Martin Freeman as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins with his sword, Sting, finds a small ring in Gollum’s cave in the fantasy adventure “THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY,” a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM.

Martin Freeman as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins with his sword, Sting, finds a small ring in Gollum’s cave in the fantasy adventure “THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY,” a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM.

Shutdown Update: Religious leaders from across the denominational spectrum will gather across from the Capitol today to launch a “Faithful Filibuster” — reading 2,000 verses of scripture reminding lawmakers “of the biblical mandate to protect the most vulnerable people.”

And we have our first “Lord of the Rings” shutdown analogy, which hopefully means something good. By the way, check out RNS’ roundup of how faith groups are coping with the shutdown.

One flashpoint may be downgraded: the Republican-led shutdown had led to the furloughing of Catholic chaplains under contract to the military, which naturally led to charges of “religious intimidation” by the Obama administration for conducting a “war on the civil liberties of Catholics” and staging “a totalitarian horror show.”

Or, actually it wasn’t quite like that. At all. Progress?

Then there’s this:

Or this: Conservatives say censorship has increased on Facebook and iTunes, when it comes to views they care about.

Pope Francis update: He is calling a special synod, a meeting of bishops from around the world, for next fall and they’re likely to discuss the controversial topic of divorce and remarriage and communion, among other family values.

The German church is already trying out some new things in this regard, but the Vatican warned them not to get out in front of Rome on communion for remarried Catholics.

Obviously this follows:

The sex abuse crisis in the Minneapolis-St. Paul archdiocese gets worse every day.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and top leaders of the U.S. hierarchy met with Francis this week and told him everybody in the States — Catholic and non-Catholic — seemed to be in a “fresh romance” with the Holy Father, while assuring him that this affection was no different from their love of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Dolan also said “committed Catholics” are wise enough to know that Francis isn’t saying all the things some say that he is saying.

Speaking of committed Catholics — and popular ones — Stephen Colbert, Dolan’s occasional sparring partner for America’s funniest Catholic, will be the special guest at this month’s Al Smith Dinner. If they’d only raffle off some of them tickets.

Not to be outdone, Yeshiva University, which has been rocked by an abuse scandal of its own, has hired a lecturer who was convicted of lewd behavior with boys.

Still chewing over the huge Pew study on Jews, Rachel Gross at Religion & Politics asks: “Who Counts as a Jew?” In the New York Times, science writer Nicholas Wade counts backwards and examines a study indicating that the roots of Ashkenazic Judaism may be different from what we had assumed:

“The finding establishes that the women who founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Europe were not from the Near East, as previously supposed, and reinforces the idea that many Jewish communities outside Israel were founded by single men who married and converted local women.”

Who knows what this will mean for matrilineality, much less Jewish mother jokes.

Worse still: kosher chickens may not be as healthy as we thought. Oy.

So, is popular culture going pro-life?

Lifesite News happily points to 14 monumental bronze sculptures of fetuses developing in the womb from conception to birth. The display was set up in Qatar by the famous British artist and provocateur Damien Hirst. And then there’s this recent New Yorker cartoon. And of course the lingering image of Sandra Bullock in the fetal position inside the “womb” of the space capsule in “Gravity.”

Okay, just spitballin’ here, as Saul Goodman would say.

Speaking of “Breaking Bad,” my favorite modern morality tale, NPR had an interesting post-finale interview (need I say SPOILER ALERT?) with a couple of the show’s writers about Walter White’s fate. Here’s Peter Gould:

“I don’t really see him redeemed. I think just the fact that he sort of accepts what he’s done and who he is — that’s not redemption to me. I think ultimately, we talked about the morality of the show a lot while we were working on it, and to me, the actions he has taken are beyond redemption, so there might be some enlightening or understanding that he has, but I would distinguish between self-understanding and any kind of redemption.”

Continuing a theme of recent months, on religion and mental illness, our own Jana Reiss delves into the Mormon Church’s efforts to end the stigma.

Meanwhile at Brigham Young University, a vending machine was mistakenly dispensing caffeinated soda for a while. Which caused a mad rush. Which is why they won’t be doing that anymore.

Thought for the Day from Backrow Baptist:

Okay, I see the giant bear headed at me if I don’t file this sucker. Hope you enjoyed today’s religion news roundup — pass the word around, have folks put their email in the box below to get this (or a better version by one of my colleagues) every morning free.

David Gibson

Categories: Culture

David Gibson

David Gibson

David Gibson is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He is a national reporter for RNS and has written two books on Catholic topics, the latest a biography of Pope Benedict XVI.


  1. A better version of the Roundup by someone else? No, Mr. Gibson, you did more than good today. A informative and enlightening Religion News Roundup for today! But then all of your contributors always do a good job with the RNR. Now that I’ve sucked up to you and the RNR staff watch out, I might not be so nice commenting on some of these stories, guess I would call them some of these stories villians, at least those who continually are defending themsselves from some sort of legal charges. Sigh.

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