Pope Francis on June 20, 2014 decried the use of recreational drugs and attempts at legalizing their use.

Pope Francis on June 20, 2014 decried the use of recreational drugs and attempts at legalizing their use.Creative Commons image by Catholic Church (England and Wales)

Good morning, and welcome to the post-weekend, Monday religion news roundup.

Breaking news announces that a Sudan court has ordered the release of a woman who had been condemned to death — while pregnant — for being Christian.

The latest from the Middle East and beyond:

  • Egypt sentences three Al-Jazeera journalists to seven years in prison for conspiring to broadcast false news of unrest in a country that has been torn by unrest. You see how that works?
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with an impeccable sense of timing, arrived in Cairo to express strong support for Egypt’s new, um, president and to pledge that America will resume military aid. Kerry is now in Iraq. Let’s see how that goes.
  • “Iraq’s beleaguered Christians make final stand on the Mosul frontline.” Read the Telegraph’s story.
  • Be sure and read this New York Times story about a Christian convert on the run in Afghanistan. Nice set-up line: “In official eyes here, there are no Afghan Christians.”
  • Malaysia’s top court has upheld a law that forbids non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” for God, even though Allah is the word for, well, God. You see how that works? Only Muslims can use “Allah.”
  • And read the NYT obit of Fouad Ajami, the political scientist, historian and commentator on the Arab world who doubted Arabs could ever develop democratic institutions, which is in part why he advised the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2003. That worked out well.

About that “mass grave” for infants in a septic tank in Ireland …

The Associated Press issues an epic correction on several of their stories on that headline-making case that got many of the basics wrong. Kudos to The AP, and to Kevin Clarke at America for pressing the issue.

Waiting on the Supremes to rule on Hobby Lobby …

The widely-anticipated decision should come down this week on whether the Christian-owned business can refuse to provide contraception coverage in their health plans. Our own Cathy Grossman parses the polling numbers on what the rest of us think.

Theodicy and the World Cup

The kiss-your-sister tie between the U.S. and Portugal yesterday had many American fans looking heavenward — well, the way sports fans do. Here’s a roundup of must-read stories about sports and faith — two forms of religion, one might say:

  • Start with First Things and this Peter Leithart essay/review on “The Theology of Sport”;
  • His colleague, Stephen Webb, then talks about why it’s perilous to joke about sports. Religion, not to worry;
  • Finally, a must-read from ESPN on the pastor who has baptized more than 55 Major League Baseball umpires. Not that they’re perfect, as any Mets fan can attest.

Video of the Day: Pope Francis

The pontiff pulled over unexpectedly during his visit to Calabria over the weekend to make a surprise visit to some very surprised Calabrians:

Watch out, Tony Soprano

Francis wasn’t pulling any punches when it came to mafiosi who claim to be Catholic while perpetrating unspeakable crimes. Mafiosi who practice the “adoration of evil” are excommunicated, the pope said during his visit to southern Italy.

BTW, the Globe’s ace Vaticanista John Allen puts all the papal health scare stories in perspective: “To be honest, it may say less about the physical condition of Francis than the psychological condition of the rest of the world.” Preach, John.

Then this happened:

The pope’s niece: “I’m spiritual but not religious”

Cristina Bergoglio is part of a popular trend, and makes no apologies: “I’m not afraid to say I see the church as outdated, and that’s why I believe life has put my uncle to renew this certain system of thought that was getting stagnated.”

Transgender students hailed at Catholic schools

Going against the trend lines, transgender students at a Catholic high school and Catholic University of America were hailed at graduation ceremonies. New Ways Ministry has the reports.

Another day, another Mormon disciplinary case

Kate Kelly, a human rights lawyer from Provo, Utah awaits word of whether she will be excommunicated for pushing the LDS church to ordain women.

“The world’s first Buddhist waterslide park”

Surely it won’t be the last. But the Dish says It’s not all fun and games at Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park in Ho Chi Minh City. Indeed, sounds more like the Buddhist version of a Hell House. With gators. Gotta check this out.

Can you be happy without believing?

Also at The Dish, Sully continues to explore that question, and cites some thought-provoking essays on both sides.

Is our moral judgment affected by the language we speak?

It looks that way. Fascinating, or unsettling, research from the NYT:

In a study recently published in the journal PloS One, our two research teams, working independently, discovered that when people are presented with the trolley problem in a foreign language, they are more willing to sacrifice one person to save five than when they are presented with the dilemma in their native tongue.

Finally, our Obit of the Day and Tweet of the Day …

All in one; H/T to CNN’s Dan Burke:

Stay tuned to this space for the latest developments throughout the day.

David Gibson


Categories: Culture

David Gibson

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

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