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Vatican

Pope to give out first Ratzinger Prizes in theology

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican on Tuesday (June 14) announced three winners of the inaugural Ratzinger Prize in theology, which Pope Benedict XVI (known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger until his papal election) will present at a ceremony on June 30.

The inaugural winners include an Italian expert on the writings of early Christian theologians; a Spanish scholar whose subjects have ranged from St. Bonaventure to Oscar Wilde; and a German monk who wrote his doctoral thesis on the theology of the future pope himself.

The prize, which carries a cash award of 50,000 euros ($72,000), is intended as a kind of “Nobel Prize in Theology,” according to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the former vicar general (or acting bishop) of Rome, who served as chairman of the selection committee.

Manlio Simonetti, 85 and the only layman among the recipients, is a former professor at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” and a specialist in the writings of the early church fathers, including Augustine, Origen and Gregory the Great.

Vatican issues new bishops' policy

VATICAN CITY -- Catholics forced to participate in ordinations of bishops without the pope’s approval may be exempt from the usual penalty of automatic excommunication, the Vatican said on June 10.

Bishops who consecrate other bishops without a papal “mandate” incur automatic excommunication, as do the men they consecrate and all other ministers who participate in the ceremony, according to a church document published in the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

All of those excommunicated are thereafter forbidden to celebrate Mass, administer or receive any Catholic sacraments, or “exercise ministerial functions” unless their excommunications are lifted by the pope.

Yet the council’s statement allows for “mitigating circumstances,” under which the penalty of excommunication does not apply. Specifically, if any of the parties was “coerced by grave fear ... or grave inconvenience” to participate in an authorized ordination, he can avoid automatic expulsion from the church.

Morale falters in Australian church

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ANALYSIS

SYDNEY, Australia -- The energies of Catholic Australians in recent years have been absorbed by contradictory approaches to being faithful. The first is the church’s institutional integrity (requirements of obedience, orthodoxy and conformity); the second is its moral integrity (what should it be doing, for whom and how).

The church’s top leadership and its ordinary members have been concerned about these issues in almost inverse proportion. Pope Benedict XVI, like the late John Paul II before him, has been at pains to strengthen the church against the influences of secularism by insisting on stricter discipline in its ranks and a greater acceptance of official teachings on the part of the faithful.

Many Australian clergy and laypeople, on the other hand, regard the declining number of regular churchgoers, the shrinking number of priests and religious, and the scandal of clerical sexual abuse as compelling reasons to move away from old ways of being church and pursue fundamental reform.

The result of these contradictory approaches is often conflict.

Caritas elects French secretary-general

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ROME -- Members of Caritas Internationalis elected an official from the French charity Secours Catholique to be their secretary-general and they re-elected Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa as president of the confederation of 165 Catholic charities.

Michel Roy, director of international advocacy for the French Catholic charity, was elected by regional representatives making up the Caritas executive committee. His election was confirmed May 26 by delegates to the Caritas Internationalis general assembly.

A 56-year-old father of two children, Roy was a student of economics and Oriental languages at Sorbonne University when he began volunteer work with Southeast Asian refugees for Secours Catholique in 1976. He joined the Paris archdiocesan staff in 1981 and served as national director from 1993 to 1999.

Vatican newspaper: Condoms increase AIDS risk

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VATICAN CITY -- An article in the Vatican newspaper said that, on a practical level, condom campaigns increase the possibility of AIDS infection by promoting a false sense of security.

On a moral level, the article said, condom use by married couples goes against the church's teaching about responsible procreation because it "deforms" the conjugal act.

The article was written by Father Juan Perez-Soba, a moral theologian who teaches in Rome at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. It appeared in L'Osservatore Romano May 24, three days before the start of a major Vatican conference that was expected to clarify church teaching on AIDS.

Father Perez-Soba said that although use of a condom may have some effectiveness against HIV/AIDS contagion in single acts, it cannot guarantee safety -- especially throughout the sexual life of a couple. It is wrong, therefore, to say that condom use can prevent infection, he said.

Complex questions of papal infallibility

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WASHINGTON -- “No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident,” says Canon 749.3 of the church’s Code of Canon Law.

Jesuit Fr. Ladislas Orsy, professor of law at Georgetown University here, cited that canon almost immediately when NCR asked him if Pope John Paul II’s 1994 teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis “that the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful” is infallible.

Australian religious orders express distress at bishop's ouster

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Religious orders in Australia weighed in today on the ouster of Bishop William Morris, expressing their members' distress at the loss of a pastor who had a deep connection with his people and asking pointed questions about the process that led to the pope's decision to force him to retire.

The assessment -- which came in a letter signed by Josephite Sr. Ann Derwin, president of Catholic Religious Australia, and sent to the country’s apostolic nuncio -- says that members of religious orders, many of whom work in Morris' diocese of Toowoomba “are especially distressed at the loss of their pastor, a man they believe to be solicitous of all Christ’s faithful entrusted to his care -- especially the needy and marginalized.”

“They and the people with whom they minister are left with an abiding sense of disempowerment and confusion,” the letter continues.

CRA is the public name for the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes. Its membership is representative of more than 180 congregations of sisters, brothers and priests living and working throughout Australia.

Australian bishops to discuss Morris ouster during ad limina visits

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The head of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference expressed "our sadness" at the retirement of Bishop William Morris of the Diocese of Toowoomba and said the bishops will continue discussion of the event during their ad limina visits in Rome later this year.

Morris was forced to retire after failing to reach agreement with the Vatican over several issues, including use of general confession and absolution and suggesting that the church should discuss alternatives, including ordination of women, to an all-male celibate clergy that is in serious decline.

The bishops conference statement was delivered in the form of a letter dated May 12 from Archbishop Philip Wilson to Bishop Brian Finnigan, who has been appointed apostolic administrator in Morris's absence. Wilson said that the Australian bishops spent "much of our time" during a recent meeting discussing the recent events among themselves and with 40 leaders of religious congregations, many of whom have members working in the Diocese of Toowoomba.

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