You are not signed in as a Premium user; you are viewing the free version of this program. Premium users have access to full-length programs with limited commercials and receive a 10% discount in the store! Sign up for only one day for the low cost of $1.99. Click the button below.
ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Despite widespread public outcry, the Vatican is refusing to halt the display of artwork created by Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, a Jesuit celebrity artist accused of sexually abusing at least 25 nuns.
A meeting attended by some of the top officials from the Vatican Dicastery for Communication concluded that there was nothing to prevent the continued use of Rupnik's mosaics, French Catholic media La Croix reported on Monday.
The dicastery officials said the work should stand on its own merits and be delinked from the personal life of the artist.
A heated debate erupted on social media after faithful Catholics objected to the Vatican News website posting images by Rupnik in its "Saint of the Day" section, which lists saints in order of the Church's liturgical calendar.
The website administrators chose to use an image by Fr. Rupnik to depict St. Irenaeus, triggering outrage among Catholics. The Dicastery for Communication swiftly removed the offending post from its Twitter feed but reposted the image later in the day.
"To understand why the Dicastery for Communication is covering up and defending Marko Ivan Rupnik, one need only look to Dario Edoardo Viganò, a well-known careerist capable only of cutting and sewing letters, and Nataša Govekar, a creature of the Slovenian artist," the Italian website Silere non Possum commented.
Dr. Nataša Govekar, a member of the Aletti Center cofounded and headed by Rupnik until recently, is director of the theological–pastoral department at the Dicastery for Communication.
Father Viganò, an Italian presbyter, film critic and communication theorist, was the prefect of the Dicastery for Communication from 2015 to 2018.
Several sources interviewed by La Croix denounced a "conflict of interest" that would force the Vatican media to provide a minimum service on this delicate matter, the French media reported.
Multiple priests objected to the Vatican's continued use of the artwork.
"Not immediately chipping off Rupnik's infantile oeuvres is one thing. Continuing to use pictures of them for official Church communication is disgusting," Fr. Michael Clark, an artist, musician and priest of the diocese of Bridgeport, tweeted.
"It tells the women religious who were victims of this toad: we don't care about you," Clark added.
"I get it if a church can't afford removing mosaics tomorrow, but there is no reason we can't all stop sharing Rupnik's art electronically for catechetical or devotional purposes today (many other options exist in these cases)," Fr. Matthew P. Schneider commented.
"The idea that Rupnik is a great artist is simply not true, and to those asserting he is, we understand you: you are attached to the ideology that Rupnik represents," Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith, a British moral theologian and commentator, remarked.
"That this high-minded concern for his work is nothing to do with its quality, which is, forgive the technical language, rubbish. It's about money — the cost of removal and the cost of replacement. And who would pay?" Fr. Mark Elliott Smith, a composer, musician and priest of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham asked.
"I think it is better to go after sin than the art sinners produce. Caravaggio's paintings inspire millions, yet he was a rotter. Let's focus on rooting out the obvious villains. And then lambast Rupnik's art not because he produced it but because it isn't really all that good," Fr. Ed Tomlinson, also an ordinariate priest, noted.
Earlier in June, Pope Francis sparked a storm after showcasing the artwork of Rupnik, a close friend and fellow Jesuit. Francis used a Rupnik icon of Mary to send papal greetings in a brief video message to the XVI Marian Congress in Aparecida, Brazil, Church Militant reported.
The video, shot on a mobile phone in the papal apartments, was posted on the Vatican News website and YouTube on Friday. Vatican News referred to the video but did not attribute the icon to Fr. Rupnik.
Explaining the symbolism in the Rupnik mosaic, the pope added, "And she goes down, with the hands of the Virgin that serves as a ladder. It is Mary who brings us to Jesus. She became the possibility, the ladder, for this descent of Jesus, who is God, and brought it to us."
The Society of Jesus expelled Rupnik on June 9 after the Jesuit continued to violate the restrictions placed on him by his superiors. A statement from the Jesuits said that the priest was dismissed by decree "due to stubborn refusal to observe the vow of obedience."
(Nataša Govekar is featured along with Pope Francis and Rupnik in the title picture.)