A man holding a smiley face sign, courtesy Shutterstock.

A man holding a smiley face sign, courtesy Shutterstock. courtesy Shutterstock

A chilly day for the Catholic Church:

Today in Geneva, the Vatican came under blistering criticism from a U.N. committee for its handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal, facing its most intense public grilling ever over allegations that it protected pedophile priests at the expense of victims.

The Diocese of Stockton, Calif., said it would become the 10th U.S. diocese to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the wake of the church’s sexual-abuse scandal.

And the Archdiocese of Chicago released about 6,000 pages of documents detailing what it knows about decades of clergy sex abuse allegations and how it handled them.

In church and state news:

The Justice Department will expand its definition of racial profiling to prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations.

Translation? This will make it harder for federal agents to single out Muslims when investigating terrorism or Latinos when investigating immigration violations.

A federal appeals court has ruled three University of Notre Dame students who want the school’s health insurance to cover birth control can intervene on the side of the federal government in a university-filed lawsuit that challenges parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Can’t keep up with all those federal judges ruling in favor of same-sex marriage?  AP lists the latest, plus five more states to watch.

The White House is taking its time announcing a new candidate for the vacant position of ambassador for religious freedom. Our own Lauren Markoe compiled a list of five possible names and considers whether the delay may send the signal that the U.S. doesn’t take the plight of the religiously oppressed very seriously.

The religion known as football:

A new poll shows one in four American sports fans say they believe God or a supernatural force is at play in the games they watch. (The Super Bowl is on Sunday, Feb. 2.)

New appointment:

Roy Peterson, president and CEO of The Seed Company has been chosen the new leader of the American Bible Society. The society fired its previous president, Doug Birdsall, weeks before his inauguration.

On the international scene:

Egyptian voters overwhelmingly passed a new constitution that deletes Islamic language written into the basic law approved a year ago when Mohamed Morsi was still in office. Christians around the country cheered.

A bill that would ban the use of Nazi symbols passed its preliminary reading in the Israeli Knesset, over the objections of the attorney general, who said it raised constitutional problems.

Meanwhile, a cathedral in Poland is marking the Catholic Church’s International Day of Judaism in a very unusual way — by displaying a painting of Jews killing Christian children that had previously been covered up for being too offensive.

Interesting reading:

The Nation has an fascinating piece on the rise of a conservative movement in Russia spearheaded by the Orthodox Church. That church is anti-gay, anti-abortion and “pro-family” and has seized on a new ally: American evangelicals.

Some Muslim women are taking offense to the requirement in many American mosques that women enter through a back door designated for them only. One Chicago woman started an online project, where women from around the world share photos of their prayer spaces.

The brothers of St. Joseph’s Abbey — about an hour’s drive west of Boston — will begin selling the first Trappist beer brewed outside Europe. Their brethren abroad are none too happy.

This week’s New Yorker has a story about the return of Confucius, the 6th century B.C. philosopher banned in China by Mao and now resurrected there by his successors.

Kirsten Powers, the Fox News political analyst, says Satanists have a point when they argue that if the Oklahoma legislature can place a Ten Commandments statue on government property, then to avoid running afoul of the Constitution, it must accept monuments from other faiths.

Cathleen Falsani writes about late night comedian Pete Holmes, who once considered becoming a youth pastor. The funny man had a great quote about the ultimate aim of his routine:

“I’m looking for more than laughter. I’m looking for an investment; I’m looking for communion. If they give it to you, then you can get to a really great place.”

Need a dose of weird religion news?

Kayne West, a 36-year-old rapper, has inspired a new religion called Yeezianity, in which followers believe “that the one who calls himself Yeezus is a divine being who has been sent by God to usher in a New Age of humanity.”

And: A group of Eastern Orthodox Christians is protesting Russia’s anti-gay laws in a calendar featuring naughty nude drawings of gay men.

And finally: The World Happiness Report ranks Syria (no surprise) near the bottom of the chart for happiness measures, but Denmark (who knew?) as the happiest nation of all. As for the United States —  it’s no. 17.

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  1. You should always show the list of countries with the highest suicide rate beside the list of the happiest countries.

    There is a positive correlation. On average the happiest countries have a relatively high suicide rate compared to those who are somewhat happy.

    Of course the most unhappy have a high suicide rate.

  2. I heard a comedian several years ago do a bit about starting a new religion. He said he wanted to start another religion he was going to call Frisbeetarianism, with a doctrine that teaches when you die, your soul gets stuck on the roof.

    Religion is poison!

  3. It would be good if RNS provided the option for those who comment to “edit” their comments after they have been submitted and viewed in the regular list. Besides corrections deemed wise after comments are sent by a composer, they sometimes appear to take on a life of their own and come out with differences than what were originally typed.

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