1. People with Down syndrome are happy. Why are we trying to eliminate them?

By Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life, The Washington Post, August 24, 2017, 6:00 AM

Last week, CBS News shocked the world with its report claiming that Iceland was on the verge of “eradicating” Down syndrome. Upon a closer look, it is clear that Iceland is not eliminating Down syndrome through positive preventive methods or therapeutic treatments. Rather, it is eliminating an entire population of people via abortion.

In the United States, about 19 percent of pregnancies are terminated overall. So why are babies with Down syndrome so disproportionately targeted for abortion? For many, it’s about quality of life: Parents sadly believe that a family member with a disability or Down syndrome translates into an unfulfilled or bad life. 

In 2011, Brian Skotko, a Harvard-trained physician and researcher, published a groundbreaking survey, “Self-Perceptions from People With Down Syndrome.” His work revealed that people with Down syndrome have a very high level of satisfaction in their lives and are generally very happy people. Similarly, family members of people with Down syndrome also rank high in levels of personal fulfillment. So not only are people with Down syndrome happy, but they also bring a great deal of happiness to their friends and family members. Indeed, the survey found that 88 percent of siblings of children with Down syndrome feel that they are better people for having had their brothers and sisters; and other studies have found that children with Down syndrome have strong adaptive skills and that their parents tend to divorce less than the parents of children without Down syndrome.

What parents really need during this sensitive time is support, encouragement and real, scientifically valid information. There are  wonderful groups working to help make this a reality, like Jack’s Baskets, founded by Carissa Carroll and inspired by her Down son, Jack. The organization seeks to counter some of the negativity and celebrate children born with Down syndrome by congratulating the family with gifts, support and resources.

These are the types of stories CBS and other networks should be highlighting: ones that will help families find inspiration in celebrating the dignity and joy of their Down children and affirmation in knowing that every life is a precious gift, regardless of the obstacles it may face.


2. Groups: Justice court filings defy Trump promises on religious freedom.

By John Solomon, The Hill, August 23, 2017, 6:51 PM

With national television cameras rolling, President Trump surrounded himself in the Rose Garden this spring with faith leaders as he signed an executive order protecting Catholic employers from Obamacare’s birth control mandate and protecting clergy from IRS punishment if they gave political speeches from the pulpit.

But three months later, lawyers working for Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department have filed legal briefs that religious liberty advocates say undercut or delay Trump’s order.

At issue are two legal provisions: the Johnson Amendment that prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from engaging in direct political activities; and the ObamaCare mandate requiring employers to provide health plans that covered the costs of birth control.

Justice officials defend the legal briefs.

Neither the contraception mandate nor the Johnson Amendment is being enforced, they say, but the government is still required to defend them from legal challenges.

In the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Justice Department lawyers in late July asked judges to delay a decision on the constitutionality of the mandate.

The court has already imposed an injunction forbidding the government from enforcing the mandate. Catholic groups have been waiting three years for a decision, as the Justice Department under Obama and now Trump asked for delays in order to promulgate a new rule on the mandate.

The Catholic groups urged the Trump administration to end the delays, accept a permanent injuction and take a position against the contraception mandate that was consistent with Trump’s May order. Instead they were infuriated when Justice filed its brief July 31 asking for another delay to give the administration more time to devise a new rule.

The Becket Fund’s Alvarado said that religious groups were promised an end to both the Johnson Amendment and the ObamaCare mandate months ago, and it is disappointing that affected people like the Little Sisters of the Poor — Catholic nuns who fought the contraception mandate and met with Trump in the Rose Garden — still have not been given the relief that was promised.

The Catholic Benefits Association, which represents more than 1,000 Catholic employers who oppose the birth control insurance mandate, wrote a letter last week urging Trump to intervene with the Justice Department to get lawyers to reverse their position in the case.

“Until the DOJ’s appeal ends, or the injunction becomes permanent, or a new regulation is issued, CBA members will continue to be potentially subject to $6 billion in accumulated fines,” Wilson wrote Trump. “We are asking for your personal intervention to effect the final steps in ending this six-year assault on America’s religious freedom.”


3. Pope Due to Visit Myanmar, Bangladesh, Before Christmas.

By Reuters, August 23, 2017, 11:36 AM

Pope Francis will almost certainly visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, two countries caught up in a crisis over the Rohingya Muslim minority, before the end of the year, a senior Vatican source said on Wednesday.

The trip, which would be the first time any pope has visited Myanmar, is due to be officially announced before the end of August, added the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The trip is likely to take place between the end of November and the start of December but definitely before Christmas, the source added. The Vatican has so far officially said only that a trip to both countries is “under study”.

Myanmar is facing international scrutiny over atrocities against its Rohingya community. In February, Francis issued a stinging criticism of their treatment, saying they had been tortured and killed simply because they wanted to live their culture and Muslim faith.


4. U.S. bishops establish committee to tackle racism.

By Christopher White, Crux, August 23, 2017

In the wake of a deadly white supremacist march on Charlottesville, Virginia, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced that it had established an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.

The announcement on Wednesday comes just over a week after the events of Charlottesville, when neo-Nazis, KKK members, and adherents to the “alt-right” marched in violent, racially charged protests. One person was killed when a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

The Committee was initiated by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and will “focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our Church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.

The committee will be chaired by Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio, and anticipates releasing a new pastoral letter on racism in 2018.


5. Vatican Building Diplomatic Bridges With Russia: Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin met Aug. 23 with President Putin and Aug. 22 with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. 

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, August 23, 2017

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a positive and respectful meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, according to the Vatican.

In a statement issued after the Aug. 23 encounter with Putin, the Vatican said the meeting, which took place in the presidential residence, “lasted for about an hour and was held in a positive, friendly, respectful climate of reciprocal listening,” during which they discussed “various subjects related to international and bilateral relations.”

The meeting came at the end of a four-day visit to Russia by the Vatican’s top diplomat, the first by a Vatican secretary of state in 18 years and Cardinal Parolin’s first trip to the country.

Putin told Cardinal Parolin that he values the “trusting and constructive” dialogue between Russia and the Holy See and that Russia is consistently working to “implement the agreements” reached between the two parties.

Putin also said there was “no doubt” that the “common humanitarian values” held by the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church “form the foundation for relations between the two Churches and between Russia as a state and the Vatican.”