….I don’t remember ever having seen a Rupnik mosaic in person, but these mosaics are found on the facades and interior walls of some significant churches across the Catholic world, including the Shrine of John Paul II in Washington, D.C. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Fr. Marko Rupnik was deemed an artistic genius, organizing colors and textures with his own unique hands into iconic and enchanting depictions of saints, biblical scenes, and Our Lord. As there are calls now to remove his art, some are likening him to Michelangelo or Caravaggio, a flawed man who sinned but created artwork that, when encountered, elevates the human soul.

But Fr. Rupnik is not just a sinner like the rest of us. He is a predator who used his priesthood and elevated position as a prolific and celebrated artist to manipulate vulnerable women psychologically and spiritually and sexually abuse them. And like all victims of clerical sexual abuse, these women became victims solely because they responded to God’s call. Had they had no faith, then Fr. Rupnik would never have had access to abuse these women. What a cruel irony it is that responding to the desire in every human heart—to know, love, and serve God—is the very reason they became victims of abuse.

Fr. Rupnik was enabled and has escaped any meaningful consequences for his abuse because of his priesthood, his status, and his celebrated artwork. Now we grapple with what to do with his art and, in particular, his mosaics. It’s almost as if this dilemma is a material manifestation of the bigger problem in the American Church today….

The Dallas Charter, which exempted bishops and mandated training for laity, hung faithful priests out to dry. Screening was supposed to be more vigilant, zero tolerance was proclaimed, and yet predators still managed to remain in the priesthood—and the credibly-accused list keeps growing. Vos Estis Lux Mundi has only served as a way to hear a little Latin in the Church today every time it’s mentioned. Each proposal adopted has felt like an action without faith, belief, or any seriousness behind it. But maybe it’s because each action lacks the one thing that we are all called to: repentance.

It all needs to be gutted and removed.

I instinctively recoil at the idea of destroying art, no matter how offensive. History has taught us to vigilantly fight against iconoclasm. A lesson dwells in a painting, mosaic, or novel, and to destroy the piece of art is to destroy the lesson. Yet, in the case of Fr. Rupnik’s art, I think the destruction of his art is perhaps where the lesson lies.

This is the hour and moment when the bishops of the United States must repent, and Fr. Rupnik’s mosaics supply the means. Each bishop should spend his vacation removing Rupnik’s mosaics from the walls of the Shrine of John Paul II in Washington, D.C. Imagine a successor of the apostles with just a hammer and a chisel spending a twelve-hour day contemplating and actively repenting for the damage inflicted on vulnerable human beings caused by the bishops’ cowardice and indifference….

By Kristen H. Ciaccia, originally from Marin County, in Crisis magazine