Weekend Coffee: February 10


• No matter how many compromises the Obama administration offers, Catholic bishops just don’t want people to have access to birth control.

Beliefnet is afraid of feminism, telling liberal Christian pastor and blogger Kristine Holmgren that she wasn’t allowed to use the word in her header or her blog (at which point, to her credit, she broke ties with them).

• Astrophysicists have calculated, on the basis of data from NASA’s Kepler telescope, that six percent of red dwarf stars in our galaxy could have habitable Earth-sized planets. There are 75 billion such stars in the Milky Way.

• Two granddaughters of Fred Phelps, Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper, have quit the hatemongering Westboro Baptist Church.

• After floating the possibility of lifting their blanket ban on gay scouts, the Boy Scouts have backtracked under fierce pressure from the churches that sponsor them.

• A report released this week finds that the Irish government had significant complicity in the Magdalene laundries, Catholic-run institutions that were half prison and half workhouse, where “impure” women were consigned to live in slavery. In response, the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, issued a half-hearted non-apology that was widely scorned by the survivors.

• A Phillippine street artist and activist, Carlos Celdran, was sentenced to 13 months in prison for interrupting a Mass to protest the Catholic church’s political activity, under a law which bans acts “offensive to the feelings of the faithful”. He told his friends, “It was worth every moment.”

• Internal files released by the Los Angeles Times show how Cardinal Roger Mahony and other high-ranking church officials conspired to cover up evidence of priests who molested children, including by sending them out of state for therapy to evade a California law requiring therapists to report child abuse to the police.

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