1. D.C. officials oppose block of assisted suicide law Bowser, council chair rip Congress, By Ryan M. McDermott, The Washington Times, January 23, 2017, Pg. A12.

Two of the District’s top officials on Friday voiced opposition to congressional calls for upending the city’s recently approved assisted suicide law.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser chided Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, both Republicans who this week offered companion resolutions to block the city’s Death with Dignity Act — for “attempting to sidestep the democratic process in order to impose their personal beliefs” on D.C. residents.

Ms. Norton expressed specific frustration with Mr. Langford: “I have worked successfully with him on federal matters affecting the District, including reforms and improvement to the D.C. courts,” she said in a statement.

Mr. Wenstrup, a physician by trade, said the city’s law makes the federal government culpable for promoting assisted suicide.

“If Congress fails to act on this, it will imply tacit federal approval of physician-assisted suicide — and I firmly believe that is not the right path,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees the District, earlier in the week said he wanted to block the measure.


2. Still waiting on the pope’s promises: A new book details the Catholic Church’s tolerance of abuse, By Editorial Board, The Washington Post, January 23, 2017, Pg. A12.

ON THE MOST explosive and morally subversive challenge facing the Roman Catholic Church — clerical sexual abuse of children, and the bishops who tolerate it — Pope Francis has said the right things but done too little. Even now, 15 years after the explosive revelations of church complicity in enabling and covering up the predations of American priests who damaged so many young lives, not a single bishop has been explicitly held accountable and stripped of his title.

The pope’s sluggish, inadequate and compromised stance in the face of this outrage is the subject of a new book, “Lust,” by a respected Italian journalist, Emiliano Fittipaldi. The book, published last week, is an indictment not just of a papal policy that has failed to live up to its ringing promises about “zero tolerance” for clerical sexual abuse, but of Francis’s papacy.

The pope himself has made some strong statements about clergy sex abuse and taken a few symbolic steps to underscore his compassion for victims, in one case meeting with victims of sexually abusive priests in Philadelphia. But his deeds to establish real accountability have been hollow. He tried and failed to establish a special tribunal to hold negligent bishops accountable, then issued a decree saying it was unnecessary since the Vatican already was empowered to remove them from office if they turned a blind eye to sex abuse in their dioceses.

Now, seven months later, there is little indication that bishops, the church’s princelings, are truly being held to account.


3. The Legacy of Roe v. Wade extends beyond abortion, By Lucia Silecchia, Crux, January 22, 2017.

The loss of millions of lives to abortion is not the only casualty of Roe. Rather, the callous acceptance of — and, in some quarters, celebration of — the right to abortion has also planted the seeds for a broader disrespect for vulnerable human life.

Those seeds are now bearing bitter fruit in the way in which the lives of those who are disabled, ill and elderly are being treated in fact and in law.

The new legislative year brings the question of physician-assisted suicide to the legislative docket of several states, which will consider whether or not the lives of those who are ill, elderly or otherwise vulnerable should be protected or not.

These legislative proposals that are brewing would allow physician-assisted suicide with such scant safeguards that they would be laughable if they were not tragic. However, the arguments in favor of these legislative initiatives have their roots directly in the soil of Roe.

They reflect Roe’s legacy that some lives are worth defending and others are not. In the context of abortion, an infant who is eagerly anticipated by loving parents is celebrated, fought for, and loved months before birth. Yet, a similar infant who is not so fortunate and who is not wanted is easily discarded as a matter of right.

In the context of those who are ill, those who have access to health care, a loving, supportive family, treatment for pain, and access to emotional and psychological care are encouraged to fight against deadly diseases.

However, those who are impoverished, who believe that they burden loved ones, or who are not well treated for physical and emotional pain, are given the opportunity to end their lives. In many cases, they are encouraged to do so by circumstances in which insurance may cover the costs of their suicide but not their medical treatment.

In the context of those with disabilities, a similar inconsistency reigns.

