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Not all saints were sane

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Iurodstvo is the Russian word for the idea of “holy foolishness.” It’s a form of asceticism that has been practiced within the Russian Orthodox church for centuries.

Its practitioners feign madness, Marx brothers-like behavior, in order to provide the public with spiritual guidance. The aim too is to avoid praise and acclaim for perceived holiness. It’s a radical form of humility as well.

Vatican asks victims to see church as ally in fighting abuse

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After roughly sixty victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in various nations held a vigil Sunday near St. Peter’s Square, a delegation of the victims met with Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson. Lombardi gave the victims a letter pledging to work towards “solidarity and consensus between us.”

“Of course, we must continue to do more. And your cry today is an encouragement to do more,” Lombardi wrote.

Charges dropped, anti-nuclear activists claim victory

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Success, it seems, is sometimes measured by what you don't have to put up with.

In a move that could be interpreted either as an indication of the full workload for local prosecutors or as a victory for activists, seven anti-nuclear organizers here were surprised Wednesday by a notification that a pending court case against them had been dropped for a lack of evidence.

The seven had been charged with disorderly conduct for a Sept 8. act of civil disobedience at the construction site of a major new nuclear weapons production facility being built here.

The new facility, known as the Kansas City Plant, which will make nonnuclear parts for nuclear weapons, is set to be the nation’s first new major nuclear weapons production facility in 32 years.

During the action the activists blocked access to the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new plant. They stepped in front of buses carrying local, state and federal officials and halted the flow of people into the ceremony for a few minutes.

Scientists estimate tens of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy

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Nobody has seen them yet, but scientists now speculate that there are tens of billions of planets the general size and mass of Earth in the Milky Way galaxy alone - a startling conclusion based on four years of viewing a small section of the nighttime sky.

The estimate, made by astronomers Andrew Howard and Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley, flows from the simple premise that the number of small but detectable exoplanets - planets outside Earth's solar system - is substantially larger than the number of big exoplanets in distant solar systems.

In a paper released Oct. 28 by the journal Science, the two report that based on this galactic preferential option for smaller planets, they can predict that almost one quarter of the stars similar to our sun will have Earth-size planets orbiting them.

"This is the first estimate based on actual measurements of the fraction of stars that have Earth-size planets," said Marcy, who did his observing with Howard at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

Deconstructing the Tea Party

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John Gehring over at Bold Faith Type, makes a "contribution to the burgeoning field of Tea Partyology."

This confirms my sense that the Tea Party movement is less a defined political movement wedded to specific policy goals than a loose nexus for the inchoate anger and sense of cultural loss that a certain segment of America (largely white, older and male) is now experiencing. "Take Our Country Back" and "Restoring Honor" are Tea Party mantras that reflect a particular response to a changing nation that is less white, less traditionally religious and losing global preeminence.

Thinking globally about sex abuse crisis

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

Here’s an object lesson in what it means to think globally about issues facing the Catholic church, in this case the sexual abuse crisis.

Since the beginning of the most recent round of the crisis, which erupted in Ireland and then spread across Europe, critics have wondered why Pope Benedict XVI has not imposed a uniform global policy of cooperation with the police. In the United States and Europe, where one can generally assume a level playing field and the integrity of police and prosecutors, such a policy seems a no-brainer, and the pope’s failure to impose it across the board has often been touted as evidence of foot-dragging and denial.

Yet there are parts of the world where the wisdom of such a policy is by no means so clear. The state of Karnataka, in South West India, offers the most recent example.

There, in the Bangalore suburb of Whitefield, a Holy Cross brother was beaten on Oct. 23 by a mob of some 300 people, with local TV stations filming the assault and police standing by and allowing it to happen. Many in the mob were reportedly wearing the saffron scarf indicative of Hindu nationalist sentiment.

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