1. Senate Fails to Pass Bill Banning Abortions After 20 Weeks: Vote garnered 51 votes, falling short of 60 required; forced ‘red-state Democrats’ to vote on contentious issue.

By Michelle Hackman and Natalie Andrews, The Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2018, Pg. A5

A bill criminalizing abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy failed to advance in the Senate on Monday but forced Democrats up for re-election in competitive races to take sides on the contentious issue.

The legislation secured 51 votes, mostly from Republicans, shy of the 60 the bill needed to move forward. The three Democrats to support the bill—Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Donnelly of Indiana—all face re-election this fall and represent states that President Donald Trump carried in 2016.

Forty-six senators voted against the bill, including two Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.


2. Defeat of 20-week abortion ban could haunt Democrats: Votes for bill likely to be cited when senators seek midterm re-elections.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, January 30, 2018, Pg. A6

Senate Republicans lost their bid Monday to limit abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy — but not before extracting a pound of flesh from Senate Democrats seeking re-election this year.

Republicans forced their Democratic counterparts to vote on the record against a bill that would have outlawed abortions after five months’ gestation — votes that very likely will be cited in November’s midterm elections.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act failed to make it out of debate Monday in the Senate, falling in a 51-46 vote. House Republicans passed the bill along party lines in October for the third time in five years, but it lacked 60 votes to overcome a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

The legislation contained exceptions for rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.

Three Democrats — Sens. Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — broke party lines to vote for the bill, as they did in 2015. All three are up for re-election this year in states that President Trump won in 2016.

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin voted against the bill. All four also are up for re-election this year in states won by Mr. Trump.


3. Vatican seeks to drop bishops opposed by Beijing, raising fears of appeasement.

By Simon Denyer, The Washington Post, January 30, 2018, 6:21 AM

The Vatican has asked two bishops in China to stand aside or step down at the behest of the Chinese government, reinforcing the impression that senior figures within the Catholic Church are keen for a formal rapprochement between the Papacy and the atheist Communist Party of China, experts said.

But a deal is not imminent, experts said, nor would it be universally welcomed within the Catholic Church — the latest developments have already prompted one retired cardinal to make an emotional appeal to the pope on the bishops’ behalf.

Beijing broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951, not long after the Communist Party came to power. Since then, two parallel Catholic churches have grown up in China: the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) run by state-appointed bishops, and an underground church with many bishops appointed by the Vatican.

The Vatican is keen to bring the entire Chinese Catholic community of some 10 to 12 million people back into the fold and talks have been underway since 2014. Yet the question of whether the Chinese state or the Holy See has ultimate authority over appointing of bishops has been a major sticking point.


4. Explaining why the Vatican seems so eager for a deal with China.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 30, 2018

For anyone who knows Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 86-year-old “Lion in Winter” of Chinese Catholicism, it will be no surprise that he recently took to Facebook to accuse the Vatican of “selling out” the Church in China by reportedly asking for the resignations of two underground bishops in order to make way for government-appointed candidates.

Zen has a long history of advocating for a harder line from Rome on China’s Communist authorities and their efforts to exercise control over the Church, especially in the selection of bishops.

Equally, it should be no surprise that Zen once again has something to be concerned about. The Vatican has its own long history of trying to accommodate Beijing, in an effort to clear the way for establishing diplomatic relations and creating a more stable legal framework for the life of the Church in China.

The truth is that the main impediment to a deal has never been on the Vatican side, which is eager to move forward. Among China’s ruling elite, however, there’s a longstanding split between moderates who like the idea of closer ties with the leading spiritual symbol of the West, and ideological hard-liners who fear foreign influence (and who tend to dominate China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs.)

Looking at all this play out, many observers may be confused as to why the Vatican seems to care so much about a deal with Beijing, to the extent that it’s willing to face the predictable irritation of some of its own field generals to try to make peace.

There are at least four major factors at work.

First, there’s the root fact that there are Catholics in China – somewhere between 10 and 15 million, according to most estimates, though no one knows for sure due to the difficulties of doing reliable religious surveys. Although those Catholics generally don’t suffer outright physical persecution, they do experience chronic harassment and restrictions on religious life, and a sort of enduring second-class citizenship.

Second, there’s also a diplomatic drive as well as a pastoral one. The Vatican has its own diplomatic corps, aspiring to be a voice of conscience on the global stage – never more so than in the Pope Francis era, when, from immigration and climate change to nuclear disarmament and the dangers of “ideological colonization,” the Vatican is active on a wide range of fronts.


Third, there’s a deep romance about China nurtured over centuries in the Catholic psyche, associated with legendary figures such as Matteo Ricci and St. Francis Xavier.

Fourth, the Vatican also understands that China is rich with missionary potential, though it sometimes seems to struggle to know what to do about it.

