1. A Promise the GOP Can Still Keep.

By John McCormack, The Weekly Standard, August 14, 2017

Now that Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House, budget reconciliation remains the only realistic hope for avoiding a Democratic filibuster of any measure to defund Planned Parenthood. “We think reconciliation is the tool because that gets it into law,” House speaker Paul Ryan said about the effort to defund Planned Parenthood this spring. “Reconciliation is the way to go.” But the budget reconciliation bill was stopped in its tracks on July 28 when John McCain gave his decisive thumbs-down, killing the so-called “skinny repeal” that would have made a handful of changes to Obamacare and redirected Planned Parenthood’s federal funding to community health centers.

If McCain and the rest of his pro-life colleagues want to honor their commitment to the dignity of all human beings and cut off federal subsidies to abortionists like Planned Parenthood, they will only be able to do so through a budget reconciliation bill that can’t be filibustered.

Though the “skinny repeal” measure died, the reconciliation bill is still viable—but only for a limited period of time. Legislative experts aren’t entirely in agreement on when the reconciliation bill expires, but many have suggested it will die at the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

There’s no reason for Republicans to let the fiscal year end without passing a reconciliation bill that keeps their pro-life promises. They can defund abortion providers and attempt to cut off subsidies to Obamacare plans that cover elective abortion (though it’s unclear the Senate parliamentarian will permit the latter measure). The bill would need to achieve a minimal amount of deficit reduction required by reconciliation rules, but it wouldn’t necessarily need to include big changes to Obamacare. Most of the Obamacare provisions in the “skinny repeal” bill—increasing Health Savings Accounts limits, suspending the employer mandate and the medical device tax, expanding the state waivers program—were largely uncontroversial and could be enacted without disrupting the health care system. The only controversial piece of the so-called skinny bill was the repeal of the individual mandate. Absent other regulatory changes, that last provision would lead to further market destabilization, and there can be good-faith disagreements about whether such destabilization is unacceptable or a price worth paying to free people from an unconstitutional and burdensome mandate.

But there is no good reason for Republicans to break their pro-life promises. If they can’t reach consensus on Obamacare by the end of September, they needn’t let the budget reconciliation bill go to waste. They can address Obamacare through regular order and a bipartisan bill, or they could write a new Republican-only reconciliation bill for next year. But at the very least Republicans ought to honor their commitment to the right to life this year. They don’t need to shut down the government to do it, they just need to pass a bill.


2. Brown says no to pro-choice litmus test. 

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, August 7, 2017, Pg. A2

California Gov. Jerry Brown said Sunday that the Democratic Party should be open to abortion foes, dealing another blow to the pro-choice movement as it struggles to hold the line against pro-life candidates.

“I’d say, look, even on the abortion issue, it wasn’t very long ago that a number of Catholic Democrats were opposed to abortion,” Mr. Brown said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “So the fact that somebody believes today what most people believed 50 years ago should not be the basis for their exclusion.”

Rep. Ben Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, touched off an uproar last week when he said that “there is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” referring to abortion.

“As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America,” the New Mexico Democrat told the Hill.

Pro-choice leaders quickly denounced his comments and characterized any move toward opening the tent to pro-life candidates as a betrayal.

Thirteen progressive groups, led by NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement of principles saying that they were willing to share the party with “self-identified ‘pro-life’ legislators up until the moment they seek to impose those personal views on their constituents and the country.”


3. On the death of a bishop and truths about “the bishops”. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, August 6, 2017

The August 3 death of Bishop Giovanni Benedetti, who led the Diocese of Foligno in Italy from 1976 to 1992, probably won’t attract much comment anywhere outside his native region of Umbria. That’s too bad, because his life illustrates several truths about Catholic bishops that often go unacknowledged or under-appreciated.

First of all, Benedetti was an accomplished theologian. He was a passionate disciple of Henri de Lubac, the great French Jesuit who was among the key figures at the Second Vatican Council, and Benedetti played an important role in making Lubac’s thought known in Italy.

Despite his erudition, Benedetti had a strong common touch. As a local bishop, he emphasized being close to his people.

In Catholic parlance, we often speak of “the bishops” as if they’re one indistinguishable aggregation: “The bishops are weak,” “the bishops are out of touch,” “the bishops are an old boy’s club,” and so on. As novelist John Sandford memorably put it, what makes Catholics different from holy rollers is that we don’t scream about Jesus, we scream about the bishops.
In reality, anyone who actually knows Catholic life realizes that the idea of “the bishops” is a myth, because there’s no such animal. Bishops don’t all think alike, they don’t all act alike, and they don’t all live and die alike.

Strikingly often, they’re decent men trying their best, by their lights and experience, to serve the Church and the world of their time. Most may not attract a lot of fanfare, they may not be publicly inspirational figures or visionaries, and God knows they don’t always get things right, but, like Giovanni Benedetti, our lives are generally richer for having known them.

So, Monsignore Giovanni, requiescat in pace … and, if you’re listening, throw in a good word for me with Beata Angela, will you?


4. Venezuela’s Maduro says line of Vatican’s top diplomat is ‘regrettable’.

By Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, August 5, 2017

A day after the Vatican’s Secretary of State called on the Venezuelan government to suspend a Constituent Assembly to re-write its Constitution, President Nicolás Maduro told  Argentine radio that he thinks Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s position on the country is “regrettable.”
According to Maduro, Pope Francis’s right hand man has succumbed to the “violence against the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuela’s legitimate government and Venezuela as a whole.

“The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the country has traditionally been allied to the sectors that held onto powers and privileges, and destroyed the country for almost a century,” Maduro said, speaking to little-known Radio Rebelde of Buenos Aires.

The bishops have openly opposed the assembly, calling it “illegal and invalid,” claiming it’s against the best interests of the Venezuelan people.

Maduro also said that “one thing is us, Catholics, the people of Christ; another is the trajectory of Pope Francis as a defendant of the peoples with his humility, and another very different one is the structure of the Vatican’s Secretary of State, the bureaucracy.”

The assembly, which opened its sessions yesterday after it was passed through a fraudulent vote on Sunday, is expected to give Maduro the power to rule through decree, virtually turning his government into a dictatorship. During its opening session, the assembly voted to sack top prosecutor Luisa Ortega.