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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Jesuit celebrity artist Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, who is accused of sexually abusing over 20 nuns, is flagrantly defying strict safeguarding restrictions imposed on him by the Society of Jesus.
On Sunday, the serial abuser concelebrated Mass in the Basilica of St. Praxedes along with senior Jesuits associated with the Pontifical Gregorian University. They were accompanied by the leadership of Centro Aletti — a center for art and spirituality cofounded by Rupnik.
Jesuits Fr. Milan Žust and Fr. Andrej Brozovic joined the Eucharistic celebration, along with Argentinian Jesuit Fr. Matias Yunes delivering the homily and Dr. Alberta Maria Putti (a professor of dogmatic theology at the Gregorian) conducting the choir, Italian daily Domani reported.
The leadership team, staff and students of the Centro Aletti, including director Maria Campatelli, Michelina Tenace (a professor of theology at the Gregorian), as well as artists Eva Osterman and Maria Stella Secchiaroli, were present at the service.
According to her bio on Lipa (the publishing house of Centro Aletti), since 2018, professor Tenace has been a consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the Vatican dicastery that dismissed the abuse cases against Rupnik on the grounds that they were "time-barred."
Father Žust, a Slovenian colleague of Rupnik, is currently a professor in the missiology faculty at the Gregorian and served as the abuser's superior from 2004 to 2017. Žust is one of 18 clerics (mostly Jesuits) and laity who ignored an "open letter" sent by "Anna," a religious sister who was forced by Rupnik into a threesome with another nun.
Fr. Andrej Brozovic, also a Slovenian, completed his doctorate on Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev under Rupnik at the Gregorian.
Maria Campatelli, Michelina Tenace and Manuela Viezzoli, are all former nuns from the Loyola Community who followed Rupnik when he cut ties with the community's cofounder Ivanka Hosta in 1994, following the escape of a nun from the community in Ljubljana.
In February, Fr. Johan Verschueren, the delegate overseeing Jesuit houses in Rome, announced new restrictions on Rupnik after 15 new victims came forward to testify against the mosaic artist, Church Militant reported.
Father Verschueren conceded that "the degree of credibility" of the victims' testimonies "seems to be very high," since "many of these people have no knowledge of each other and the facts narrated concern different periods."
"As a precautionary measure," the Society of Jesus "has tightened the restrictive rules" against Rupnik by forbidding him "under obedience from any public artistic exercise, especially in religious structures (such as churches, institutions, oratories and chapels, retreat houses or spirituality)," a statement published by Verschueren noted.
"These restrictions are added to those already in force (prohibition of any public ministerial and sacramental activity, prohibition of public communication, prohibition of leaving the Lazio Region)," it added.
When Church Militant asked Fr. Verschueren to respond to the abuser's violation of the restrictions, the superior said that "Fr. Rupnik is not forbidden to concelebrate Masses in the Centro Aletti context — which is his inner circle, his community."
"I did not yet check whether this actually took place and whether he was seen in a public Mass or not, etc.," Verschueren said, explaining that he was in "COVID confinement."
"I'll need to examine closely what exactly took place last Sunday, for I don't run after framed 'news' spread by any blog," the superior stressed. "Hence, for now, I prefer not to give judgments on things I'm not absolutely sure about."
"[I] do know, however, that when a transgression of one of the measures occurs (and are attested as real), new measures and procedures might be taken," Verschueren emphasized. "Let me repeat that we do not allow transgressions."
Fr. Hans Zollner, head of interdisciplinary studies on human dignity and care at the Gregorian, told Church Militant, "I expect the proper procedures to be followed by all religious orders and congregations within the Church, including the Society of Jesus."
Rupnik's concelebration at the public Mass offered in the historic Basilica of St. Praxedes — a stone's throw away from the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore — clearly violates his superior's "prohibition of any public ministerial and sacramental activity," a canon lawyer and priest (who requested anonymity) told Church Militant.
Rupnik was robed in his vestments for Mass and stretched out his hand during the consecration of the sacred elements in a liturgical service held in a basilica open to the public, the canonist added.
Ironically, the restrictions allow Rupnik to remain within the Centro Aletti even though he is reported to have abused some of his victims inside the center — and even hosted a threesome with two sisters from the Loyola Community on the center's premises.
The predator priest, who was excommunicated for absolving a sexual accomplice in sacramental confession but swiftly rehabilitated by the Holy See, also defied earlier restrictions imposed on him, Domani reported, by preaching in the Basilica of St. Praxedes until Jan. 22.
Moreover, the Jesuit abuser was recently in the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran "to illustrate to a visiting group the mosaics he made in the chapel of the Pontifical Major Seminary" of Rome, the newspaper revealed.
Significantly, an ambiguously worded statement from the Centro Aletti published on the center's website in early March assured benefactors that "the artistic work we have initiated and carried on for so many years will continue."
The letter made no reference to Rupnik and did not offer even a hint of an apology for the atrocities of the center's cofounder. It also did not make mention of the Jesuit's victims.
Signed by director Maria Campatelli and the Centro Aletti team, the statement did not acknowledge Rupnik's dismissal but said that the center "is now led by a management team, capable of assuming responsibility for a workshop from a theological-liturgical, artistic-creative, and a technical-administrative point of view."
Meanwhile, Centro Aletti continues to list Rupnik on its website as the director of the institution. The management team at the center did not respond to Church Militant's request for comment.
Rupnik did not answer questions from a Domani reporter when approached after Holy Mass at the Basilica of St. Praxedes.