1. The humanity in an extra chromosome. 

By Marc A. Thiessen, The Washington Post, March 9, 2018, Page A19, Opinion

When Karen Gaffney’s mother found out she would be born with Down syndrome, the doctor said Karen probably would not be able to tie her own shoes. Instead, as Karen explained in a moving and eloquent TEDx talk, she has become an accomplished open-water swimmer who has crossed the English Channel in a relay race and completed the swimming leg of the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. 

Now she fears the result of a new race — the one to “find newer, faster ways” to screen for Down syndrome so that more children with the disability can be killed in the womb. 

Princeton University professor Robert George recently tweeted out a shocking video in which a bureaucrat from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment uses a blackboard to show a man with Down syndrome how “expensive” he is for society compared with “normal” people. “Do the Dutch, who suffered under — and in many cases heroically resisted — Hitler’s domination, forget that the ‘final solution’ began with the dehumanization and eugenic killing of the handicapped?” George asked.

Surveys from Boston Children’s Hospital found that far from being a burden on their families, children with Down syndrome bring enormous joy to their loved ones. Ninety-four percent of siblings expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome, and 88 percent said that they were better people because of them. Only 4 percent would trade their sibling in for another, and only 4 percent of parents regretted having their Down syndrome child. It turns out, the hospital concluded, that “the experience of Down syndrome is a positive one for most parents, siblings and people with Down syndrome themselves.”


2. Abortion Provisions Lead to Tensions Over Spending Bill, Congress needs to reach deal before government funding runs out later this month.

By Kristina Peterson and Stephanie Armour, The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2018, Page A3

A push from the White House and congressional Republicans to add new antiabortion provisions into a sweeping spending bill has divided lawmakers as they work to reach a deal that will fund the government beyond mid-March.

Republican lawmakers want to expand restrictions that already prevent federal funding from going to abortions, and they also want to fully cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which has long been a target of conservatives.

But Democrat lawmakers said the demands are deal breakers they can’t support—and will battle with Republicans in the coming days over what is included in the spending bill needed before the government’s current funding expires on March 23.

Antiabortion groups that have used their political might to back GOP lawmakers’ elections have said this is one of their highest priorities.

“On the part of the pro-life movement, the nonnegotiable thing is the Hyde language in the subsidies,” said Mallory Quigley, spokeswoman with the Susan B. Anthony List.

The so-called Hyde Amendment already bans the use of taxpayer funds for most abortions.


3. Notre Dame Becomes a Bit Less Catholic, It sued when Obama demanded it cover birth control. Now it has partly given in.

By Alexandra DeSanctis, The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2018, Page A13, Opinion, Houses of Worship

The University of Notre Dame caved in. It will partly obey the Obama Care mandate requiring employer health-care plans to cover the cost of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. Rejecting the Trump administration’s religious exemption, Notre Dame announced last month that it will provide “simple contraceptives” to students and employees through its insurance program.

Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, deserves praise for discontinuing coverage of abortifacients. Yet he justified the birth-control decision by saying, in part, that Catholic tradition requires respect for “the conscientious decisions of members of our community.” Of course, Notre Dame community members can exercise their consciences without receiving university-provided contraception. And there is also the serious possibility that Notre Dame abused the legal process when it sued the Obama administration for relief. If the university had standing on religious-freedom grounds, how can it now explain its decision to facilitate coverage of birth control?

Despite the decision, Notre Dame will continue to call itself a leading Catholic institution. In many ways it is. But this school’s administration has chosen to ignore Catholic teaching. If the university’s leadership was truly proud of its Catholic identity, it would recognize that, like the church, Notre Dame is most valuable when it defends truths that are difficult to hear. 


4. The Trump Administration’s Backward Attitude Toward Birth Control.

By The Editorial Board, The New York Times, March 9, 2018, Opinion, Pg. A20

Women’s progress in America has been inextricably tied to the availability of birth control. Landmark Supreme Court decisions in 1965 and 1972 recognizing a constitutional right to contraception made it more likely that women went to college, entered the work force and found economic stability. That’s all because they were better able to choose when, or whether, to have children.

