Father Marko Rupnik’s former superior in the Society of Jesus, Father Johan Verschueren, denied that the Jesuits facilitated the incardination of the priest, who is accused of sexual abuse, in the Diocese of Koper, Slovenia, and said that the order warned the local bishop about the serious complaints against him.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Verschueren, delegate for the Interprovincial Houses and Works of the Society of Jesus, assured that in March the Jesuits “exhaustively” informed the bishop of Koper, Jurij Bizjak, about the cases and complaints of abuse against Rupnik.

The Jesuit official revealed that the Slovenian bishop “informed us on his own initiative that he would offer incardination to MIR [Marko Ivan Rupnik] if we would give him the indult to leave the Society of Jesus.” However, the priest was not released but expelled from the Jesuits on June 15.

An Oct. 25 statement from the Diocese of Koper signed by its vicar general, Father Slavko Rebec, explains that Rupnik was accepted because “no judicial ruling has been issued” against him.

The Diocese of Koper is located in the westernmost part of Slovenia and has about 266,000 inhabitants. Rupnik was born in the small town of Zadlog, which is located within this jurisdiction.

The Jesuits’ response to the incardination

Rupnik’s former superior denied that the Society of Jesus had managed the priest’s incardination and pointed out that since the Jesuits expelled him “for disobedience” in June, he no longer had any connection with the order.

“By no means did we participate in the incardination of MIR. On the contrary. In March 2023 we informed exhaustively the bishop of Koper about the cases and complaints against MIR, when this bishop informed us on his own initiative that he would offer incardination to MIR if we would give him the indult to leave the Society of Jesus on MIR’s request (which we, by the way, refused a few weeks later),” Verschueren said.

In late January, Rupnik had asked the Society of Jesus to leave the order “by free will” (“dimissio petens”), a request that was denied because according to his former superior, among other things the request “lacked a letter of a bishop who showed willingness to incardinate him.”

More in Europe

A week later, the team commissioned by the Society of Jesus for complaints regarding the Jesuits drafted a dossier including 15 new complaints of abuse against Rupnik.

The Jesuit official noted that in March they received a letter from the bishop of Koper stating his “willingness to incardinate Father Rupnik.”

“By then we already knew the shocking content of the conclusions of the referente team. Consequently, Father General [Jesuit superior Father Arturo Sosa] refused to give Father Rupnik the indult. On the contrary, we wanted to keep him in the Society of Jesus under strict restrictions, in another place, and in order to start a process of psychological assessment and therapy.”

“It was our way of helping him, and to move towards recognition and reconciliation with the many alleged victims,” he remarked.

Verschueren noted that Rupnik “persisted in total refusal, which led to his ‘dimissio non-petens’” (unrequested dismissal) and his expulsion from the Society of Jesus.

“We asked the bishop [of Koper] whether he would change his opinion after having received the information. He apparently did not,” the Jesuit official added.

Who had to approve Rupnik’s transfer

(Story continues below)

Father Fernando Puig, a doctor of canon law and professor of church organization and government at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, explained that Rupnik “was incardinated in the Society of Jesus, not in the Vicariate of Rome, so the diocesan authorities [the pope, who is the bishop, and his vicar], did not have to intervene.”

According to Canon 269 of the Code of Canon Law, “no one in Rome has to approve this transfer of the bond of incardination,” Puig said.

Puig explained that from the point of view of canon law, despite his expulsion from the Society of Jesus, “there is no problem” with Rupnik having been accepted in another diocese.

Puig, a Spanish Opus Dei priest, explained that “the norm and praxis is that there are no so-called ‘idle’ priests,” that is, that they are not incardinated in a particular Church or in a specific community.

Regarding Pope Francis’ decision to lift the statute of limitations in the Rupnik case and asking the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to review the case and to allow a process to take place, he said that it doesn’t alter Rupnik’s status.

For Father Eduardo Baura de la Peña, a doctor in canon law from the University of Navarra in Spain, there is a “void” in canon law for cases in which a cleric is expelled from a religious order, but from a strictly canonical point of view, Rupnik’s incardination is legal.

Unresolved questions

The Jesuits’ handling of the Rupnik case has been widely questioned due to certain contradictions in the chronology of their actions and the order’s alleged negligence in enforcing restrictions against the priest.

In December 2022, Father Sosa confirmed that Rupnik incurred excommunication in 2019 for absolving in confession a woman with whom he had sexual relations. The Jesuits were aware of this fact but didn’t make it public until the scandal broke out over the alleged abuse committed by the Slovenian priest.

The Jesuits said that Rupnik had been under ministerial restrictions since 2019. However, the artist continued to preach online, receiving public praise, and in March 2020 he even preached the first Lenten sermon to Pope Francis and the Roman Curia.

Last week it was reported that the pope decided to lift the statute of limitations and the Vatican will begin an investigation into the complaints against Rupnik.

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