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NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics have expressed outrage after the Knights of Columbus used a mosaic created by a Jesuit predator priest to promote a novena to St. Joseph for the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis' pontificate.
The novena cards were distributed in churches and are illustrated with an image of St. Joseph designed by Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, a celebrity artist who has been accused of sexually abusing at least 20 religious sisters and other laywomen.
The Knights of Columbus, a fraternity dedicated to "empowering Catholic men to live their faith," continues to host multiple images by Rupnik and his Aletti Center on their website. The organization boasts a membership of nearly two million Catholics around the world.
Rupnik, a close friend and advisor to Pope Francis, was excommunicated in May 2020 for absolving a sexual partner in sacramental confession, but he was rehabilitated within a month after direct intervention from the Holy See.
"The supreme irony of circulating an image of St. Joseph, invoked in his litany as 'Chaste Guardian of the Virgin' and 'Protector of Virgins,' executed by a notorious serial rapist of consecrated religious sisters beggars all belief," a priest told Church Militant.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the priest who received the prayer cards said that he was shocked that the Knights of Columbus would use images by this "deplorable artist who seems to be insulated from any real punishment by the highest offices in the Church."
"Does no one in the KofC headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, know about Rupnik and his sordid life — not to mention his inferior artwork?" the priest asked. "Does anyone there read the newspapers or occasionally glance at the Catholic news?"
"I wonder how much money Rupnik made on this mosaic and how much the Knights of Columbus paid him for permission to use this image," the cleric remarked.
The priest told Church Militant that he had "always been repulsed" by Rupnik's style: "The eyes especially annoy me. How eerily creepy is this particular image of St. Joseph, which includes a single eye of the donkey in the lower left corner of this card."
Rupnik's image also features on the KofC website in a "resources" section on St. Joseph. It urges the knights to "seek to imitate his virtue as our Blessed founder did."
Parishioners protesting the distribution of the prayer cards in one church say they were told by the parish priest: "Saint Paul was a murderer, and St. Augustine committed fornication, and we don't ban their works." The priest continued to distribute the "holy card."
KofC has deleted a booklet titled St. Joseph: Our Father in Faith from its website. Church Militant obtained a copy of the publication and found that it has a similar mosaic image of St. Joseph illustrating its cover page.
The St. Joseph image is part of a larger mosaic from the Chapel of the Nativity at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.
The Jesuit abuser enjoys a close relationship with the Knights and was commissioned in 2005 to install five of his mosaics in the Holy Family Chapel at the KofC headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut.
The installation was Rupnik's first project in the United States and was described by the fraternity as "theologically profound in its exploration of the mysteries of our faith."
In 2015, the predator priest installed mosaics in the Redemptor Hominis Church and the Luminous Mysteries Chapel at the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C. — a pastoral apostolate of the Knights of Columbus.
Church Militant found at least a dozen images by Rupnik used by the KofC for various publications, including pictures of the adoration of the Magi for a book on prayer and an image of "Mary bending over the infant Christ" from a book titled The Beauty of Holiness: Sacred Art and the New Evangelization.
A Rupnik mosaic of John the Baptist's two disciples leaving their master to follow Jesus features on the cover of a book titled Following Love Poor, Chaste and Obedient: The Consecrated Life.
The archangel Gabriel's image appears on the cover of the book What Is the New Evangelization?, and a picture of the wedding feast at Cana is featured on the book God's Plan for Love and Marriage: John Paul II's "Theology of the Body."
The KofC also boasts of a "special Way of the Cross coloring book based on the mosaics of Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik and Centro Aletti to help children observe Lent when stuck in their homes due to COVID-19."
In December, the KofC told The Pillar that they are reconsidering the placing of Rupnik's artwork in their chapels, both in Washington and New Haven, "in light of these very troubling developments."
KofC headquarters did not respond to Church Militant's request for comment as of press time.
Meanwhile, Church Militant has confirmed that St. Paul's bookstore, run by the Society of St. Paul is continuing to sell Rupnik's books, including his book on the "examination of conscience" (L'esame di conoscienza per vivere da redenti).
Church Militant found 46 books authored or coauthored by Rupnik for sale on the bookstore's website.
Pauline Books and Media, a Catholic publishing empire run by the Daughters of St. Paul, announced last year that it would withdraw the English editions of Rupnik's works it had published over the years "in light of this very sad news, and out of respect for those who have been hurt," Church Militant reported.
On March 5, in flagrant violation of the restrictions imposed on him, Rupnik concelebrated Mass in the Basilica of St. Praxedes. He was accompanied by senior Jesuits associated with the Pontifical Gregorian University and by the leadership of Centro Aletti.