It’s mind-boggling that anyone would want to thwart that progress, especially since women still have so far to go in attaining full equality in the United States. But the Trump administration has signaled it may do just that, in a recent announcement about funding for a major family planning program, Title X.

Since 1970, the federal government has awarded Title X grants to providers of family planning services — including contraception, cervical cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted infections — to help low-income women afford them. It’s a crucial program.
Conservatives — often male ones — like to argue that Title X improperly uses tax dollars to subsidize women’s sex lives, and that some forms of birth control can be obtained inexpensively.


5. Abortion providers rake in $1.5 billion from taxpayers, Report: Three spent $410 million from 2013 to 2015.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, March 9, 2018, Page A7

Three major abortion providers took home more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer funding over a three-year span, according to a report released this week by the Government Accountability Office.

Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation spent $410 million in federal funding between 2013 and 2015, the report found. The groups also received $1.2 billion from federal health programs that share funding with states, such as Medicaid and Medicare.

The study was spearheaded by Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Republican Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee, Pete Olson of Texas and Chris Smith of New Jersey.

“This report once again illustrates the absurd amount of taxpayer dollars funding the nation’s single largest abortion provider of abortion services, Planned Parenthood, and its international affiliate organizations,” Ms. Ernst said in a statement. “More than $1.5 billion in tax payer’s dollars should not go to an organization with such a blatant disrespect for human life.”


6. Vatican: Pope to visit the 3 Baltic nations, Sept. 22-25.

By Associated Press, March 9, 2018, 6:29 AM

The Vatican says Pope Francis will visit Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Sept. 22-25 as the three Baltic nations celebrate their 100th anniversaries.

The Vatican confirmed the trip Friday, saying Francis would visit Vilnius and Kaunas in Lithuania; Riga and Aglona in Latvia, and Tallinn in Estonia.

Lithuania has the largest Catholic community in the Baltics, accounting for more than 75 percent of the nation’s nearly 3 million inhabitants.

The three Baltic nations declared their independence from Russia in 1918 but were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 and remained part of it until 1991.

Francis has only one other confirmed trip for the rest of 2018, to Geneva in June. He is widely expected to go to Ireland in August for the World Meeting of Families.


7. The Importance of Pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

By Fr. Roger Landry, The Anchor, March 9, 2018
Fr. Roger J. Landry is the National Chaplain of Catholic Voices USA.

At the beginning of Lent, I was privileged to help lead a pilgrimage of 40 young adults to the Holy Land.

The pilgrims came from the Leonine Forum, a wonderful program founded in 2013 in Washington DC by the late Father Arne Panula and Mitch Boersma of the Catholic Information Center to form Catholics in their 20s and 30s in Catholic social teaching, assisting them to lead fully-integrated lives of faith at home, in their professions, society and the Church. Last year the Leonine Forum began in New York where I serve as its Chaplain. Later this year it will be expanding to Los Angeles.

For most of the pilgrims it was their first time to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in the land he made holy. It was moving for me to witness anew the power of a visit to the Holy Land to strengthen their faith. The Holy Land has been called the “fifth Gospel” and a good pilgrimage there is a life-changing peripatetic retreat in which pilgrims are able to meditate on and liturgically enter into the principal events in the history of salvation.


8. Turns out the Vatican ‘Hackathon’ isn’t really about ‘hacking’ … or is it?

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, March 9, 2018

As it turns out, this week’s first-ever Vatican Hackathon actually has nothing to do with “hacking” as it’s usually understood, meaning penetrating the internet firewalls and security systems of some theoretically impenetrable outfit such as NASA or the CIA.

Instead, the March 9-10 event will bring 120 young students together from 60 universities in 30 countries, to harness the potential of technology to find practical solutions to three challenges: social inclusion, interreligious dialogue, and migrants and refugees.

The point is to challenge the status quo, insisting that cutting edge technology ought to be harnessed for the common good rather than special interests.

“We are not satisfied with the service Silicon Valley and company are providing,” said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, who runs the migrants and refugees section of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development directed personally by Pope Francis.