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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 27 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 30
Theological slugfest in Peru: pope vs. university
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Theological slugfest in Peru: pope vs. university

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Vatican has ordered one of Latin America's most prestigious universities to stop calling itself a Catholic school.

The Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) has 'gravely prejudiced the interests of the Church,' the Vatican said in a July 21 statement, and must drop the words 'Pontifical' and 'Catholic' from its name.

PUCP Rector Marcial Rubio told AFP that the school will keep its current name for as long as it 'considers it relevant.'

The university is an 'institution created in Peru, governed by Peruvian law, not canonical law,' Rubio said.

'This is the official name by which we are known domestically and internationally,' he added. 'The university's assets are the property of the PUCP and are protected by the Peruvian constitution.'

On July 23, the university called an assembly of staff, professors, and students to discuss the Vatican's move, which school officials called 'regrettable for all Catholics.'

The university, based in Peru's capital city of Lima, was founded in 1917 and formally recognized by the Vatican as a Catholic institution in 1942. According to Reuters, it has some 22,000 students.

The Vatican has been locked in a decades-long struggle with the institution, which has long been identified with progressive thinking.

The conflict dates back to the 1960s, when a Peruvian priest and instructor at the university, Gustavo Gutierrez, launched the idea of 'liberation theology,' which promotes social justice and pan-Latin American solidarity.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and former President Alan Garcia, both identified with the political left, are PUCP graduates.

Liberation theology was subsequently criticized by Pope John Paul II and formally condemned by the Vatican enforcement office - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) - in 1984 and again in 1986.

CDF Prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, published his personal criticism of the doctrine in 1985.

The university has also changed its statutes numerous times over the past few decades without asking for formal approval from the Vatican, which contravenes rules for Catholic universities established by John Paul II in 1990.

PUCP has also steadfastly refused to give the conservative archbishop of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, a seat on its governing board, despite repeated requests from the Vatican.

Cipriani is known to be a member of the secretive Opus Dei organization, and is the first Opus Dei priest to become a cardinal. The cardinal has been accused of hampering Jesuit human rights activists in Peru's Ayacucho province when he was archbishop there.

He has also been accused of trying to cover up military involvement in the notorious La Cantuta massacre in 1992, in which a university professor and nine students were kidnapped and murdered by a military death squad.

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