Contrary to common perception, it is not physical pain that drives the decision to take advantage of physician-assisted suicide. It is fear of being a burden or losing autonomy that tops the list. More importantly, an exaggerated sense of personal autonomy belies the fact that the individual is not the only one with an interest in his or her life.

Autonomy notwithstanding, the world is the poorer for all those who have not been born. The world is the poorer when those who are not young and strong are devalued. And the world is at risk when autonomy is allowed to justify the taking of life. Indeed, autonomy is often restricted when far lesser things are at stake than life itself.

They reflect Roe’s legacy that legal requirements, procedural protections, and seemingly detailed guidelines can legitimize acts that, for the vast majority of human history, were recognized as wrong. Perhaps they reflect the way in which Roe can dull the conscience into believing that legality can create legitimacy and that a society can satisfy itself that there can be a regulated, rational way to do a wrongful act.


4. Two missed opportunities for real reform on sex abuse, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 21, 2017.

Two stories broke this week regarding the Church’s clerical sexual abuse scandals, one in Italy and the other in the States, and in different ways, each speaks to a missed opportunity.

In Italy, a book came out titled Lussuria: Peccati, Scandali e Tradimenti di una Chiesa Fatta di Uomini (“Lust: Sins, Scandals and Betrayals of a Church Made of Men”) by journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, one of the five defendants in last year’s “Vatileaks 2.0” trial pivoting on leaked documents from a papal commission on Vatican finances.

In the States, a former employee of the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), the country’s best-known advocacy organization for survivors of clerical abuse, has sued the group, charging that in reality it’s a commercial operation funded by kickbacks from lawyers who sue the Church.

At one level, Fittipaldi’s book is off-putting because of its sloppiness with facts. He describes Cardinal Timothy Dolan as “head” of the U.S. bishops, a position he hasn’t held since 2013. He calls Pell the “right hand man” of Pope Francis, something any observer of the Vatican these days knows to be clearly exaggerated.

More basically, the problem is that Fittipaldi caricatures the real situation in the Church.

Anyone being honest has to concede that Catholicism has made enormous progress over the last decade and a half. For example, vast resources have been invested in developing state-of-the-art abuse prevention and detection programs, to the extent that many other institutions are now scrambling to catch up.

Scores of abusers have been weeded out of the priesthood, including more than 400 in the last year of Benedict XVI’s papacy alone. Dioceses in many parts of the world have adopted stern “zero tolerance” policies, suspending any priest facing a credible abuse allegation and turning the case over to civil police and prosecutors to investigate.

To read Fittipaldi, however, you would never know any of that happened.

In the SNAP lawsuit, former employee Gretchen Hammond describes an organization founded for noble purposes, but which has lost its way in a near-fanatical quest for money.

“SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors – it exploits them,” says the lawsuit, filed Jan. 17 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.

“SNAP routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of ‘donations.’ In exchange for the kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church.”

Once she began raising these concerns, Hammond says, she was subject to workplace reprisals that led to serious health issues, and eventually she was fired.

In the meantime, another longstanding issue with SNAP and similar organizations doesn’t require a legal proceeding to establish: The fact that they’re often incapable of telling the good guys from the bad. To take the most obvious example, if Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston is your idea of a problem bishop, as SNAP has repeatedly asserted, then something’s gone seriously wrong.


5. Unlikely pro-life voice brought to you by ‘SNL’ skit, By Kathryn Jean Lopez, Times Standard, January 21, 2017, 7:40 PM.

A skit on that comedy show [Saturday Night Live]  ended with Anthony telling a group of modern women that “abortion is murder,” providing an unlikely gift to Foster’s group [Feminists for Life], which aims to educate women about nonviolent alternatives to abortion.

“Sometimes ‘SNL’ gets it right,” Grazie Christie, a doctor in Miami and senior fellow with the Catholic Association, tells me. She saw in the sketch the “superficial banality of modern feminism is in full display.” About Anthony she said: “The suffragist struggled to change a society where women could not divorce a drunk and abusive husband, vote, speak in public, own separate property when married or be joint guardians of their children. The millennials, affluent and liberated heirs to the fruits of her labor, argue about taxi fare and whether to eat on the train or grab takeout.”

