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Reporting and analysis of the religious forces that drive and influence global news. 

Minnesota Public Radio report on church convulsions links to Louisiana, Rome

The complex story unveiled by MPR this week offers a clear look of Catholic clergy coverup of sex abuse.
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Pope Francis greets children at the end of his general audience at St Peter's Square on June 25, 2014 at the Vatican. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

As Pope Francis’s confessional apology to clergy abuse survivors in Rome made global headlines in early July, Minnesota Public Radio was reporting on a scandal surrounding St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt.

The pope’s remark, “All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable,” soon receded from the 24/7 news cycle.


Why justice can't be a precondition for Israel-Palestine peace

Analysis: The rage and indignation on both sides of the conflict — many of us not directly involved — is largely missing a rational understanding of the situation.
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Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian (C) during clashes following traditional Friday prayers near the Old City in East Jerusalem on July 25, 2014. Israeli security forces are on heightened alert after a Palestinian man was shot dead during a huge protest in the West Bank against Israel's military offensive in Gaza. Palestinian factions in the West Bank declared a 'Day of Rage' after the previous night's clashes around the West Bank and in some sectors of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

The days of the Gaza operation drag on. The emotion on social networks is undiminished. Friends’ consciences on both sides of the conflict are boiling and they must share. The world must know!

The opening stanza from the poem, “Could Have,” by Poland’s Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska, speaks to the situation:

“It could have happened.

It had to happen.

It happened earlier. Later.

Nearer. Farther off.

It happened, but not to you.”


Underage Moroccan girls married off with judges' consent

The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.
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The daughter of Rachida Diani, who helps her mom around the house in Rabat, Morocco. She is bubbly, but shy. Unlike her brothers, she rarely leaves the house to play outside. (William Matsuda/GlobalPost)
The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.

Legal restrictions lead to 'DIY abortions' in Texas and Argentina alike

As Texas limits access to abortion, it is walking down a road well-tread by Argentina, where abortion is illegal but half a million women still terminate their pregnancies each year.
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Supporters of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions rally at the Texas State Capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. It was the first day of a second legislative special session called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pass an restrictive abortion law through the Texas legislature. The first attempt was defeated after opponents of the law were able to stall the vote until after first special session had ended. (Erich Schlegel/AFP/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, Texas and BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The plane descended and just beyond the city limits, the clouds gave way to a view of the expansive territory Texas is known for. We had landed, the flight attendant announced, in Houston — the most populous city in the Lone Star State.

We were on our way from Boston to Buenos Aires, where we will be reporting for the next two weeks on the country’s high abortion rate and the legal and religious institutions that surround it.


It's time for Iraqis to look at the failures of our own government

Commentary: No one will admit the mistakes they’ve made — they just keep on making them. Airing the dirty laundry would mean admitting to and exposing the wrong and asking for help to clean up the mess.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

Editor’s Note: Jamil Ali is a pseudonym for the writer of this op-ed, who has asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. He is a former activist. 


Church sex abuse survivors seek more than an apology from Pope Francis

Francis met with a small group of abuse survivors Monday, which was appreciated but no substitute for a true process of justice, advocates say.
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Pope Francis looks on during a meeting with youth of the diocese on July 5, 2014 in Castelpetroso, southern Italy, as part of his one-day visit in the Molise region. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis said the clergy abuse crisis was “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained” Monday in Rome.

He also used some of his most emotional language yet in a Vatican-distributed video of his sermon at a private Mass for six adults victimized by priests as children.

The survivors, two each from Ireland, Germany and the UK, spent the weekend at Santa Marta, the Vatican residential hotel where the pope lives. It typically houses visiting churchmen.


As Egypt targets Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia follows suit

The Saudi government now considers the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, a sharp break with past policy.
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Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood movement shout slogans during a rally to mark the first anniversary of the military ouster of president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2014 in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian police swiftly quashed Islamist protests firing tear gas and arresting dozens of demonstrators, as the protests are seen as a test of the Islamists' strength, with the Muslim Brotherhood-led Anti Coup Alliance having issued an aggressive rallying cry demanding a 'day of anger' to mark Morsi's overthrow. (Khaled Kamel/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's note: Saudi Arabia’s religious landscape has sometimes appeared as a monochromatic terrain of pious Muslims following an intolerant, puritanical version of Islam. If that picture was ever accurate, it is certainly not today.


Hobby Lobby ruling inspired 100 more cases in less than a week

The Supreme Court said it is "highly unlikely" that more corporations will go after religious freedom claims, but already groups taking up suits and looking to get out of a pending LGBT discrimination order.
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Sister Caroline (L) attends a rally with other supporters of religious freedom to praise the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby, contraception coverage requirement case on June 30, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, which operates a chain of arts-and-craft stores, challenged the provision and the high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It’s been just days since the Supreme Court granted religious exemption to Hobby Lobby and other closely held corporations, ruling that the insurance they provide their employees does not have to cover contraception, as stipulated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and already Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s prophetic dissent is manifest.

Following a blistering and sometimes-sarcastic 35 pages of opposition, Ginsburg, perhaps now somewhat famously, concluded: “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Indeed, it seems as though it has.

While President Obama vowed to restore the lost coverage to women, a host of other religious groups and institutions have decided not to wait around and see what kinds of new regulations might come into play.

According to the Becket Fund, the religious law firm that represented Hobby Lobby, there are already 49 pending federal cases in which for-profit companies have claimed “religious objections to the ACA and another 51 that involve nonprofit organizations.”

Additionally, the Supreme Court has ordered three appeals courts to reevaluate challenges made by companies that also objected to the contraception stipulation, but which objected to all contraceptive methods and not just the four addressed in the Hobby Lobby case.


Pope Francis and the language of hope

Pope Francis excommunicated a mafia group that controls 8-10 percent of Italian GDP. But without a formal document, it's up to parish priests to deny communion to known mobsters – at their own risk.
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Pope Francis delivers his homily as he celebrates mass in Sibari, in the southern Italian region of Calabria at the end of his one-day visit in the city, on June 21, 2014. Pope Francis launched a scathing attack on the mafia Sunday during a trip to the heartland of one of the most feared syndicates, and said no more children should die at the hands of organized crime. (VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

In the mafia-infested, southern Italian region of Calabria, Pope Francis’s moral rhetoric took another long stride the weekend before last. Vatican TV footage showed the pope in white, reading his text, while 250,000 people standing in the heat at Piana di Sibari raised applause as his gently rhythmic voice went stern, singling out the ‘Ndrangheta, a regional crime syndicate:


Young Saudis embrace internet satire, rejecting ultraconservative Islam

Part Four: Saudi's web-savvy youth, still highly devout, are reconsidering what Islam means in their social lives.
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The "No Woman, No Drive” video by Telfaz11 starts with Hisham Fageeh telling viewers that he’ll perform his version of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” song “with words relevant to my culture but without musical instruments.” The parody of Saudi Arabia's ban on female drivers has had more than 11 million views. (Screen Shot/YouTube)

Editor's note: Saudi Arabia’s religious landscape has sometimes appeared as a monochromatic terrain of pious Muslims following an intolerant, puritanical version of Islam. If that picture was ever accurate, it is certainly not today.