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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - A nun who worked for Vatican Radio has testified that her mother superior colluded with serial abuser Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik to cover up his sexual abuse of nuns.
"Esther" (a pseudonym) was the former secretary to Mother Ivanka Hosta, who cofounded the Skupnost Loyola (Loyola Community) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where Rupnik — a celebrity artist and friend of Pope Francis — abused at least 20 religious sisters.
In 1989, Esther was sent to Rome to study canon law and to work for Vatican Radio. "The community began to function as a real cult," the nun told Italian newspaper Domani in an interview published Thursday, narrating how she began to see through Rupnik's "darkness."
Esther noted that "Ivanka [Hosta] — I believe out of fear that the news of Rupnik's abuses would somehow get out and jeopardize the future of the community — kept silent and assumed a totally repressive and controlling attitude towards us."
Hosta attempted to get Esther fired from her position at a Catholic university in Rome after she quit the community, but authorities at the university did not succumb to the pressure.
Esther's revelations come days after a former Italian nun and medical student called "Anna" blew the whistle on how Rupnik had engaged in "extreme erotic games" while "she was painting or after the celebration of the Eucharist or after confession," Church Militant reported.
Anna also described how Rupnik forced her to engage in a threesome with another sister of the community, because, according to him, "sexuality should be free from possession, in the image of the Trinity, where the third person would welcome the relationship between the two."
Esther confirmed Anna's account of Rupnik's ménage à trois and said that the Jesuit — who was confessor and spiritual director to the Skupnost Loyola — was stripped of his role by the then-archbishop of Ljubljana, Alojzij Šuštar, after Anna reported him to the authorities.
"I remember that I, myself, had the task of bringing all his paintings to the Centro Aletti in Rome. He was furious," Esther recounted, stressing that Mother Hosta, nevertheless, concealed the reports from the nuns.
"She gathered the sisters and said that Rupnik had been sent away because he wanted to take over the community's charism and pass himself off as a founder, but we of the council who were closest to her knew the real reason," Esther revealed.
The whistleblower nun said that "many other sisters" had come to her to tell her Rupnik had abused them. Esther observed, "I had seen them cry for years, since 1985, but only then did I understand her reason, previously unimaginable to me."
Esther emphasized that Bp. Šuštar and Fr. Lojze Bratina (the Slovenian provincial of the Jesuits at the time) also knew of the abuses. "I told Fr. Bratina everything myself, but he replied that he didn't believe it," she added.
When asked if there had been any reactions from the Jesuits or the Church in general, Esther replied: "None. Not one who has been interested, at least officially, in the separation between Ivanka Hosta and Fr. Rupnik and the subsequent disintegration of the community."
"In 1998, I went to the Jesuit curia [in Rome] and told them everything again — this time to the delegate for international houses in Rome, Fr. Francisco J. Egaña, but once again nothing happened," she lamented.
"Afterwards, for years, I lived with a big wound without having relations with anyone until, before the lockdown, I met a former sister who told me that the community had been placed under police headquarters," Esther said.
The former nun revealed how many of the nuns suffered "serious physical and mental problems due to the psychological and spiritual violence they suffered" under Rupnik.
"Some take drugs that devastate them. I saw one at a funeral, and I didn't even recognize her. She was so marked by the effect of the drugs. First Marko and then Ivanka managed to take away what little self-esteem they had," Esther told Domani.
The whistleblower also testified that "many were aware of the facts," including the bishop of Ljubljana, the Slovenian Jesuit provincial, Cdl. Tomáš Špidlík (founder of the Aletti Center) and the Slovenian bishops.
"'Anna' and I also sent our letters via certified email to the current archbishop of Ljubljana, Stanislav Zore; to the Slovenian Jesuit provincial, Fr. Miran Žvanut; and to Fr. Milan Žust, superior of the residence at the Aletti Center in Rome, who is also Fr. Rupnik's superior," she said.
"They didn't believe we would go that far in the public denunciation and told half-truths to try to get away with it," Esther remarked.
Church Militant asked current Jesuit provincial of Slovenia Fr. Miran Žvanut why he earlier lied about and continued to cover up Rupnik's "toxic behavior." Žvanut did not respond to two attempts to contact him.
On Dec. 13, Žvanut issued a statement dismissing news reports about Rupnik as "quite inflated and with a lot of untruths" and claimed that the sanctions imposed on the abuser were "just something normal when there are accusations of this type or similar against a religious."
Esther also detailed the spiritual and psychological abuse Hosta and Rupnik inflicted on the sisters, which resulted in nearly half of the nuns leaving the community.
"Nineteen of us left; one even escaped through the window. Personal freedom was almost completely wiped out," Esther disclosed. The sisters were forced to reveal the contents of their sacramental confessions and the advice given by the confessor.
"The content of the personal prayer was to be shared with others, and Ivanka [Hosta] assumed the right to judge when a prayer was genuine and when it was not," Esther said.
"The sister who didn't pray well often had to persist in the chapel until she prayed as Ivanka wanted, otherwise she was reported as a person in crisis, which was always considered a fault, a closure towards God," she added.
Meanwhile, Slovenia's minister of culture, Asta Vrečko, has asked Rupnik to renounce the Grand Prešeren — the nation's highest cultural award.
Vrečko also accused Rupnik of obtaining the award under false pretenses by receiving it for a single work that is not accessible to the public, Church Militant reported.
Pope Francis, who rehabilitated the Jesuit after he was excommunicated for absolving a sexual partner in sacramental confession, has remained silent on the scandal.
In a statement last Friday, the pope's cardinal vicar, Angelo De Donatis, refused to denounce Rupnik, claiming that he was "not aware" of the artist's abuse of nuns "until recently."
Blaming media outfits for "disconcerting communication," De Donatis lamented that the "whole diocese" of Rome and the "People of God" were disoriented by the news and were experiencing "these hours with concern and dismay."