Belgian Catholic university mends fences with the Vatican

13 March 2014

Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven (KUL), which came under Vatican scrutiny for its stem-cell research in 2007 and considered dropping “Catholic” from its name, has mended fences in Rome with a visit by its new chancellor, canon law scholar Rik Torfs, along with Brussels Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard and Antwerp Bishop Johan Bonny.

When the three visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), its prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller said universities sometimes claimed academic freedom to defend deviations from Vatican teaching.

Professor Torfs replied: “We cherish our rich Catholic tradition. We do not want to break with it, though we also cherish our academic freedom.”

“Of course, we haven’t suddenly become more Catholic and are going to merge with the Vatican,” Professor Torfs told the Flemish-language daily De Morgen. “We’re here on our own initiative and we remain ourselves.”

Archbishop Léonard joined their meeting with Archbishop Angelo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education. “This is a first step towards better cooperation,” he said afterwards. “The university can make an important contribution to Catholicism.”

Professor Torfs, who was elected last year, and Bishop Bonny, were told by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin that Pope Francis was concerned about euthanasia of minors, which Brussels recently legalised.

“If we were not involved in that debate, it’s because we wanted to leave it to the Belgian bishops,” he said, according to De Morgen.

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