Saturday, July 21, 2012

Not "Pontifical", not "Catholic"

In a sudden -- but not completely unanticipated -- move, the Vatican has issued an order to the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru to stop using the words "Pontifical" and "Catholic" in its name, effectively decreeing that it is no longer a Catholic institution. Marcial Rubio Correa, the rector of the university, received a letter from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, which reads:

The Vatican
July 11, 2012


The Holy See has followed particularly attentively the evolution of the problem of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PCUP), especially after the canonical visit of His Eminence Cardinal Peter Erdo and your visit to Rome on February 21st.

During the conversation we had on that occasion, on orders of the Holy Father I communicated to you, in effect, the "legal requirement" to adapt the statutes of this University to the canonical law of the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, as you should have been doing since 1990.

This has been at all times the clear request that the Holy See has made of you as an obvious requisite for the specific identity and mission of this University to be adequately recognized and ensured.

I have been informed in detail by the Apostolic Nuncio in Peru, His Excellency Monsignor James Green, of the meetings you have had at the headquarters of the Apostolic Nunciature, as well as your proposals. With respect to the request you made, the time for adapting the statutes was expanded from April 8th to 18th.

Now I must tell you the notable disappointment with which this Secretary of State has been viewing the guidance that this Rectorate has been giving with respect to the problems, particularly in letter N. 068/12.R of April 13, 2012, and in the surprising letter N. 095/12.R of May 9, 2012, published as an "item" in "La República" newspaper on May 11, 2012. The way in which the instructions received from the Holy See and the role played by the Archbishop of Lima are presented in it is particularly noteworthy. That interpretation has been a cause of misinformation for the university community, the faithful, and the general public.

As I have had occasion to express before, the irregular situation the University is going through isn't new and it has been a matter of serious concern for the last three archbishops of Lima, not just the current one. The University hasn't been complying with the established legal provisions, which it has been warned about repeatedly in writing.

It is noted in our files that the most recent statutes of PCUP were approved, as befits a pontifical university, by the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities in 1946 and modifications approved by the same Congregation were incorporated into them in 1957, 1964 and 1967.

Since that last date, the authorities of said University, without the prior necessary approval of the Holy See, have made multiple and substantial modifications to the latter, gravely harming the rights of the Church. In light of the agreement in effect between Peru and the Holy See and Canon Law, we deem said modifications to be unlawful and that through them a spoliation of the Church is happening.

Having received from you a negative response to the Holy See's request, I must note that there is no will among the authorities of the University of which you are rector to correct this arbitrariness, and that you intend for the Church to renounce its legitimate rights with respect to Catholic education.

That attitude doesn't recognize the legitimate autonomy the Church has to organize its educational instiutions, such as in the case of the PCUP, in full observance of the civil laws in effect in the country and the agreement between the Peruvian nation and the Holy See. The autonomy of Catholic universities has always been fully recognized by the Church, within the scope of its rules, because the necessary contribution of liberty is indispensable for the sound study and research activity involved in the search for Truth, a task that must take precedent over any effort to expand the multiple dimensions of knowledge and learning.

By contrast, setting aside the request that was made for the University to accommodate itself to canon law, fully compatible with Peruvian law, the Rector replied that, as a "premise" for conforming to the law of the Church, "negotiation" with the Archdiocese of Lima is necessary to prevent control by the latter over the administration of the assets of the University.

The courts in Peru have ruled on that point. It's a right and duty for the Church in Lima, which only seeks to ensure transparency and exemplariness in said assets administration and its conformity to the basic ends of the University. They are objectives that all the faithful in that Church community have an equal interest in.

The fact that this Rector is putting a problem "that, after all, is exclusively a matter of materials goods," as you said in your April 13 letter, ahead of the duty that this Secretary of State reminded you of, to observe Church law, is even more surprising.

Both issues have their own autonomy. An "integral solution," as you say, that doesn't respect the elements of fairness there are in each issue, represents a solution contrary to justice. The first demand, which is unconditional, that this University has to fulfill is to comply with the law and adapt its statutes to canon law.

In light of what I have written and after so many years of dialogue and attempts to restore the legitimate autonomy of a Catholic University, the Holy See is forced to take the necessary measures with respect to that University.

In this letter, I enclose the Decree of the Holy See in this regard. You, Rector, bear particular responsibility in this situation because, by reason of office, you are responsible for enforcing the laws and provisions of the Church in the university community.


Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone
Secretary to His Holiness

The whole university community, faculty, staff and students, will meet on Monday to decide how to respond to this demand from the Vatican. Sigrid Bazán, president of PCUP's student federation, has told the press that the university has the legal right under Peruvian law to continue to use its full current name. "It's not a question of asking [the Church's] permission," Bazán said. The Church issue can't be above Peruvian law." She pointed out that the legal registration of the name is valid and doesn't come up for renewal for another two years.

Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, the Archbishop of Lima, who some have held responsible for the Vatican decree given his combative relationship with PCUP, promptly denied responsibility for the actions of the Holy See. He said he didn't "feel like a winner" and added that there are no winners or losers in this situation. He urged the leaders of PCUP to admit that they have made a mistake and he accused them of turning the problem into a personal attack on himself and attempting to divide the Peruvian bishops' conference. He said that the time for dialogue was over and that the university authorities should now obey the Vatican. He denied the allegation that the archdiocese wants to control the university's assets.

In our view, this move is part of the fundamentalist trend in our Church to rein in all Catholic institutions, particularly those in higher education, priests and religious, and theologians, and "standardize" what is being presented as "Catholic". It reflects a refusal to acknowledge the authentic diversity that exists in the Church today, and a yearning for a false homogeneity that no longer responds to the needs of the faithful.

Founded in 1917 by Fr. Jorge Dintilhac of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, PCUP is considered to be one of the top universities of Peru. Its faculty members include the great liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez. Among its graduates are Peru's current and former presidents, Ollanta Humala and Alan Garcia. And the university has given out many honorary doctorates over the years. Among the honorees? Joseph Ratzinger.

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