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Catholic priest said threesomes were like the Holy Trinity and made me watch porn, says former nun

Father Marko Rupnik with one of his works
Works by Marko Rupnik adorn many of the Catholic Church's most important buildings, including the Vatican itself - YOUTUBE

A high-profile Catholic priest forced nuns to watch porn and take part in threesomes so as to “grow spiritually”, comparing group sex to the Holy Trinity, it has been claimed.

One of Father Marko Rupnik’s alleged victims spoke publicly for the first time at a press conference in Rome on Wednesday, saying she was sexually abused for years at the community the priest, renowned worldwide for his religious art, founded in his native Slovenia.

“He took me to pornographic theatres to help me ‘grow spiritually’,” claimed Gloria Branciani, who was a member of the community until 1994.

“He said that I would not grow spiritually if I did not meet his sexual needs. We had another nun have sex with us because he said it was like the Trinity,” said Ms Branciani, referring to the Holy Trinity, a central tenet of Christianity.

Priest reported in early 1990s

“He was always protected by everyone, and everything that you could accuse him of was either minimised or denied.”

A second nun, Mirjam Kovak, also speaking publicly for the first time, said she had been psychologically abused by Rupnik and that she had reported him to Jesuit officials as far back as the early 1990s. She said she had been repeatedly rebuffed and dismissed.

Allegations surfaced about Rupnik’s behaviour in 2022, and last June, he was expelled from the Jesuits, the religious order to which Pope Francis belongs.

More than 20 people, mostly former nuns, have accused Rupnik of abuse, either when he was the spiritual director of the community of nuns in Slovenia, or after he moved to Rome to pursue his career as an artist.

Gloria Branciani, left, and Mirjam Kovac at the press conference in Rome on Wednesday
Gloria Branciani, left, and Mirjam Kovac at the press conference in Rome on Wednesday - GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE/REUTERS

One former nun last year told Domani, an Italian newspaper, that Rupnik was adept at controlling her psychologically.

She said he forced her into sexual acts, and deployed “cruel psychological, emotional and spiritual aggression” to destroy her, particularly after she refused to have a threesome.

Since the scandal broke two years ago, Rupnik has not commented publicly. He is believed to be living in Slovenia.

The priest, who specialises in mosaics, came to prominence when the late Pope John Paul II commissioned him to redesign a chapel in the Vatican in the late 1990s. Since then, he has worked on basilicas and churches around the world.

Watchdog demands inquiry into Church’s response

The press conference at which the two former nuns spoke on Wednesday was organised by a US-based watchdog called Bishop Accountability, which has tracked sexual abuse within the Catholic Church for the last 20 years.

Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of Bishop Accountability, described Rupnik as a “powerful cleric who was protected at the highest levels of the Church and the Vatican”. She called for the Vatican to set up an investigation into the Church’s response to the allegations of abuse and to publish the findings.

She also demanded that the Vatican establish a dedicated fund for nuns who have been sexually and spiritually abused by priests in Catholic countries around the world, especially those forced out of their orders after becoming pregnant.

Five years ago, the Pope convened an unprecedented summit at the Vatican which was intended to confront sexual abuse in the Church head on.

But despite strong rhetoric and extravagant promises of action, abuse cases such as those of Rupnik show that almost nothing has changed in the Church’s attitude to sexual predators, said Ms Barrett Doyle.

“The Church’s secret handling of grave allegations against Rupnik in the last five years has all the earmarks of an old-time cover-up. This case represents not only the Church’s continued protection of powerful abusers, but its particular indifference to the sexual abuse of adult women.”

She said the allegations against Rupnik had been dismissed by senior Church officials in a powerful Vatican department tasked with investigating wrongdoing by clergy, the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as “possibly by Pope Francis himself”.

Secret excommunication and reinstatement

In 2020, Rupnik was excommunicated for absolving a woman with whom he had had sexual relations, but the excommunication was rescinded two weeks later. Both steps were taken in secret.

“It was only in December 2022, after the news media revealed that the Church had twice given Rupnik kid-glove treatment, that the Jesuits were shamed into issuing a public call for victims to come forward,” said Ms Barrett Doyle.

In February last year, the Jesuits announced that they had heard testimony from 15 women whose allegations they found to be credible, leading to Rupnik’s expulsion in June. But he remains a priest.

In October, the Pope waived the statute of limitations on the allegations that Rupnik faces and ordered the case to be reopened by the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith.

But he has never met the alleged victims of Rupnik nor replied to their letters.

“Rupnik’s crimes were known for decades to high-ranking Church authorities across jurisdictions, but his victims were ignored and he was shielded,” said Ms Barrett Doyle.