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Foundation, which every January sponsors a large annual gathering celebrating life and protesting the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, says, “Given the many conflicting messages these days about what it means to be a woman, to be a feminist, I appreciated the skit and its humorous poke at a sound-bite culture that is lacking a deeper understanding of the inherent dignity and vocation of woman. I appreciated that the skit depicted Susan B. Anthony’s stance on respecting and protecting life from conception.”


6. Women’s March Erects a Pro-Life Barrier, By Ashley E. McGuire, Real Clear Politics, January 21, 2017.

As a young woman living in Washington, D.C., I could easily attend the Women’s March on Saturday if I wanted to.

Except that I am not invited, despite my unambiguous status as a member of the female sex. That’s because I am pro-life. As the organizers of the march made clear in a statement earlier this week, the Women’s March’s on Washington “platform is pro-choice” and “has been since day one.”

Indeed, by excluding roughly half of American women from the “Women’s” March, the event revealed in one tweet why feminism’s numbers hover around a pathetic one in four who claim the label for themselves. One recent poll found that as few as 18 percent of Americans consider themselves a feminist. Today’s women simply are not interested in being treated like a special interest group at the service of the abortion industry.

So while the Women’s March may proudly tout its anticipated 200,000 participants, organizers are stuck with the reality that their event is tainted by the same exclusivity and elitism that helped produce an electoral rebuke of those very values. If the organizers want to see a real force to be reckoned with, they should return to the National Mall a week later, when thousands and thousands of young people, a huge swath of them women, will be marching too.


7. Pope Urges Trump to Show Concern for Poor, Be Guided by Ethical Values, By Reuters, January 20, 2017, 1:39 PM.

Pope Francis urged U.S. President Donald Trump to be guided by ethical values and as he took office on Friday, saying he must take care of the poor and the outcast during his time in office.

“At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding farsighted and united political responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide,” Francis said in a message sent to Trump minutes after he was inaugurated.

“Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need …,” Francis said in the message released by the Vatican.


8. Social doctrine is about solidarity, Catholic leaders insist, By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, January 20, 2017, 11:08 AM.

Catholics must fight the societal ills of contempt, poverty, and unemployment through solidarity, recent speakers at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. insisted.

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, quoted the Gospel of Luke in his Jan. 17 address to Catholic University students on “bringing America together.”

“We’re sought. We seek others,” he continued. “If we want to change public policy and we want to change American culture, it’s not good enough to burn a bunch of money to help poor people. What are you going to do today to need somebody at the peripheries of society?”

Brooks gave the first CEO lecture of 2017 at the Busch School of Business and Economics, in which he emphasized the importance of work in human dignity.

There are many poor or unemployed persons living “at the periphery” of society who “we prefer not to see,” he said, asking the students in attendance, “If all the poor people in Washington, D.C. suddenly disappeared, how would your life change?”

Yet this phenomenon of not “needing” the poor is toxic to society, he said, because “we need every human.” Every person “has the same inherent dignity,” he insisted.

“That is the source, all the politics aside, of the divisiveness” in society, he said, of “what’s pulling us apart.” The problem of “contempt” for fellow human beings, what he described as “the utter conviction of the worthlessness of another human being” is also at the heart of societal problems.

How can Catholics fight this? By going to the peripheries, befriending those with whom they disagree, and creating jobs that give human dignity back to the poor and the marginalized, he said.

They “get back on their feet through work, through ordinary, sanctified, hard, honest work,” Brooks said. “That’s the equalizer. Human dignity is equalized when we all work in a sanctified way.”

The previous week, on Jan. 10, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston addressed a conference on “Erroneous Autonomy: The Dignity of Work.”

When global markets and institutions are divorced from morality, human dignity is threatened, they insisted. Catholic social teaching challenges the autonomy of markets by emphasizing the dignity of the worker and the right of workers to organize to protect their rights, they said.