I’ve been trying and trying to write about the new developments in the case of Father Rupnik.
In case you haven’t heard, we now know that Slovenian priest Marko Rupnik, formerly famous for googly-eyed church icons and now famous for the most disgusting spiritual and sexual abuse of religious sisters, has quietly been incardinated in a diocese in Slovenia.
Rupnik was exposed as a sex abuser of monstrous proportions; his victims were mostly religious sisters in the 80s and 90s, and I’ll let one survivor tell you about it in her own words. He was recently, very briefly, excommunicated for the horribly named sin of “absolving an accomplice,” and not for what he did to those women, but that only lasted two weeks because he was sorry. The Jesuits, to their credit, threw him out, but they didn’t do it because of the abuse. Their stated reason was because of his “stubborn refusal to observe the vow of obedience.” He’s been accepted as a diocesan priest back home since August. The bishop’s excuse is that he hasn’t been ” found guilty of the alleged abuses before either an ecclesiastical tribunal or civil court.” It seems that Pope Francis doesn’t approve of waiving the statue of limitations for such canonical cases if the victims are adults instead of children.
All I’ve heard, the past few days, from the Catholic internet, are cries of horror. I haven’t seen so many voices united before: the traditionalists and liberal Catholics who would usually be at each other’s throats are in agreement. Everyone is confused and angry that someone as ostensibly compassionate as Pope Francis would refuse to do anything he could to see Rupnik defrocked. Everyone is sickened that another abusive priest was quietly moved to another diocese as if we wouldn’t find out, instead of made to suffer consequences. Nothing ever changes in the Catholic Church.
Understandably, the most pained reactions have been from female Catholics like me.
It’s hard for us to realize, for the thousandth time, that the Vatican is an old boys’ club in which we have absolutely no consideration. We’re not people to them. The Church has finally, tentatively, begun to admit that priestly sexual abuse happens, as long as it can pretend that the victims are all altar boys and make regulations against seminarians with “deep seated homosexual tendencies.” Even then, it’s still nearly impossible to be heard, and I know it. But when a girl or a woman is abused, they invariably consider it her fault.
It’s hard not to read Rupnik’s treatment as a deliberate slight to abuse survivors everywhere.
I don’t know how many different ways I can say that our Church doesn’t care about us– not about women, not about abuse victims, not about people who aren’t priests..
Oh, some of us care. Many lay people and religious do care. Many more are determined to shut their eyes and dig in their heels and defend the clergy at all costs while scapegoating LGBTQ Catholics, so we can’t make any headway. And some individual priests and deacons care very deeply, and they do a world of good, but the rest don’t. And the more powerful a clergyman gets, invariably, the less he cares. Bishops don’t give one fig about us unless they get caught. Cardinals certainly don’t care. The last two popes have not cared. And I’ve lost hope this week that the current pope cares.
And I’m at a loss, because the only way we will ever get out of this is if people in power start caring, but we can’t force them to care. The Boston Globe report didn’t force them to care. The Pennsylvania report didn’t force them to care. The same behavior being exposed in Europe didn’t force them to care. The many sordid revelations about John Paul the Second didn’t budge them either. The constant wave of horrors coming out of squeaky clean Franciscan University of Steubenville makes no difference to them. I could go on and on. The more they’re exposed, the more you think they’d be humiliated into repentance, they become more adamant. All the Church wants to do is protect men who abuse. They don’t care about the rest of us at all.
Personally, I was driven past my breaking point a long, long time ago.
Right now I’m just exhausted.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.