Father Hans Zollner, a Jesuit priest and an expert in the fight against abuse, said the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith “must respond” to questions surrounding the case of Father Marko Rupnik, a member of the Society of Jesus accused of abuse.

Zollner is one of the leading experts in the field of safeguarding from sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. He is a member of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors since its creation in 2014 and is the director of the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (IADC) at the Gregorian University in Rome.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Zollner said that he believes that “it’s obvious that the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith has to respond.”

Zollner’s statement marks another development in the widening controversy surrounding Rupnik, a well-known Jesuit priest and artist who has been accused of abuse that he allegedly committed against at least nine women.

According to the official statement of the Society of Jesus, the Department for the Doctrine of the Faith received a complaint against the Slovenian priest and requested that a preliminary investigation be initiated.

The investigation was carried out by a Dominican religious who heard the testimony of several people.

During the preliminary investigation, precautionary measures were taken against Rupnik, such as the prohibition to “exercise the sacrament of confession, spiritual direction, and giving the Spiritual Exercises.”

The provincial of the Jesuits in Slovenia said that the result of this investigation was handed over to the Dicastery of the Holy See, which concluded that “the facts (of the case) in question should be considered to have exceeded the statute of limitations” and closed the case in October.

Despite this, the precautionary measures imposed during the previous investigation remain in force, but now as “administrative measures.”

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Zollner said that as for the Society of Jesus, to which he belongs, “they have said what they could say and, from what I see, the explanations about what they arrived at with the ruling must be given by the dicastery.”

“They are the ones who have determined that the facts (of the case) have exceeded the statute of limitations. The Society of Jesus can’t do that, it’s the competency of the dicastery,” he explained.

“That is in my opinion, since I am not an expert, but the dicastery must respond,” Zollner concluded.

‘A tsunami of injustice’

Father Gianfranco Matarazzo, former provincial of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), said that “today with the ’Rupnik case’ we’re clinging to the ’statute of limitations’ and to hope that everything can end there. Is the Lord calling us to this approach?”

Matarazzo, who is also a delegate for the social apostolate and abuse prevention for the dioceses of Sicily, criticized that the “Rupnik case” is “a tsunami of injustice, lack of transparency, questionable management, dysfunctional activity, personalized work, apostolic community sacrificed to the leader, and unequal treatment.”

For Matarazzo, the official statement from the Society of Jesus is “an exemplary case of justice denied” and “deadly damage to the Jesuit Order, but even more so to Holy Mother Church.”

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Who is Marko Rupnik?

Rupnik, in addition to being a priest, is the founder of the Aletti Spiritual Art Workshop, responsible for numerous religious works around the world.

During his youth, Rupnik studied at the School of Fine Arts in Rome and at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he earned a doctorate with a thesis on the theological meaning of modern art in the light of Russian theology.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II entrusted him with the renovation of the mosaic in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

Three years later, Pope John Paul II presided over the dedication rite of this chapel where Rupnik and his team restored the Wall of the Incarnation, the Wall of Ascension and Pentecost, and the Wall of the Parousia.

In February 2011, the Aletti Center, directed by Rupnik, renovated the main chapel inside the Spanish Bishops’ Conference building in Madrid.

Also in Madrid, the Slovenian priest decorated the main sacristy, the chapter house, and the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral of Santa María la Real de Almudena.

During the presentation of this work, Rupnik was praised, mentioning that his “motto is to evangelize through beauty.”

Rupnik’s studio is also responsible for the wall of the main altar of the Shrine of the Holy Trinity in Fátima, Portugal, located opposite the site of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

In Italy, Rupnik designed the ramp and crypt of the lower Church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo, where thousands of faithful Catholics come to venerate the saint who bore the stigmata.

Some other notable works by Rupnik and his studio around the world are the Chapel of the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary in Italy; the Shrine of the Cave in Manresa, Spain, where the artist painted 90 faces of biblical figures; the Church of the Virgin of the Southern Cross in Australia; and the Chapel of the Holy Family of the Knights of Columbus at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.