1. House committee moves to block D.C.’s assisted-suicide law. 

By Peter Jamison and Aaron C. Davis, The Washington Post, February 14, 2017, Pg. B1

In a rare step, a House committee voted 22 to 14 Monday night to block a law that would make assisted suicide legal in the District, opening a new front in the conflict between congressional Republicans and the overwhelmingly Democratic capital city.

It was one of only a handful of times in the four-decade history of D.C. home rule that members of Congress have tried to use their constitutional power to overturn a city law, and the first attempt since the GOP took control of both Congress and the White House in January.

The vote was largely along party lines, as 21 Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, voted yes while 13 Democrats and one Republican, Darrell Issa of California, voted no.

Despite the committee vote, it is not clear whether Congress will be able to overturn the D.C. law. Both the full House and Senate would have to vote to block it by Friday, when a 30-day window for congressional review expires, according to D.C. officials. Some say such quick action is particularly unlikely in the Senate, where Democrats could put up a protracted fight.


2. Portugal presents evidence for Fatima nun’s beatification. 

By Associated Press, February 13, 2017, 1:27 PM

Catholic Church officials in Portugal said Monday they have assembled more than 15,000 pages of testimony and documentation to support the proposed beatification of Sister Lucia, one of three shepherd children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in the town of Fatima 100 years ago.

The officials said the case for Sister Lucia’s beatification — the first step toward canonization as a saint — will be sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in line with church procedure.

Pope Francis is to visit Fatima, a small farming town dominated by the Catholic shrine erected to honor the apparitions, on May 12-13 for the pilgrimage marking their centenary. He will be the fourth pontiff to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.


3. World Cardinals Back Pope After Anonymous Attacks by Conservatives, By Reuters, February 13, 2017, 11:21 AM

Senior Roman Catholic cardinals from the around the world defended Pope Francis on Monday against a spate of recent attacks from conservatives challenging his authority.

In an unusual move, nine cardinals in a group advising Francis on Vatican economic and structural reforms issued a statement expressing “full support for the pope’s work” and guaranteeing “full backing for him and his teachings”.

The statement was unusual in that the cardinals – from Italy, Chile, Austria, India, Germany, Congo, the United States, Australia and Honduras – customarily issue statements only at the end of their meetings, which are held four times a year.

The statement said the cardinals expressed their solidarity with the pope “in light of recent events,” which Vatican sources said was a clear reference to the attacks.


4. After Mexico City: Families in developing countries are still at risk even after Trump reinstated the ban on tax dollars supporting abortion overseas. 

By Grazie Pozo Christie, U.S. News & World Report, February 13, 2017, 12:45 PM

A new global initiative is being launched in Brussels to make up the $600 million shortfall that organizations like International Planned Parenthood will face over the next four years in their work to perform and/or promote abortion overseas.

It would be a mistake to think that women in the developing world are all sighing with relief. Programs that promote abortion and some modern social policies affecting the family are viewed by many in poor countries as an attempt to change their native cultures and societies – as an imposition of foreign values. 

Large portions of the developing world have abortion regulations that reflect the indigenous people’s humanistic principles regarding the dignity of life. Unlike the United States, where abortion is essentially legal through all nine months of pregnancy, countries like Honduras, Suriname, Nigeria, Senegal and Guatemala do not permit the procedure except to save the mother’s life. 

The poor of these countries value their children, perhaps more than the rich can understand. In a world where the government safety net is nonexistent, children and family may be the only things many can depend on. … American society will be a disaster for them. The family unit is too crucial for their happiness and survival and the abyss of destitution is too near.

Thanks to the reinstatement of the Mexico City policy, those noble people will no longer be complicit in the ideological colonization of poorer, more vulnerable countries. But the citizens of Sweden, Denmark, Canada and several other nations are being roped in to replace them. To make the cultures of developing nations more closely resemble ours may seem a laudable aim, but it is deeply insensitive. Damaging the family unit promises to increase the difficulties of the poor. And eliminating the poor through abortion is just not an ethical solution.


