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.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Jim.K - May. 16, 2018 11:12 PM ET USA

    This morning's Mass reading seems to apply - Acts 20: 28-38 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw disciples away after them. So be vigilant... (St Paul) Your readers know you and most of us know Commonweal. Keep up your valiant defense of the Faith as you have for these many years! And as for Card. Law, he has already been judged. Let's move on.

  • Posted by: MatJohn - May. 16, 2018 4:36 PM ET USA

    An embedded mindset cannot be penetrated even when confronted with factual evidence to the contrary. It is trained to reply to that evidence with legal ju jitsu. Clay's piece demanded rebuttal. Attempting for admission to her flaws would require her to have an open mind. Result? Martial arts to the rescue.

  • Posted by: td4207 - May. 16, 2018 1:22 PM ET USA

    Wikipedia describes Commonweal as "a liberal American Catholic journal of opinion, edited and managed by lay Catholics, headquartered in The Interchurch Center in New York City." While I expect you and your colleagues to be widely read, I doubt whether Commonweal's subscribed readers wander too far afield from complementary PC publications to give your retort any credence or credit.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - May. 15, 2018 11:22 PM ET USA

    McClay's behavior is awful. But to be quite honest, I think both you and McClay are wrong about Cardinal Law. It was public knowledge well before 2002 that the Church, as well as society at large, was using therapy to treat abusers - and *no one* objected. Cardinal Law genuinely believed he was doing the right thing for both victims and priests. While the Boston Globe and the media at large would have you believe Law had nefarious motives in handling cases, that is 100% completely false.

  • 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: - 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.