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KOPER, Slovenia (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Slovenian bishop has offered his episcopal patronage to a celebrity priest who has been accused of abusing over 25 nuns and who even engaged in a sexual threesome with two nuns in a so-called imitation of the Holy Trinity.
Monsignor Slavko Rebec confirmed to media on Wednesday that world-renowned mosaic artist Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik has been incardinated by vicar general Bp. Jurij Bizjak into the diocese of Koper in Rupnik's native Slovenia.
The abuser priest is a close friend of Pope Francis and was excommunicated by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in May 2020 for absolving a sexual partner in confession. Rupnik was received into the diocese of Koper at the end of August 2023, Rebec said.
The disgraced Jesuit artist, who was swiftly rehabilitated by the Apostolic See within a month of his excommunication, was received into Koper diocese based on his dismissal from the Society of Jesus and because he had not been under the penalty of a judicial sentence, the vicar general noted.
"Until such time as the above sentence is pronounced on Rupnik, he enjoys all the rights and duties of diocesan priests," the Rebec added, citing Article 11 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
In a letter to Pope Francis last month, Rupnik's victims who served as nuns in the Loyola Community, blasted the pope and the diocese of Rome for whitewashing Rupnik's abuse, saying they were "left speechless" by Rome's cover-up of the serial abuser.
The former nuns said the Holy See had "left their suffering exposed as an open wound" by publicizing the pope's meeting with Dr. Maria Campatelli, director of the Aletti Center, and by whitewashing the serial abuse in a report on the Aletti Center following a canonical visit.
"In these two events, which are not random even in their temporal sequence, we see that the Church does not care about the victims and those who seek justice," the letter alleged.
The victims slammed the "zero tolerance of abuse in the Church" as "merely a publicity campaign, only followed by often covert actions that instead supported and covered up the abusers," Church Militant reported.
On Sept. 18, the diocese of Rome announced that a canonical investigation into the Aletti Center conducted by Msgr. Giacomo Incitti, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, had declared Rupnik's community "free from any particularly critical issues."
Incitti claimed he "also dutifully examined the main accusations that were raised against Fr. Rupnik, especially the one that led to the request for excommunication" and concluded that there were "seriously anomalous procedures" that generated "well-founded doubts about the request for excommunication itself."
In a Dec. 2022 statement, Pope Francis' cardinal vicar, Angelo De Donatis, said that the diocese of Rome was "comforted by the discernment of its Supreme Pastor [Pope Francis]" regarding Rupnik and could not transform "de plano a denunciation into a crime."
"De plano" is a term in Roman law, originating from the time when the praetor (magistrate or judge) literally stood on the ground with legal suitors attempting to arrive at an informal resolution to a dispute, instead of the formal method of sitting on a bench or tribunal.
Commentators on social media noted that the diocese of Rome was already aware of Rupnik's incardination when they published their exculpation of the predator priest.
Writing for the National Review, Catholic columnist Michael Brendan Dougherty asked why the Vatican had restored a priest who forced nuns to "commune his ejaculate from chalices used for Mass."
While Rupnik was being investigated by the Vatican's discipline watchdog, Pope Francis invited him "to preach the Lenten homilies at the Vatican" in March 2020, the columnist wrote.
It is difficult to come to any other conclusion than that Father Rupnik simply has the favor of the Holy Father, who feels no compunction about reinstating a favorite artist and preacher as a priest in good standing even if he serially sexually abused women religious and then abused the sacraments of the church. ... Rupnik's reinstatement is the gesture of a mafioso who knows he acts with impunity.
Mike Lewis, editor of the pro-Francis website Where Peter Is, tweeted his outrage over the news of Rupnik's restoration, remarking, "This is insane."
"This isn't even a 'cover-up,' this is the public promotion of a known abuser, to the horror of the people," Lewis wrote. "What is going on? Why is he still in the clergy?"
Vatican reporter Christopher Altieri commented, "Rupnik has already done prodigious harm to his victims, in body and soul. Now, Bp. Jurij Bizjak of Koper has given Rupnik wherewithal to do even more. Pope Francis has enabled them both."
"It is impossible to absolve Pope Francis of ultimate responsibility for the farcical management of the Rupnik business. Whether by act or omission, he is the author of it," he wrote. "All Pope Francis had to do in order to make sure Rupnik didn't see justice was ... nothing."
Tracing the moves behind Rupnik's incardination, the Italian blog Silere non Possum noted that Rupnik had written to Bp. Bizjak on June 13, a month before he was fired from the Society of Jesus. In the letter, Rupnik asked to be welcomed ad experimentum in his diocese of origin.
Bizjak contacted Abp. Jean-Marie Speich, papal nuncio to Slovenia, who told the Slovenian prelate that Rupnik's incardination would be an "excellent solution" because "there are no convictions against him anyway."
Ironically, Bizjak was among the bishops who signed a statement in December 2022 denouncing Rupnik's "unacceptable and reprehensible actions." The statement urged Rupnik's victims to contact Church authorities, "so that the truth and a just verdict can be reached as comprehensively as possible."
Ironically, despite being excommunicated for violating the sacrament of confession, the abuser priest's incardination means he will now be permitted to hear confessions and exercise public ministry anywhere in the world.