5. Doctors who object to abortion need more legal protections, bishops say. 

By Catholic News Agency, February 13, 2017, 6:03 PM

Objectors to abortion need stronger conscience protections in federal law, the U.S. bishops have said in a letter to Congress supporting a bill being considered by Congress.

“While existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said. They said the proposed Conscience Protection Act of 2017 is essential to protect health care providers’ fundamental rights and ensure that they are not “forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop William Lori, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom, backed the legislation in a Feb. 8 letter to Congress.

The conscience protection bill is sponsored by U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).

Lankford said the legislation “will ensure that health providers have the ability to defend their religious or moral beliefs without fear of discrimination.”

The Conscience Protection Act of 2017 would provide another remedy for those coerced into performing abortions or providing coverage for abortions in health plans, backers of the bill said.


6. A dose of reality about the Steve Bannon/Cardinal Burke axis.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 13, 2017

Everyone loves a conspiracy theory, and of late English-language media have been giddy with speculation that Trump mastermind Steve Bannon and American Cardinal Raymond Burke, seen as a leading traditionalist critic of Pope Francis, have formed a pact to “legitimize extremist forces that want to bring down Western liberal democracy,” in the words of the Washington Post.

Five such points seem worth making.

First, so far as we know, there has only been one face-to-face encounter between Bannon and Burke, which came before Trump’s election and even before the release of Pope Francis’s controversial document Amoris Laetitia … in other words, before the raw material of any potential alliance was actually in place.

Second, there’s no clear evidence Bannon and Burke have become BFFs, beyond a suggestion from Ben Harnwell, the Rome-based head of a conservative group called the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, that they’ve kept in contact.

Third, there’s no evidence of Bannon having any close Roman contacts beyond Harnwell and Thomas Williams, a theologian and ex-Legionaries of Christ priest who writes for Breitbart. (Williams also has contributed to Crux.)

Fourth, Bannon and Burke are different personalities with distinctly different agendas.

For one thing, Burke’s idée fixe at the moment is defending classic Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, an issue brought to the fore by Amoris Laetitia and its cautious opening on Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Given that Bannon has been divorced and remarried three times, as has his boss, Burke probably wouldn’t regard them as his most natural partners.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, whatever else you want to say about Bannon, he’s not a political idiot. If his goal truly were to influence the direction of the Francis papacy somehow, away from potential conflict zones with his boss, he surely would have to know that Burke is hardly positioned to be helpful.

What’s probably going on is this: Bannon is a ferocious cultural conservative, and thus when he was in Rome he reached out to people he suspected might be friendly. Without any need for coordination, in the meantime, he’s continued to pursue his agenda, and Catholics such as Burke have pursued theirs.


7. White House Strategists Are People, Too. 

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, February 13, 2017, 4:00 AM

I used to host a radio show with Steve Bannon. Yes, that Steve Bannon.

It was a Catholic radio show, and we talked about life and faith and how you integrate the two. 

“Surreal” would seem the appropriate word as I’ve watched an array of successive news stories and commentaries about Bannon, who has become the Darth Vader figure of the Donald Trump administration. 

The most pernicious aspect of the story line, after months of being accused of all sorts of hate, is the idea the New York Times recently presented that Bannon is coordinating with conservatives in the Vatican to thwart Pope Francis. 

To take an honest look at both the American political scene and the Catholic Church is to see decades of disarray: scandal, confusion, something less than courage and clarity. The good works and solid faith and stories of self-sacrificial love tend to get overwhelmingly buried when there are news stories that add to people’s discouragement.

When I sat down in the radio studio with Bannon, we would talk about some of the hows of living the Catholic faith in the world as it is today. … As commenters have noted, Bannon is concerned about a radical secularism that has become a rival religion.

Life and the dynamics of American politics and whatever the Trump administration is up to — as a lot of people who never worked in the White House before are getting their sea legs — is more complicated than my memory of pleasant radio-studio hours, I certainly know. But there may also be imperfect people trying to make things work. And disagree with them and protest when appropriate, but also consider saying a prayer for the common good and for the human beings at the center of news stories and in the halls of power.