Seattle may have won the Super Bowl, but the news that shook the internet yesterday was Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead Sunday in his Manhattan apartment. Among his supporting roles, Hoffman was nominated for Academy Awards for his role as a priest under suspicion of sexual predation in “Doubt” and as a charismatic cult leader in “The Master,” a film partly inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. To read a bit about the actor’s thoughts on spirituality, consider reading this piece from 2008 from Father James Martin.
The abortion rate in the United States dropped to its lowest point since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure, according to one study. There were fewer than 17 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2011, the latest year for which figures were available, down 13 percent from 2008 and a little higher than the rate in 1973.
The gay marriage debate has taken new twist in Oregon, Reuters reports, with the addition of religious exemptions. In the next election, Oregon voters will likely be asked whether to allow gay marriage, and whether the state should be the first to allow florists, bakers and other business owners to decline to participate in gay weddings on religious grounds.
Culture wars are heating up in Europe again. More than 100,000 French conservatives marched against the legalization of gay marriage. Meanwhile, thousands protested in Madrid over the weekend against a law backed by the Spanish government that would restrict abortion rights.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) to help couples to have children is being increasingly employed unnecessarily, while children born through it are at higher risk of health problems, new research from those in Britain, the Netherlands and Australia warns. Generous public health system rules in some countries partly explain the increase, the researchers say.
The Texas Board of Education, which has been a battleground evolution and creationism teaching, says it will limit the use of citizen review panels while granting priority to teachers in choosing science and history curricula. As Texas provides such a large market for textbook publishers, the state has influenced what is taught in the rest of the country.
The Mormon Church has been conducting an experiment to see what happens when missionaries can use the Internet for their work. “Instead of fear, I found incredible optimism and excitement about technology in mission work, albeit alongside caution,” The Atlantic writer says. “Instead of second-hand nostalgia for the past, I found some rare faith in the future.”
One author explores how faith is kept, or lost, over generations. Transmission of faith often comes through the father, says Vern L. Bengtson, in the relationship between family dynamics and religion.
Pope Francis gets so much mail that the tiny office that deals with it is swamped and working overtime, Reuters reports. Over the weekend, the pope encouraged missionary families to evangelize with charity.
The Catholic Diocese of Helena in Montana is seeking bankruptcy protection over abuse claims from 1930s to the 1970s. Helena is the 11th diocese in the country to seek bankruptcy after similar claims of abuse.
Heard of flash mobs? Now there are Mass mobs, where crowds will agree to join a normally sparsely-attended church.
Ready for more news? Head on over to the religious freedom recap.