Why was late pope not given Templeton Prize? - Catholic Courier

Why was late pope not given Templeton Prize?

Why was Pope John Paul II never given the prestigious and financially lucrative Templeton Prize for achievements in bridging the gap between religion and the world of science?

Its full name, the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, is generously funded by the British entrepreneur, Sir John Templeton, a Protestant layman.

The prize has been conferred every year since 1973, just five years before John Paul II was elected to the papacy, which means that there have been 26 opportunities to have selected him since 1979, and nearly a decade when it was clear that the pope was in his declining years.

During the first five years of its existence, the prize was conferred on three major Catholic figures: in 1973 on Mother Teresa for her work with the poor and the dying in Calcutta; in 1976 on Cardinal L{e-acute}on-Joseph Suenens of Belgium, one of the leading bishops at the Second Vatican Council, for his work in promoting research and discourse into the Charismatic Renewal movement; and in 1977 on Chiara Lubich, a former cloistered nun who founded Italy’s Focolare Movement dedicated to serving the poor.

However, the Templeton Prize seems to have taken a turn in a different direction after the election of Karol Wojtyla to the papacy. Unless I am mistaken, only two Catholics have been awarded the prize during the recent pontificate.

The omission is especially glaring when set against some of the names of those who were, in fact, awarded the prize (see www.templetonprize.org).

The only individuals who would have even begun to compete with the pope in terms of prominence and contributions in the field of religion in those years were the Rev. Billy Graham in 1982 and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn the following year.

The relatively few Americans who have received the prize, besides Novak, include two conservative Protestants: Charles Colson (1993), who was imprisoned for his part in the Watergate scandal under President Nixon and who later organized an international network of prison ministries, and William Bright (1996), founder of the evangelical Protestant organization Campus Crusade for Christ.

According to the Templeton Prize Web site, the prize is conferred annually on a person who attempts to promote “discoveries and breakthroughs to expand human perceptions of divinity and to help in the acceleration of divine creativity.”

The prize is “intended to encourage the concept that resources and manpower are needed to accelerate progress in spiritual discoveries, which can help humans to learn more than a hundredfold more about divinity.”

The prize is also “intended to help people see the infinity of the Universal Spirit still creating the galaxies and all living things and the variety of ways in which the Creator is revealing himself to different people.”

If Pope John Paul II did not measure up to, and far exceed, those criteria in the past two-and-a-half decades, one wonders who did. Were the judges nodding?

The rules of the Templeton Prize stipulate that the honoree be alive at the time it is conferred, which rules out a posthumous award for John Paul II.

But it is not too late for another eminent and well-deserving Catholic leader who has done more than any other religious leader I can think of to bridge the gap between religion and science: Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame. On May 25 he turns 88.

Father McBrien is a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

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