After the statement from the Rome vicariate on Monday announcing a clean bill of health for the Centro Aletti, the only question is: What do you call a whitewash that is also a coverup that is also a snow job?
The Centro Aletti is the art institute founded by the disgraced Marko Rupnik—the olim Jesuit expelled from the order earlier this year, who is intolerably still a priest in good standing—and currently under the juridical umbrella of the same Rome vicariate that investigated and found there “a healthy community life free of particular critical issues.”
Rupnik, in case you’re having a hard time placing his name, is accused of serial sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse of more than two dozen women—and at least one man—over three decades, much of which he spent in Rome.
Rupnik isn’t accused of plain vanilla exploitation, either.
Credible accounts from his accusers detail literally diabolical perversion including “threesomes with another sister of the community, because sexuality had to be, in [Rupnik’s] opinion, free from possession, in the image of the Trinity where, [Rupnik] said, ‘the third person would welcome the relationship between the two’.”
Rome’s Vicar General, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, claimed in late December of last year—heading into the Christmas holiday weekend, as a matter of fact—that the Diocese of Rome only learned about the accusations against Rupnik “in very recent times,” even though one of De Donatis’s very own auxiliaries, Bishop Daniele Libanori SJ, had brought a raft of abuse allegations against Rupnik to Rome in 2019, from the Loyola Community of women religious that Rupnik had helped start in the 1980s.
Libanori also encouraged Rupnik’s accusers to file complaints with the disciplinary section of the office then styled the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—i.e., the Vatican department responsible for investigating and sometimes prosecuting sex crimes—and several accusers apparently did just that, though the CDF declined to prosecute for … reasons.
Even if Libanori’s report on the Loyola visit stayed under Pontifical Secret, a mind-boggling level of official dysfunction would have been required in order to keep everyone from Pope Francis to the porter in the CDF from making so much as a phone call to say that the guy is a creep who needs to be kept under close watch and his shop probably shut down posthaste.
The Jesuits themselves restricted Rupnik’s ministry several times—on paper, at least—between 2019 and Christmas 2022, but no one thought to tell the Rome vicariate, apparently. Rupnik kept his priestly faculties at the time De Donatis issued his Christmas weekend statement, as well as his place on several works and committees of the Rome vicariate.
Though it was phrased very carefully, in the exquisitely guttural jargon of the Roman curia, the short of De Donatis’s long was that Pope Francis had decided to leave Rupnik in place and was basically calling the shots in Rupnik’s case. Shortly after De Donatis delivered his early Christmas present, the cardinal vicar found himself mostly stripped of his powers.
Among the other findings of De Donatis’s investigation—conducted by a canon law professor from the Pontifical Urban University, Giacomo Incitti—were “gravely anomalous procedures” surrounding the one tiny bit of medicinal discipline to which Rupnik had been secretly subjected and from which he had been quickly rehabilitated, namely an excommunication for the grave crime of having absolved one of his “accomplices” in a “sin against the Sixth Commandment”—Church-speak for sexual misbehavior—though the excommunication was lifted almost immediately.
The statement from the Rome vicariate said examination of “copious documentary material” related to Rupnik’s case “also generated well-founded doubts about the request for excommunication itself,” which De Donatis dutifully “presented the report to the competent authorities,” presumably the same doctrinal dicastery that declined to prosecute Rupnik. It’s a safe bet a copy made it to Pope Francis’s desk, too.
So, to sum up: A Jesuit auxiliary of the Rome diocese investigated the House that Rupnik Built in his native Slovenia and discovered disgusting things, but official Rome dragged its feet and eventually the Jesuit pope refused to lift the statute of limitations so the Jesuit-led CDF declined to prosecute, then the Jesuits investigated Rupnik and decided that there are credible accusations but Rupnik refused to cooperate so they couldn’t do anything except kick him out, only Rupnik wanted to leave anyway, and then the Rome vicariate investigated its own Centro Aletti—the one Rupnik founded in Rome—and found that everything is awesome and everyone there is completely not guilty of … something, and also they decided that some action taken against Rupnik himself was dodgy somehow but they’re not saying how but they’ve sent it up the ladder to someone but they haven’t said exactly or really at all to whom.
Did I mention that the current director of the Centro Aletti, Maria Campatelli, Rupnik’s longtime associate, was in for a visit with Pope Francis last week?
A few months ago, Campatelli had issued a statement through the Centro Aletti calling the accusations against her old pal “unproven and defamatory”—though not false—and claiming that “[O]ther Jesuits of the Centro Aletti,” have lost faith in the leadership of their Jesuit superiors and “have also applied for permission to leave the Society and are awaiting the conclusion of the relative procedure, to be able to continue the exercise of their priestly ministry.”
The Aletti business looks for all the world like some sort of mutiny or defection triggered by pushback from some Jesuits in senior leadership after their efforts to rein in Rupnik proved too little, too late. Rupnik operated too long without oversight, indeed under the aegis of other superiors, and has perhaps a merry band of ultras around him.
De Donatis cannot possibly expect anyone to credit either his investigation or his report, for which there is only one word in English, a quotidian term, the technical scientific designation for which is excrementum bovinum.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!