1. GOP moves to protect pro-life conscience rights. 

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, February 7, 2017, Pg. A1

Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to protect the conscience rights of pro-life health care entities and employers from the coercive power of federal and state governments compelling them to participate in abortions.

The Conscience Protection Act of 2017, introduced last month by Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, would add an additional layer of protection to ensure the government cannot discriminate against organizations because of their pro-life beliefs.

Mr. Fortenberry said the Conscience Protection Act will “enable health care professionals and organizations to serve by their core convictions without coercion.”

The Conscience Protection Act would also provide relief to Catholic hospitals being sued for declining to perform abortions, Mr. Theriot said, pointing to the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against Trinity Health Corp., a Catholic organization that owns and operates more than 80 hospitals across the country.

“It certainly would apply to the individual physicians or the Catholic hospitals that, for instance, the ACLU is suing,” Mr. Theriot said. “They sued Trinity hospital corporation in Michigan, which has about 93 hospitals around the region, and tried to force them to perform surgical abortions.”


2. For Moderate Democrats, Judge Gorsuch Is as Good as It Gets. 

By E. Donald Elliott, The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2017, Pg. A15, Opinion

Judge Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy isn’t mine. He believes that the Constitution’s meaning is fixed, that whatever the words signified in the era of the Founders is what they still express today. My view, which aligns more closely with that of Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, is that judges must respect the Constitution’s text and history but may also interpret them to fit the changing times.

But among judicial conservatives, Judge Gorsuch is as good as it possibly gets. I have known him personally for more than a decade, since he was an attorney in the Justice Department. He is a brilliant mind, but more important he is a kind, sensitive and caring human being. Judge Gorsuch tries very hard to get the law right. He is not an ideologue, not the kind to always rule in favor of businesses or against the government. Instead, he follows the law as best as he can wherever it might lead.

The sensible route for moderate Democrats is clear: They should cross the aisle and join Republicans to cut off a filibuster, allowing an up-or-down vote by a simple majority on Judge Gorsuch. That will prevent Republicans from invoking the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules and abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. One way or another, Judge Gorsuch is going to be confirmed. The question is how much damage will be done to the country first.

Mr. Elliott is an adjunct professor at Yale Law School.


3. China seeks to show pope, world its organ program reforms. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, February 6, 2017, 2:09 PM

China is stepping up its efforts to persuade the international medical community that it has stopped using executed prisoners as organ donors, sending a high-level delegation to a Vatican conference amid continued skepticism that the practice has ended.

“From Jan. 1, 2015, organ donation from voluntary civilian organ donors has become the only legitimate source of organ transplantations,” [Dr. Huang Jiefu, China’s former vice minister of health] said in an interview at China’s embassy to Italy. “This is the whole story.” 

Huang will deliver a speech at the Vatican conference Tuesday amid complaints from human rights groups and organ trafficking watchdogs that the Vatican is effectively endorsing a “whitewash” by inviting him.

The Vatican has defended the invitation, which comes as Pope Francis seeks to improve ties with Beijing and bring its estimated 12 million Catholics under Rome’s wing.

Huang said the number of voluntary organ donors increased 50 percent from 2015 to 2016, to 4,080, and that he was “very optimistic” China would outpace the U.S. in terms of number of organ donors in five years. But he said China still needed help.

“That’s why we have come to the Vatican,” he said. “We have come to learn as well as to tell what is happening in China.”


4. New book more of whimper than bang on Vatican finances. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, February 6, 2017

After one defendant in last year’s Vatileaks 2.0 trial published a book in January, Rome has been waiting for the other shoe to drop, this time a volume by the woman at the heart of it all: Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, an Italian PR consultant whose own new book is titled Nel Nome di Pietro (“In the name of Peter”).

The book went on sale today, and if the interest one brings is whether it offers new revelations about financial corruption in the Vatican, then it’s more of a whimper than a bang.

To recap, Chaouqui, a Spanish cleric named Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda and an Italian layman named Nicola Maio served on a commission created by Pope Francis in 2013 to study reform of Vatican finances. Later, all three would be charged along with two Italian journalists with leaking and publishing confidential documents from that commission.

Vatican prosecutors took them to trial, with the two journalists eventually being acquitted for lack of jurisdiction (they’re Italian citizens and not Vatican employees), Maio acquitted for “not having committed the crime,” Chaouqui given a suspended sentence, and Balda sentenced to 18 months (which was cut in half by Pope Francis in December.)

Without a doubt, Chaouqui’s book rightly laments the often-dysfunctional and sometimes corrupt world of Vatican finance, and the jury is still out on whether Francis will succeed in injecting real transparency and accountability. Until we have significant prosecutions of financial crimes, a convincing annual financial statement, and an audit with teeth, reminders of the work left to be done are always useful.

However, the book adds relatively few new pieces to the picture – and as for Chaouqui’s attempt at rehabilitation, well, the jury’s probably still out on that one too.


5. Supreme Court nominee authored a book on assisted suicide. 

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, February 6, 2017

Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote in his 2006 book “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” that “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

In that book, Gorsuch makes strong statements in defense of protecting all human life, from disabled persons to depressed, terminally-ill patients. Rather than relying on religious reasoning, he takes a secular approach in his arguments.

He states that his book has two purposes: to examine the views of assisted suicide advocates – from utilitarian arguments to defenses of autonomy – and to provide his own views on why current prohibitions on assisted suicide and euthanasia should stand.