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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - After three weeks of silence, the Slovenian bishops have expressed regret for concealing celebrity Jesuit artist Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik's sexual and spiritual abuse of 20 nuns.
On Thursday, the Slovenian bishops issued a press release that condemned Rupnik's "acts of emotional, sexual, and spiritual violence and gross abuse of the sacrament of reconciliation" as "unacceptable" and "despicable."
The statement notes that the prelates summoned an extraordinary session of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference on Wednesday after they learned of "the discovery of abuses" by the Jesuit mosaic artist and "after the Jesuit superiors confirmed the veracity of the facts."
However, the bishops' website also posted a denial of Rupnik's abuses, which was written by Fr. Miran Žvanut, the Jesuit provincial of Slovenia. On Dec. 13, Žvanut issued his own statement dismissing news reports about his Slovenian confrere as "quite inflated and with a lot of untruths."
Žvanut attempted to deflect the media story by claiming that the restrictions on Rupnik's ministry imposed by the Society of Jesus were only "precautionary measures" in the "context of the preliminary investigation."
"Precautionary measures are just something normal when there are accusations of this type or similar against a religious," Žvanut stated.
Church Militant reported on how one of Rupnik's victims, who was forced into a threesome with another nun, had written an open letter to 18 senior clerics and lay leaders, including Fr. Žvanut, Slovenian Jesuit professor Fr. Milan Žust and the bishop of Ljubljana, Stanislav Zore.
Significantly, the statement did not contain an apology, but it admitted to a "regret" of the omission of responsible actions and the concealment of the facts of sexual and spiritual violence and the abuse of power and authority" and a "regret that the victims have not really been heard for decades."
"Regardless of the fact that some actions are legally past the statute of limitations, the latter are always reprehensible and demand condemnation," the statement noted, referring to the dismissal of the Rupnik case by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith on grounds that it was "time-barred."
"We understand that many of you are hurt by this news and that you are wondering whether or not it [Rupnik's art] should all be thrown away," the prelates observed, pleading that Catholics would "distinguish his unacceptable and reprehensible actions from his extraordinary spiritual and artistic accomplishments in mosaics and other areas."
Italian website Silere non Possum, one of the three Italian media outlets that first broke the story on Dec. 1, labeled the Slovenian bishops' statement a "washing of conscience."
The bishops were falsely claiming that they did not know of Rupnik's abuses, Silere non Possum commented, because Daniele Libanori, the auxiliary bishop of Rome, had visited Ljubljana to investigate accusations against Rupnik in the Loyola Community.
Moreover, Ljubljana's archbishop, Stanislav Zore, was a recipient of the open letter written by a nun who was abused by Rupnik and who had testified at the investigation conducted by the Vatican.
The website also released a photograph of Bp. Andrej Saje, the current president of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference, posing with Pope Francis and wearing a pectoral cross designed by Rupnik. Francis is also a close friend of the serial abuser.
Francis and Vatican authorities have remained tight-lipped on their relationship with Rupnik and refused to explain why the Apostolic See swiftly lifted an excommunication on the priest who broke canon law by absolving a sexual accomplice in sacramental confession.
In fact, Francis invited Rupnik to preach the first Lenten sermon to the pontiff and the papal household on March 6, 2020, as a substitute for papal preacher Cdl. Raniero Cantalamessa, who had suffered an infection from the coronavirus.
Rupnik was invited to fill in for the papal preacher just two months after the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith unanimously ruled that the Jesuit had violated Canon Law by absolving a penitent with whom he had sexual relations.
In July 2021, the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life announced that they had chosen an image designed by Fr. Rupnik as the official logo for the 10th World Meeting of Families. Rupnik's logo was chosen even after his May 2020 excommunication and mysterious rehabilitation.
Rupnik remains a consultant at key Vatican departments, including the Dicastery for Clergy, the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and at the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the Pillar reported.