Weekly roundup: Audra McDonald, Duck Dynasty, and Mark Wahlberg

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The “days until Christmas” countdown is into single digits. With Christmas shopping and baking and candlestick-making, it can be a tall order to keep up with the news too. So we’re here to give you a hand. This is your weekly roundup.

There was a bit of controversy surrounding NBC’s live production of The Sound of Music LIVE!, which ran on December 6. Audra McDonald played Mother Abbess, and apparently some viewers thought it inappropriate to cast an African American as an Austrian abbess. But Shannon Dee Williams over at Religion Dispatches put the nay-sayers in their place, giving a history of black nuns in Europe as early as the 17th century.

In other entertainment news, Phil Robertson, star of popular reality series Duck Dynasty has been suspended indefinitely from the show due to remarks that he made in a recent interview with GQ magazine. There has been some conservative backlash against A&E for the suspension.

Marky Mark (also known as Mark Wahlberg) told Parade magazine that his Catholic faith is the most important thing in his life. In fact, on Sunday mornings he often goes to church TWICE!

Catholic University of America is in some hot water for accepting a large donation from Charles Koch. Dozens of Catholic leaders have been protesting the decision because the Koch brothers’ libertarian positions run counter to Catholic social teaching. David Gibson from Religion News Service asks whether free-market Catholics are keeping up with Pope Francis.

The death penalty continues to decline. Is there a societal shift on the horizon? Caitlyn Schmid gives a year-end-review of capital punishment in the U.S.

New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize same-sex marriage this week, when the New Mexico Supreme Court issued a ruling that a ban of same-sex marriage would be unconstitutional.

And now for the Papal rapid-fire roundup:

Pope Francis has been in the news a lot this year.

A lot a lot.

No, really. A lot.

He’s requiring the Curia to hear confessions.

And outsourcing Vatican financial reform.

But he might get some pushback.

He supports breastfeeding! In public!

He named a new saint. (A fellow Jesuit!)

He’s not a Marxist (but he has some Marxist friends.)