Scandal that could easily destroy this Pontificate and take the Pope's Synod with it

The case of Marko Rupnik, accused of abuse, which pits the Rome Vicariate and the former Holy Office. Cardinal Ladaria has deserted the October Synod

Will Cardinal Ladaria speak out?

Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, until a few weeks ago Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will not participate in the Synod on Synodality. He himself communicated this to the Pope, but the reasons behind this sensational decision were much discussed, to the point that the Holy See Press Office intervened to say that the cardinal's absence was due to tiredness and a desire to rest. The news, however, comes just a few days after the latest twist in the scandal involving Father Marko Rupnik, the Slovenian theologian and artist known the world over for his mosaics

Very serious accusations

The Rupnik case broke out at the beginning of last December following a series of articles published by specialized information bodies on the Church such as Silere Non Posum and to which the online magazine Left was then added. These sources revealed the existence of accusations of psychological and sexual abuse against Father Marko Rupnik, a famous Jesuit author of works of art also present in the Vatican in the Chapel of Redemptoris Mater.

In the course of time, it emerged that there had been two open files on Rupnik: in 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found credible allegations concerning the Jesuit's absolution in the confessional of a novice with whom he had committed a sin against the sixth commandment. For this type of behaviour, the excommunication latae sententiae was issued, which the former Holy Office imposed on the Slovenian Jesuit, but which was later removed, we still do not know by whom.

In 2021, meanwhile, new allegations of psychological and other abuse of nuns in the Loyola Community in Ljubljana in the 1990s came to the artist's attention.

After an investigation ordered by the Society of Jesus, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considered that the facts were subject to the statute of limitations and closed the file. In the meantime, Rupnik was subjected to restrictions on public activities and the administration of the Sacraments by his order, according to many not fully respected.

The alleged victims speak

The outbreak of the scandal also provoked the exposure of the alleged victims who, after writing to various personalities with positions in the Church without success, began to give public testimonies. A former nun of the Loyola Community told Federica Tourn of Domani that for nine years she was the victim of psychological violence by the Jesuit who allegedly induced her to have sexual intercourse after she offered to model in his art studio.

"Father Marko at first slowly and gently infiltrated my psychological and spiritual world by appealing to my uncertainties and fragility while using my relationship with God to push me to have sexual experiences with him," the woman recounted, even claiming that Rupnik had convinced her to watch porn films in an X-rated cinema and was used to blasphemous behaviour before intercourse. Faced with the mounting accusations, the Vicariate of Rome - where the Aletti Centre, founded in the 1990s by the artist, is located - opted for an ultra-guaranteed position, with a statement by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, who lashed out at the "disconcerting communication, especially in the media, that disorients the People of God", assuring collaboration with the Society of Jesus, which was called upon to clarify the facts.

The Society of Jesus initiated internal procedures and received several complaints about Rupnik. Last June, the Jesuits announced that they "considered the degree of credibility of what had been denounced or testified to be very high" and, faced with the artist's "obstinate refusal to observe the vow of obedience", ordered his dismissal. No longer a Jesuit, therefore, but not reduced to the lay state.


Rupnik, however, has not fallen out of favour with the Church. The religious man, in fact, whom Francis called to preach the Lenten homilies in the Curia in 2020, was defended in recent days by the Vicariate of Rome, which had ordered a canonical visit to the Aletti Centre, where he resided and which, according to some of the alleged victims, was the scene of the abuses suffered.

In the final report of the visit, the person in charge, Father Giacomo Incitti, not only found a 'healthy community life free of particular criticalities' at the Aletti Centre, but went so far as to examine the accusations against the Slovenian founder as to claim that he had found 'seriously anomalous procedures whose examination has generated well-founded doubts even on the very request for excommunication'. The excommunication is the one issued by the then Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2020 and then mysteriously withdrawn soon after.

The Vicariate's note, therefore, appeared to be a rejection of the work of the former Holy Office at the time led by Cardinal Ladaria. An affront probably not appreciated by the former Prefect, who a few days after the publication of the communiqué let the Pope know that he did not want to participate in the Synod on Synodality.

Francis spoke only once about the case of his former Slovenian confrere during an interview with Nicole Winfield of The Associated Press in which he denied having played a decision-making role in the withdrawal of the excommunication and admitted only a procedural intervention in what he called "a small trial that reached the Congregation of the Faith in the past". On Friday 15 September, however, he received in audience Maria Campatelli, the director of the Aletti Centre, who had strenuously defended Rupnik after the news of his dismissal from the Society of Jesus, communicating in a letter the artist's intention to "leave the order, continuing to live this moment in discernment and ecclesial communion".

Three days after the audience with the Pope, the Vicariate of Rome published the controversial note rehabilitating Rupnik. Four days after the note, on the other hand, Monsignor Luis Marín de San Martín announced the decision of Cardinal Ladaria - head of the Dicastery that excommunicated the Slovenian artist - not to attend the Synod despite the fact that his was a papal appointment. His resounding step backwards is yet another earthquake in the Church, which is preparing for an already heated Synod before the final phase begins.