least partial coverage of the crimes. However, they were soon resolved in subsequent interviews and position papers.
The general’s delegate for some of the Jesuit houses and communities in Rome, p. Johan Verschueren, signs the December 2 statement and subsequent communication on the history of the investigation and allegations to Fr. Rupnik both for the case of the “acquittal of the accomplice” and for the accusations of the consecrated women of the “Loyola community”.
“My main concern in all of this is for those who have suffered and I invite anyone wishing to file a new appeal or discuss those already filed to contact me.” As a direct expression of the authority of the general, the delegate does not overlap with that of the superiors of the communities (as in the case of the Aletti Center) but guarantees overall development and communication.
One wonders how much the Rupnik affair was known or not within the community coordination task. Miran Ẑvanut, the provincial of the Slovenian Jesuits, spoke on the average and on their method of providing information on the case, denouncing exaggerations and “a lot of falsehood”, exposing themselves to the easy accusation of wanting to minimize the facts and save the confrere from accusations. Two other Jesuits are called into question.
First of all, the card. Louis Ladaria, prefect of the dicastery for the doctrine of the faith. Rupnik’s trials came under his jurisdiction and the fact raised suspicions of favoritism that were not confirmed. At least so far.
Another important name is that of the deceased card. Thomas Spidlik who, in his last years, lived at the Centro Aletti and is considered Rupnik’s great mentor. Did he know anything? One of the victims says she found no support in him. Perhaps you have no connection with the fact under consideration, but, when there was speculation that a process of canonization could be started against him, some voices suggested postponing.
The most critical voices
On the side of those who, from within the Society, ask for greater self-criticism, courage and decision can be placed p. Hans Zollnermember of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and head of the Center for Studies on Abuse at the Gregorian.
He first raised the request for a clarification from the dicastery for the doctrine of the faith, then asked to go beyond the limits of the prescription of canon law and finally invoked full transparency. “We need to know who knew what, how and when and what happened next. We could have discovered the different levels of responsibility. Which could have prevented all of this.” He admits that he cannot respond promptly and completely to the many requests that he has received in recent months.
The first Jesuit to take a critical stand was Gianfranco Matarazzo, former provincial of the Euro-Mediterranean province. «The Rupnik case is a tsunami (…) of injustice, of lack of transparency, of questionable management, of buggy activity, of personalized work, of an apostolic community sacrificed to leaderof unequal treatment. A deadly damage to the Jesuit order, but even more to the holy mother Church». He asks for full assumption of responsibility, a detailed reconstruction of the facts, a public clarification, the opening of the archives, Zollner’s word.
The investigation into the “Loyola Community”, as already written, was led by Msgr. Daniele Libanori, now auxiliary bishop in Rome. After a clash in the episcopal council with the cardinal vicar, Angelo De Donatis, he took pen and paper and wrote to the priests of his pastoral sector.
After pointing out the plausibility of the newspaper accounts of the abuses of Fr. Rupnik, he writes: “I try to silence the feelings I feel in the face of shocking testimonies, caused by arrogant silences”. People who have become victims, “who have seen their lives ruined by the harm they suffered and by complicit silence, have the right to see their dignity restored, even publicly, now that everything has come to light”.
They have and we have the right to the truth: «Looking for it is a precise duty. There is the terrible truth of the disputed facts which requires the Church to assume its responsibility by unambiguously declaring who is the victim and who is the aggressor and by assuming the necessary measures so that the ministry of the Church is not profaned”.
He expects “that also in this case (the Church) will be consistent with its own teaching”. In a letter to members of the “Slovenian Loyola community” he insists: “It is ignoble to think of reducing responsibilities and diminishing the evil by liquidating those who report, with summary judgments on his mental health or, worse, on his seriousness”.
The wave of accusations overwhelms the life and work of Fr. Rupnik, delivered to absolute silence. Fr. Sosa does not shy away from defending the consecrated women of the Aletti Centre, «women of the highest intellectual and spiritual level». The future of the Center and its activities is uncertain. The cancellations of requests to open mosaic construction sites around the world are arriving.
Some question the fate of its mosaics with a damnatio memoriae inconsistent with ecclesial tradition. The assessment of his theology is more complex and only hypothesized. There were those who did not share his claim to produce the only truly oriental theology; who disagreed with his “ideological” structure of the succession of critical ages and organic ages along the lines of V. Ivanon; who defended the pertinence of the competence of contemporary psychology in spiritual and formative paths with respect to the devaluation that came from Rupnik’s school.
Much remains to be clarified for a more equitable judgment on the whole affair. But the culture of safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable people, as one of the crucial dimensions of social justice, is not in question.
P. Sosa he said: «A great effort was made to get the whole body of the Society of Jesus, rooted in very different contexts, with very different perceptions of the problem and ways of solving it, to reach the same level of understanding and response to individual cases and clear prevention policies. All of the 69 administrative units of the Compagnia, supported by the regional conferences, participated in this effort».