ROME – An open letter signed by five alleged victims of Father Marko Rupnik, a former Jesuit and renowned Slovenian artist, asserts that recent events show pledges of “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse by Church officials are merely a “PR campaign  … followed only by frequently covert actions, which support and cover up for the authors of abuse.”

The signatories to the letter were objecting to a Sept. 15 audience granted by Pope Francis to an Italian lay theologian and defender of Rupnik, followed by a Sept. 18 statement from the Diocese of Rome saying the Centro Aletti founded by Rupnik fosters a “healthy community life” and raising doubts about the ex-Jesuit’s brief 2020 excommunication for using the confessional to absolve a woman with whom he’d reportedly engaged in sexual activity.

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Those developments, the signatories said, “leave us speechless, without voice any longer to cry out our shock, our scandal.”

The audience and the statement from the Rome diocese, they said, demonstrate that “the Church isn’t interested at all in the victims and those who ask for justice.”

Quoting Pope Francis during his Aug. 31-Sept. 4 trip to Portugal for World Youth Day, in which the pontiff insisted that “everyone, everyone, everyone is welcome in the Church,” the five signatories, all women, assert that “there’s no place in the Church for those who recall uncomfortable truths.”

Referring to the statement from the Diocese of Rome, the women say it “ridicules not only the pain of the victims, but also that of the entire Church, which is mortally wounded by such obstinate arrogance.”

The writers also say the papal audience granted to Maria Campatelli, a longtime associate of Rupnik and the current president of the Centro Aletti, stands in stark contrast to the fact that, to date, the pontiff has not met any of Rupnik’s alleged victims, and also has not responded to four letters addressed to him by current and former members of the Loyola Community, a women’s religious order formerly connected to Rupnik.

“The victims are left with their voiceless cry of another abuse,” they said.

The letter was addressed to Pope Francis; Italian Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s Vicar for Rome; Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops’ conference; and Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican department that oversees religious orders.

The first signatory to the letter was Fabrizia Raguso, a former member of the Loyola Community and today an associate professor of psychology at the Catholic University of Portugal. It was posted to a web site called “ItalyChurchToo,” which aims to coordinate various anti-abuse groups and networks.

Since charges against Rupnik became public, roughly twenty women have come forward to accuse him of various forms of sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse, stretching over thirty years. Although the 68-year-old Rupnik was expelled from the Jesuit order in July, he remains a Catholic priest.

It’s not clear, however, where Rupnik may be based going forward, nor whether there are other disciplinary procedures currently underway.

The signatories to the letter also objected to date, no action has been taken against Sister Ivanka Hosta, a former superior of the Loyola Community, who they claim “covered up Rupnik’s atrocities for thirty years, and reduced into spiritual slavery those who opposed his plans for revenge.”