1. Abortion Adds Extra Obstacle For Health Bill

By Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan, The New York Times, June 22, 2017, Pg. A1

Abortion flared up Wednesday as the latest hot-button issue to complicate passage of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which Senate Republican leaders hope to unveil on Thursday and pass next week.

The repeal bill approved last month by the House would bar the use of federal tax credits to help purchase insurance plans that include coverage of abortion. But senators said that provision might have to be jettisoned from their version because of complicated Senate rules that Republicans are using to expedite passage of the bill and avoid a filibuster.

If that provision is dropped, a bill that has already elicited deep misgivings among moderate Republicans — and stiff resistance from Democrats, health care providers and patient advocacy groups — could also generate concern among abortion opponents, as well as conservative lawmakers.

The House abortion provision has sweeping implications because many health plans subsidized under the Affordable Care Act include coverage for abortion services. The provision has encountered outspoken opposition from officials in states like Oregon, where most health plans on the public insurance exchange cover abortion.

But senators said the provision might have to be dropped for a more prosaic reason: It may not comply with the Senate rules that Republicans are using to speed the health care bill through the Senate.

The bill is scheduled to go to the Senate floor next week under these procedures, which limit debate and preclude a Democratic filibuster.


2. California court dismisses 14 charges against pro-life journalist who exposed Planned Parenthood

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, June 22, 2017, Pg. A9

The San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday dismissed 14 of 15 criminal counts against one of the pro-life journalists whose undercover videos exposed Planned Parenthood’s alleged involvement in the illicit market for fetal body parts from abortions.

Sandra Merritt was charged with filming 14 people, including Planned Parenthood executives, without their consent from 2013 to 2015 as a part of the Center for Medical Progress investigation. She is still charged with one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represents Ms. Merritt, called Wednesday’s dismissals a “huge victory.”

“We will now turn our attention to dismissing the final count,” Mr. Staver said in a statement. “Sandra Merritt did nothing wrong. The complaint by the California attorney general is unprecedented and frankly will threaten every journalist who provides valuable information to the public.”

David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, was also charged with 15 felonies by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.


3. Egypt’s Coptic Christians question whether el-Sissi alliance can protect them from terror

By Jacob Wirtschafter and Mina Nader, The Washington Times, June 22, 2017, Pg. A1

Pope Francis is long gone from Egypt, but his April trip intensified a growing unease among Coptic Christians about President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s embrace of their 10 million-strong community.

During the pontiff’s visit, Mr. el-Sissi told Francis that the Egyptian government “is committed to treating all nationals equally on grounds of citizenship and constitutional and legal rights.”

But the Islamic State and other terrorist groups within Egypt have not been so even-minded. Grisly suicide bombings at churches, shootings and other violence have claimed 70 Copt lives since Christmas and put new fear into a Christian minority community that traces its origins back to the decade after Jesus died.

“A security team of caliphate soldiers set up an ambush for dozens of Christians as they headed to the church of St. Samuel,” the Islamic State claimed late last month after one incident in which 29 Copts were killed and another 25 wounded when their bus was ambushed on a trip to volunteer at a monastery near the city of Minya.

The situation is untenable, say Coptic leaders. “We are in dire need of preventive measures,” said Bishop Makarios of Minya, a town about 150 miles south of the capital. “Each month we suffer an attack that is no less horrifying than the event that preceded it.”

The Coptic Orthodox Church, led by Pope Tawadros II, has repeatedly affirmed unequivocal loyalty to the president. That alliance has led some Copts to fear that their countrymen might assume they support Mr. el-Sissi’s government, which has struggled to revive the Egyptian economy and faces sharp criticism from international groups over its record on human rights and political freedoms.


4. Embracing 2017’s Fortnight for Freedom

By Grazie Pozo Christie, Real Clear Religion, June 22, 2017

“Freedom for Mission” is the theme of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom, an annual campaign launched in 2012 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to highlight the diminishing ability of people of faith and religious institutions to abide by their religious convictions while they serve the needy in the public square: “We are called to follow Christ as missionary disciples by seeking the truth, serving others, and living our faith in all that we do.”

And it may be that the Catholic Church feels the pinch the most, being so extensively involved in serving the needs of all Americans. The Church is the largest private provider of health care in the United States. About one in six inpatients are in a Catholic hospital. Over two million children attend her parochial schools and many thousands more her 197 colleges and universities. Catholic Charities is the fifth largest charity in the United States and serves millions of people a year, regardless of their religion or race. The U.S. Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services is a leading refugee resettlement agency. In fact, wherever you find the hungry, sick, homeless, or young people needing an education, there you find the Church, serving them.

But the Church cannot serve in ways that contradict basic Christian tenets about the dignity of life, marriage, and sexuality. In fact, it is the radical Christian ideal that all men and women are of equal dignity and worth that motivates the tireless Catholics that care for, educate, and succor so many millions of Americans each year.


5. Diocese of Brooklyn Sets Up Fund for Sexual Abuse Victims: About 280 known victims would be initially eligible

By Corinne Ramey and Melanie Grayce West, The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2017, 7:00 AM

The Roman Catholic diocese that includes Brooklyn and Queens said Thursday it had set up an independent fund to compensate people who were sexually abused as young people by its clergy.

The fund, called the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, is modeled after a similar settlement program begun in October by the Archdiocese of New York. The new fund, like the New York one, will be administered by attorneys Camille Biros and Kenneth Feinberg, who has led similar funds for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Boston marathon bombing and other tragic events.


6. 4 cardinals press pope to clarify divorce-remarriage stand

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, June 21, 2017, 10:40 AM

Four conservative cardinals who publicly questioned Pope Francis’ opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are pressing their case and arguing that the issue is dividing the Catholic Church.

In a new letter, the cardinals ask Francis for an audience, noting he never responded to their written request for clarification in September.

Francis hasn’t responded, though he has made clear that he wants his church to show a more merciful and less rigid face for Catholics facing difficult family situations. That said, on Wednesday he made clear that marriage is forever.

In his weekly Wednesday catechism lesson, Francis noted that the nuptial Mass invokes the help of saints to help newlyweds live as a married couple forever. “Not like some say ‘as long as love lasts.’ No: Forever! Otherwise it’s better to not get married. Either forever or nothing,” he said.


7. US bishops launch 2017 Fortnight for Freedom

By Catholic News Agency, June 21, 2017, 9:08 PM

The U.S. bishops have launched a website and video to mark the beginning of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom, focusing on religious freedom issues both at home and abroad.

The video, about ten minutes long and viewable on the Fortnight for Freedom website, features a number of legal, religious, and other personalities discussing the importance of religious liberty. The Fortnight for Freedom takes place June 21 – July 4.

The video emphasizes the United States’ historical connection to freedom of religion.

“The United States is the greatest country in the history of the world precisely because of the exceptional character of its relationship to faith which permeates every dimension of its evolution,” says Eugene Rivers II, an activist and Pentecostal pastor.

The video also highlighted the struggle of religious peoples in other parts of the world.