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.

Friday, July 20, 2012

We Westerners, the main ones responsible

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

The whole of crisis that is overwhelming the human race makes us stop and take stock. It's the philosophizing moment of any critical observer, whenever he wants to go beyond conventional and intrasystemic arguments.

Why have we reached the current situation that objectively threatens the future of human life and our civilizing work? We respond without further justification: the main causes of this course are those who in recent centuries have held power, knowledge, and possession. They set out to dominate nature, conquer the world, subject people, and put everything at the service of their interests.

For this, they used a powerful weapon -- technoscience. Through science, they identified how nature works and through science they made interventions for human benefit without noticing the consequences.

The gentlemen who did this were Western European. We Latin Americans were added to them by force as an appendix -- the Far West.

Those Westerners, however, are now enormously perplexed. Stunned, they ask themselves "how could we be in the eye of the crisis if we have the best knowledge, the best democracy, the best economy, the best technique, the best movies, the greatest military might and the best religion, Christianity?"

Now these "conquests" are being challenged because, their value notwithstanding, it's undeniable that they don't provide us any horizon of hope. We feel that the West's time has run out and is now past. That's why it has lost any legitimacy and persuasive power.

Arnold Toynbee, analyzing the great civilizations, noted this historical constant: whenever the arsenal of answers for the challenges is no longer sufficient, civilizations enter into crisis, beginning to decompose until they collapse or are assimilated by others. This brings renewed vigor, new dreams, and new personal and collective meaning of life. What's coming? Who knows? Here is the crucial question.

What is aggravating the crisis is persistent Western arrogance. Even in decline, Westerners imagine themselves to be the obligatory reference point for everyone.

In the Bible and for the Greeks, this behavior was the supreme deviation, since people put themselves on the same pedestal as the divine, thought to be the supreme point of reference and the Ultimate Reality. They called this attitude hubris, that is, arrogance and excess of ego.

It was this arrogance that led the United States to intervene for untruthful reasons in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, and earlier in Latin America, supporting for many years dictatorial military regimes and the shameful Operation Condor through which hundreds of leaders in various Latin American countries were kidnapped and assassinated.

With the new president Barack Obama, we were hoping for a new course, a more multipolar one, respectful of cultural differences and compassionate towards the vulnerable. Gross mistake. He is carrying out the imperial project along the same line as the fundamentalist Bush. He hasn't substantially changed anything in this strategy of arrogance. On the contrary, he has initiated something unheard of and evil: an undeclared war using "drones", unmanned aircraft. Guided electronically from cold rooms on military bases in Texas, they attack, killing individual leaders and whole groups among which they assume there might be terrorists.

Christianity itself, in its various forms, has distanced itself from ecumenism and is assuming fundamentalist traits. There's a dispute in the religious marketplace to see which denomination is able to gather the most faithful.

At Rio+20, we witnessed the same arrogance of the powerful, refusing to participate and seek minimal points of agreement that could alleviate the crisis of the Earth.

And to think that, deep down, we are only seeking the simple dream, well expressed by
Pablo Milanés y Chico Buarque: “A História é um carro alegre. Cheio de um povo contente...” ("History is a cheerful car. Full of contented people...").

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jesus' gaze

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo
July 18, 2012

Mark 6:30-34

Mark describes the situation in full detail. Jesus is going in a boat with His disciples to a quiet and withdrawn place. He wants to hear them quietly, since they have come back tired from their first evangelizing foray and want to share their experience with the Prophet who sent them.

Jesus' plan is frustrated. The people find out His intention and get there ahead of them, running along the shore. When they get to the place, they meet a crowd of people who have come from all the surrounding villages. How will Jesus react?

Mark graphically describes His actions. The disciples have to learn how to treat people; in the Christian communities they have to remember how Jesus was with those people lost in anonimity, who nobody cares about. "On disembarking, Jesus saw the crowd, He was moved because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them calmly."

The first thing the gospel writer emphasizes is Jesus' gaze. He doesn't get irritated because His plans have been interrupted. He looks at them closely and is moved. People never disturb Him. His heart senses the disorientation and neglect in which the peasants of those villages find themselves.

In the Church, we have to learn to look at people as Jesus looked at them -- understanding the suffering, loneliness, confusion and neglect that many of them are experiencing. Compassion doesn't spring from attention to rules or remembering our obligations. It is awakened in us when we look attentively at those who are suffering.

From that look, Jesus discovers the deepest need of those people -- "they were like sheep without a shepherd." The teaching they receive from the masters and scholars of the law doesn't give them the food they need. They are living without anyone who really cares for them. They don't have a pastor who guides and defends them.

Moved by His compassion, Jesus "begins to teach them calmly." Unhurriedly, He devotes Himself patiently to teaching them God's Good News and His humanizing project for the kingdom. He doesn't do it out of obligation. He doesn't think of Himself. He communicates the Word of God to them, moved by their need for a pastor.

We can't remain indifferent before so many people who, within our Christian communities, are looking for more solid food than what they are receiving. We should not accept religious disorientation within the Church as normal. We should react lucidly and responsibly. Many Christians are seeking to be better fed. They need pastors who will transmit Jesus' teaching to them.