Shaw Divinity School, a Missionary Baptist seminary in Raleigh, N.C., has conferred an honorary degree on the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, who is serving a prison sentence for tax evasion.

The Rev. Dr. Joseph Paige, executive vice president of the seminary, denied that there was any connection between the award and a $30,000 contribution that Moon made to the predominantly black school this spring.

Paige said in a telephone interview that it was the first time in the school's 120-year history that it had given an honorary degree to "a person outside the mainline faith." The Unification Church maintains that Jesus Christ failed in his mission as savior of mankind -- a view that places it at odds with virtually all of Christendom. Two Brazilian lawyers will file a protest with the Vatican, charging that the year-long penitential silence imposed on Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff earlier this month violates church law.

Boff is a liberation theologian, but his problems with the Vatican revolve more around criticisms of the church itself in his 1981 book, "Church: Charism and Power." The volume, which has been translated into several languages, including English, criticizes "elitism" in the church, asserting that the hierarchical privileges in the church today are not in harmony with Christ's teachings.

Sao Paulo lawyer Helio Bicudo said he and a colleague will protest the sanction against the popular theologian because "Boff was tried without being given the right to an ample defense," which he said violates canon law. The Franciscan Friars Minor have rejected papal warnings, issued last week, that they should spend more time in prayer and less in activism on behalf of the poor.

At a general chapter meeting in Assisi, Italy, birthplace of their founder, Saint Francis, 134 representatives said, "We walk where there is suffering, poverty and need . . . . It is too late now for us to turn back."

Pope John Paul II warned the Franciscans on May 13 to "live more in silence and less in propaganda," and to "work on a careful revision of theories and actions" that impede obedience to church authority. A California judge dismissed a clergy malpractice suit brought by the parents of a young man who committed suicide after counseling with a fundamentalist pastor. Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin said that a ruling for the plaintiffs would have a "chilling effect on the exercise of religion."

The parents of Kenneth Nally, 24, had sued Grace Community Church in Sun Valley after their son, who had gone to several pastors of the church for counseling, shot himself. The parents were not members of the church. The first national gathering on Christian nonviolence and civil disobedience will take place here this weekend at Catholic University's gymnasium, coordinated by the Sojourners Peace Ministry, starting at 9 a.m. today.

Participants who complete a day-long training session in nonviolence will take part in civil disobedience demonstrations Tuesday at the White House, State Department, South African Embassy, Soviet Embassy, Department of Health and Human Services and Supreme Court. Ruth Wise, president of Church Women United in Greater Washington and a lay leader of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, has become the first woman president of the Council of Churches here.

Jerome R. Porath, formerly of Albany, is the new superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, with oversight of 107 parish and private Catholic schools.