The Vatican appears to believe the prudent course is to carve out a stable legal framework before encouraging dramatic expansion in missionary efforts – but it also has to understand that, to some extent, the clock is ticking before it’s too late.

All those realities, and more, undoubtedly help account for the Vatican’s sense of urgency on détente.

What they don’t answer, however, is whether Rome’s long-term strategy of gradually phasing out the illegal underground church, while simultaneously pushing for greater freedom for the state-recognized church, will work.


5. The Senate can end the cruelty of 12,000 yearly late-term abortions.

By Maureen Ferguson, Maureen Ferguson is a senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association, The Washington Examiner, January 29, 2018, 12:05 PM, Opinion

The esteemed Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., once called a type of late-term abortion “too close to infanticide” and voted to ban it, along with 13 fellow Democrats who reached a similar conclusion. On Monday, the Senate will again vote on a late-term abortion bill to ban the procedure after 5 months of pregnancy, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S 2311).

Cultural recognition of the humanity of the unborn at this stage is all around us, from expectant parents thrilled with an ultrasound image of their beautiful baby sucking his or her thumb, to ballads by superstar singer Ed Sheeran about the unborn, to silly TV ads about Chex mix, reflecting the fact that baby’s taste buds are functioning by 15 weeks and mom often experiences a lot of kicking after eating spicy food.

A baby can also be born at this early stage of development and survive. Ask Micah Pickering, a spunky little boy who was born prematurely at five months and has been on Capitol Hill recently with his family to urge Senators to pass what is now being referred to as “Micah’s Law.”

Yet when the Senate takes up this bill, most pro-choice senators will vote no, lamely and incorrectly asserting that babies at 20 weeks are not really conscious of the pain until a few weeks later. They are contradicted, however, by the inconvenient science of fetal pain.

Objectors in the abortion lobby also claim this bill is unnecessary because only 1 percent of abortions happen after 5 months, and the media repeat this dismissive statistic without extrapolating an actual number that would be more informative and even shocking. That number is at least a staggering 12,000.

Why not accept the modest limit of five months, one that is widely supported by voters from both parties, especially when almost every other civilized nation in the world prohibits elective abortion past three months of pregnancy? The violence of late-term abortion is simply inhumane for both mothers and babies. The House has already passed this bill, and President Trump in a Rose Garden speech last week called on the Senate to do the same. Senators should listen to their constituents, open their hearts to compassionate alternatives to late-term abortion, and vote yes.


6. Cardinal critic reveals drama in Vatican’s overture to China, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 29, 2018, 9:01 PM

The retired cardinal of Hong Kong has revealed the behind-the-scenes drama of the Vatican’s efforts to improve relations with China, including its request for a legitimate bishop to retire in favor of an excommunicated one who is recognized by Beijing.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most vocal opponent of Pope Francis’ opening to China, bitterly criticized the proposed changing of the guard in Shantou diocese and revealed in a Facebook post Monday that he had traveled to the Vatican this month to personally raise it with the pope.

Zen confirmed reports by the AsiaNews missionary news agency that the Vatican had asked Shantou Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, 88, to step down in favor of Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang. Huang was excommunicated by the Vatican in 2011 after he was consecrated without papal approval.

“Do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China?” Zen asked in his post. “Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.”


7. With new document, Pope seeks ‘bold cultural revolution’ in pontifical universities.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, January 29, 2018

Pope Francis wants “a bold cultural revolution” in pontifical universities, according to Vatican officials presenting a new document on Monday, so those universities are capable of forming leaders who can strike out on new paths and address an ongoing “epochal shift” marked by rapid “change and degradation.”

“The primary need today is for the whole People of God to be ready to embark upon a new stage of ‘Spirit-filled’ evangelization,” Pope Francis wrote in the foreword of Veritatis Gaudium, an apostolic constitution dedicated to ecclesiastical universities and faculties

This “Spirit-filled” evangelization, the pontiff wrote, calls for “a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform,” and a renewal of the system of ecclesiastical studies plays “a strategic role,” as these education centers are called to “offer opportunities and processes for the suitable formation of priests, consecrated men and women, and committed lay people.”

Seeing the anthropological and environmental crises that are fueling the “epochal shift,” with a rapid degradation evident in “large scale natural disasters as well as social and even financial crises,” the world calls for new models of development and a redefinition of the notion of progress, Francis wrote.

Yet “the problem is that we still lack the culture necessary to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths,” he wrote. Hence the need for a “bold cultural revolution,” that must include ecclesiastical universities and faculties, which are called to offer the “decisive contribution of leaven, salt and light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the living Tradition of the Church.”

In concrete terms, the pope’s latest apostolic constitution applies almost exclusively to institutions granting pontifical degrees in fields such as theology, philosophy, and canon law. To put it into perspective, there are just 13 ecclesiastical faculties and universities in the United States, while there are more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the country.