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A caution on new reports regarding Peru

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 20, 2013

Today’s CWN headlines include a report on an intriguing Vatican contretemps regarding the rebellious “Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.” (I use the “scare quotes” because the Vatican has determined the institution does not deserve to be known as either “Catholic” or “pontifical.”)

According to reports circulating in Europe, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, overruled a decision by Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That would be a remarkable development, since the CDF is the one office within the Roman Curia that is not subject to the Secretariat of State. However, a few notes of caution should be observed.

First, we do not know what decision, if any, Archbishop Müller had made about the theology department at the PCUP. The archbishop had reportedly questioned Cardinal Cipriani’s decision to suspend permission for theological instruction. PCUP professors claimed that Archbishop Müller had decided the matter in their favor, but their testimony is certainly biased. The CDF prefect made no public statement on the matter. It may be inaccurate to say that Archbishop Müller has been overruled, if he never “ruled” in the first place.

Second, Cardinal Bertone made his decision after a meeting that involved prelates from several dicasteries. It seems reasonable to infer that the Vatican officials sat down to pool their opinions and reach a consensus on a matter that had not yet been decided.

Third and finally, to date we have only second-hand reports on this controversy. The PCUP affair may indeed have caused heated arguments within the Roman Curia. Then again, minor differences among Vatican officials may have been exaggerated by people closer to the action in Peru: people who have their own distinct biases.

In short this report, while certainly interesting, should be handled with caution.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Feb. 21, 2013 12:14 PM ET USA

    This is a serious disappointment. I thought the matter had been resolved. Enough of equivocation! Enough of compromise! This is the very area where Church authority desperately needs to be exerted. The Church needs to give a focused and precise command and it needs to be obeyed.

  • Posted by: skladach - Feb. 20, 2013 5:59 PM ET USA

    Peruvian professors initiated correspondence with the CDF Prefect. Tthey probably didn't tell him that the Holy See made its ruling in July 2012 not on theological grounds but mainly because of the University's refusal to revise its statutes to acknowledge the right of the Abp. of Lima, under civil and canon law, to manage University property. No CDF competence there. Abp. Mueller's reply did not go through the nunciature, so there was nothing formal about it whatsoever.

  • Posted by: jamesbell431857 - Feb. 20, 2013 5:57 PM ET USA

    There will have to be some clarification on this. This makes Muller look terrible. He needs some spin or clarification to protect his reputation. So many seem to think badly of Bertone. I always wondered if that might be a sign that he is ruffling the right feathers. His statement on homosexuality in the priesthood generated a lot of blowback. This, to me, is another feather in the cap of Bertone.

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