Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview
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Vatican treats Boff, Gutierrez differently

( October 5, 1984) Not all liberation theologians are being treated the same way. Brazilian Franciscan Fr. Leonardo Boff was summoned for an interview at the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith ( CDF) Sept. 7.

Peruvian diocesan priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, in Rome last June to publicize We Drink From Our Own Wells, his recent book on the spirituality that came out of liberation theology, would never have had an interview at the CDF, no matter how hard he knocked on the door.

Why this difference? The Gutiérrez case is being left in the hands of the Peruvian bishops so they can exercise controlled collegiality.

There was no point in entrusting Boff to the Brazilian bishops, because they would have gotten the wrong answer: the majority of them are known to be on his side. The presence of Cardinals Alofsio Lorscheider and Paulo Evaristo Arns at each elbow Sept. 7 proved the point: no wedge can be driven between Boff and his bishops.

The Peruvians were a different matter. Peru's only cardinal, Franciscan Juan Landazuri Ricketts, 71, is sympathetic to liberation theology and used Gutiérrez as his personal expert at the 1968 Latin American bishops' meeting in Medellfn.

But Jesuit Fernando Vargas Ruiz de Somocurcio, 66, bishop of Arequipa, is a doughty opponent of liberation theology in all its forms. The question was how many of the 51 other bishops (including auxiliaries) could he bring round.

The process of pulling over the Peruvian bishops began in March 1983, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, CDF prefect, sent them 10 critical "observations" on Gutiérrez's theology. This was merely, he explained, "to help them complete their examination of his theology and compose a document on it." It went without saying that the document would be negative.

Gutiérrez was told what was going on. In June 1983, he submitted a 60-page defense of his work to the bishops. They met in plenary sessions in August and again in January 1984 but found


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