For months, the Vatican has faced regular criticism over its continued use of artwork by Marko Rupnik, the former Jesuit priest accused of decades-long sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse against dozens of victims. Despite the evidence against him and numerous allegations, his art continues to appear in various Vatican communications, which has caused outrage on social media and among abuse survivors and advocates.

Cover images of books coauthored by Marko Rupnik and Natasa Govekar

Observers have asked about the role of Natasa Govekar, the head of the theological-pastoral department at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, in this ongoing controversy. Govekar, a native Slovenian, has close ties to Rupnik and has co-authored several books with him. She, along with Rupnik, is highlighted as part of the “team” on the website for Centro Aletti, the a center founded by Rupnik in the 1990s dedicated to art, theology, and culture.

Govekar’s connection to Rupnik has raised questions about her involvement in the dicastery’s continued use of his art. After the abuse allegations against Rupnik became public, representatives for Centro Aletti have continued to defend him, including Maria Campatelli, the center’s director. Campatelli said last year that Rupnik was the target of “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations.” Might Govekar have similar feelings about Rupnik?

That might help explain the gratuitous and unapologetic use of his art by Vatican Media. The most recent case was a June 7 article on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. An article in the National Catholic Register pointed to this and a number of other recent examples. A deeper look into Govekar’s role in this disturbing trend would be well-warranted.

Govekar’s profile on the Centro Aletti website. Marko Rupnik’s profile is on the bottom left.

Another recent example of the dicastery highlighting Rupnik’s artwork was when it was used to illustrate a Vatican Media article on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, igniting international criticism. Christopher Altieri of Catholic World Report noted that survivors of abuse have expressed serious distress, saying that the use of Rupnik’s art exacerbates their trauma. “It’s so injurious,” Antonia Sobocki of the UK-based survivor advocacy group LOUDFence told Altieri. “I cannot think of a less appropriate artist to choose to illustrate this feast day than a serial rapist like Marko Rupnik.”

The Dicastery for Communications, including Govekar, has not responded to press inquiries about the continued use of Rupnik’s artwork. This silence has led to speculation and frustration among observers and victims’ advocates. Many are questioning why the Vatican persists in showcasing the work of an individual with such a controversial and harmful history.

The controversy surrounding the Vatican’s use of Marko Rupnik’s artwork suggests a significant disconnect between the Church’s stated commitment to addressing abuse and its actions. As calls for accountability and transparency grow louder, the Vatican’s continued use of Rupnik’s art stands as a stark reminder of the challenges the Church faces in reconciling with its past and supporting its most vulnerable members.

Image: Vatican Media

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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