What the Frack? Why is the Pope Talking About Environmental Issues?

Earlier this week, Pope Francis met with environmental activists from Argentina to discuss concerns about water contamination and hydraulic fracturing — that’s “fracking” for short. After the meeting, the pontiff appeared in photographs with two of his guests, Juan Pablo Olsson and Fernando “Pino” Solanas, displaying T-shirts bearing Spanish-language anti-fracking slogans. The Pope mentioned that he has begun work on an encyclical exploring the connections between “nature, humans, and environmental pollution.”

For those who are accustomed to papal pronouncements of a different sort, this sudden eco-consciousness is a bit perplexing. Is the Vatican going green?

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Catholic Bishop Plans to Perform ‘Exorcism’ After Illinois Governor Signs Gay Marriage Bill Into Law

On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 20th, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign a law granting same-sex couples the right to legally marry.

So naturally, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki has made plans to lead a rite of exorcism “in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage” just after the legislation is enacted. Clergy and laity alike are invited to participate.

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Alberta School Now Prayer-Free… but for How Long?

In a controversial and not very popular decision, Christian prayer has been kicked out of a public school.

Students at Dr. Hamman School in Taber, Alberta, are no longer expected to recite the Lord’s Prayer along with the school’s P.A. system as part of the daily opening exercises. Dr. Hamman School was the last remaining public school in Taber where prayer was still part of the morning routine.

The prayer was challenged by Melanie Bell, whose two sons attend Dr. Hamman School and had come home in tears more than once when school officials punished them for failing to participate in the class prayer, which the children had not learned to recite at home.

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Pope Emeritus Benedict on Sexual Abuse: ‘I Never Tried to Cover Up These Things’

I guess writing for La Repubblica has become the trendy thing to do among the papal set lately.

Just a couple weeks after Pope Francis’ published response to the paper’s open letter made headlines, his predecessor (Benedict, now called Pope Emeritus) has written a letter for the same publication, in which he takes on critiques from Italian mathematician and atheist Piergiorgio Odifreddi — including, naturally, criticism of the Catholic Church’s handling of clerics’ sexual abuse of minors.

On that subject, Benedict defended the Church, insisting that the percentage of abuser priests is comparable to the percentage of abusers in any other profession. (Though you really would think a divinely-led institution could manage a little better than the rest, no?)

Perhaps in reaction to speculation that he retired in a bid to evade responsibility for abuse cover-ups, a meme that ran rampant around the time of his resignation, Benedict made a point of explaining that he had nothing to do with concealing sexual abuse in the priestly ranks:

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Quebec Politician Ousted for Challenging Christian-Centric Charter of Values

As Quebec faces criticism within the province and throughout English-speaking Canada over their Christian-centric Charter of Values, the federal Bloc Quebecois has made it clear that they stand with their provincial-level counterparts by forcing a Member of Parliament out of the party.

Maria Mourani, former member of the federal Bloc Quebecois, has released a statement (en français) announcing that she has broken ties with the Bloc Quebecois, having elected to quit the party altogether rather than step down from her position as a caucus member. She will continue to represent her Montreal riding of Ahuntsic as an Independent until the end of her term in 2015.

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