Can the Pope Survive the Rupnik Scandal?

It’s the eyes — swollen, dark and merciless — that everyone notices. They stare out from the mosaic walls of some of the most beloved shrines in the Catholic World, including Lourdes, Fatima and St Padre Pio.

They’ve been called “Roswell eyes” because they remind people of alien-abduction art. For decades, visitors to these holy places wondered why the artist — a vastly well-connected Slovenian Jesuit called Fr Marko Rupnik — was commissioned to push them into the faces of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Christ himself.

Now unease has turned to revulsion. Rupnik, 68, has been credibly accused of truly grotesque sex abuse. Religious sisters who belonged to a community he founded in the Eighties claim they endured assaults so disgusting that The Pillar, a major Catholic news outlet, printed the story under the heading: “WARNING. Graphic and disturbing content.”

In December 2022 it was revealed that Rupnik had been excommunicated for abusing the confessional to absolve a woman from the sin of having sex with him. The Jesuits, after investigating what it called “gruesome” allegations made by other sisters he recruited — nuns in all but name — expelled him from their order.

But that was just the beginning of the public scandal. Today it threatens to engulf the Pope himself. As he prepares to preside over a synod of bishops and lay activists that is pledged to raise the profile of women in the Church, Francis is being accused of extending his personal protection to a sadistic clerical abuser of women.

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