The superior general of the Jesuits confirmed that Father Marko Rupnik, a Slovenian Jesuit and artist in restricted ministry because of abuse allegations, earlier had been excommunicated for what canon law describes as "the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment," a reference to sex.

Father Rupnik incurred excommunication automatically when he heard the confession and granted absolution, but the excommunication was confirmed by the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the order.

At his annual pre-Christmas meeting with reporters Dec. 14, Father Sosa said the excommunication was lifted when Father Rupnik admitted his wrongdoing, repented and wrote a formal request for forgiveness.

Several Italian blogs reported that the case involved a consecrated Italian woman and that the doctrinal office's investigation of that allegation was conducted from 2019 to 2020.

The Jesuits had confirmed in early December that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith received another complaint about Father Rupnik in 2021 involving members of a women's religious community in Slovenia; Father Rupnik was a spiritual adviser to the community in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The doctrinal office asked the Jesuits to conduct a preliminary investigation, which they entrusted to a religious from another order, the Jesuits' Dec. 2 statement said. A report was submitted to the doctrinal office, which "closed the case" because the statute of limitations had expired.

Still, the Jesuits said in early December, Father Rupnik, whose mosaics decorate chapels in the Vatican, all over Europe, in the United States and Australia, continues to have restrictions placed on his ministry by the Jesuits. He is barred from hearing confessions, offering spiritual direction and leading retreats, and he is required to have the permission of his local superior before publishing articles or books or engaging in any public ministry.

Father Rupnik may continue celebrating Mass and making art, Father Sosa told reporters at the pre-Christmas gathering.

The restrictions imposed were determined by "the type of situation that was reported" by the victims, he said, describing them as "surpassing the limits" of what is appropriate in a relationship between adults when a priest is carrying out his ministry.

Father Sosa said Father Rupnik was heavily involved in the formation of the "Skupnosti Loyola" or Loyola Community, a new religious community in Ljubljana, Slovenia, but when relationships in the community became "conflictive," his local Jesuit superior sent Father Rupnik to Rome.

In formal remarks to reporters, Father Sosa said the case shows "how much we still have to learn, especially about people's suffering. This case, like others, causes us shock and sorrow; it forces us to understand and empathize with the suffering of all those involved in one form or another."

While "scrupulously" following the procedures required by civil and canon law, he said, the Jesuits did not want to conceal facts, but they also wanted to "try to open paths toward healing the wounds produced" for the victims and to help Father Rupnik recognize and change the way he interacts with others.

Maintaining the restrictions on Father Rupnik's ministry, Father Sosa said, "goes beyond" the juridical requirements of the case but is part of the "long process" of helping his victims and helping Father Rupnik recognize his abuse and change.

Asked by Associated Press why the Jesuits did not mention the earlier excommunication in their statement Dec. 2, Father Sosa said, "These were two different cases."