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After furor over ‘litmus test’ remarks, DNC chair to meet with Democrats for Life leader

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — After a furor erupted over his statement that the Democratic Party should support only those candidates who support legal abortion, Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez will meet with the head of Democrats for Life of America, Kristen Day.

Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez is seen outside the White House in Washington May 10. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez is seen outside the White House in Washington May 10. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Day, in a May 16 interview with Catholic News Service, said she had sought the meeting with Perez before he issued his statement prior to Democrat Heath Mello’s loss May 9 in the mayor’s race in Omaha, Nebraska.

“We’re still working on the date,” said Day, who added she had been able to meet with previous DNC chairs Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean, but not Perez’s predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Perez was criticized in pro-life circles when he said, “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable,” adding, “We must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who had given the invocation at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2012, called Perez’s remarks “disturbing.” The cardinal, who is chairman of U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic Party to “challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position.”

Many point to the flap as having contributed to the loss for Mello, a pro-life Democrat. NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood had lashed out against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and deputy DNC chair Keith Ellison, for saying they would stump for Mello in Omaha, calling it “politically stupid.”

Day disputes that assertion. Demanding adherence to a right to abortion “got us to where we are today,” she said, with 38 of the 50 states having Republican electoral majorities, 27 of them under full GOP control, compared to just five states where Democrats have full control. “The numbers kind of speak for themselves,” she said. “And when we push pro-life Democrats out of the party, this is what happens.”

At the federal level, “this abortion litmus test has hurt us dramatically. If you look at 30 years ago in the United States House, we had 135 pro-life Democrats and a 292-seat majority. Today, we have 30. We can’t get the majority we want without electing pro-life Democrats. The number of pro-choice Democrats has stayed at about 185, 180. If we want to follow NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s strategy, we’re going to stay there” in the minority, Day said.

She added Mello didn’t help his own cause when he said he was “personally pro-life” after “NARAL came into the district and badgered him.” “It’s not a winning position. You can’t do that with any issue,” Day said. “It just sounds ridiculous. If you say, ‘I believe climate change is real but I’m not going to vote that way,’ or ‘I believe guns are harming society but I’m not going to vote for any gun control legislation,’ nobody would vote for you.”

The definition of “pro-life” is “different in different parts of the country,” Day told CNS. “In some districts, like in Michigan where I’m from, if you run in Detroit, running as pro-life won’t get you very far but if you run as a pro-life Democrat in the Upper Peninsula, you have a pretty good chance of winning, or in Bay City. The party needs people who match the district rather than finding people with California values and running them instead.”

Despite the recent controversy, or maybe because of it, “I expect it be a really good meeting,” Day said. “Actually with Dean, there were 18 of us. It was a pretty good dialogue.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Bishops call Obama directive on transgender access to bathrooms ‘deeply disturbing’

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s May 13 directive on transgender access to bathrooms “that treats ‘a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex’ is deeply disturbing,” said the chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops’ committees.

The Obama administration’s May 13 directive on transgender access to bathrooms “that treats ‘a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex’ is deeply disturbing,” said the chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops’ committees.

The Obama administration’s May 13 directive on transgender access to bathrooms “that treats ‘a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex’ is deeply disturbing,” said the chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops’ committees.

“The guidance fails to address a number of important concerns and contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created,’” the two bishops said in a statement May 16.

The statement was issued by Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, who chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education.

The directive, or guidance, was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education. The departments said it applies to all public schools and colleges and universities that received federal funding. It “summarizes a school’s Title IX obligations regarding transgender students,” they said, and also explains how the Education and Justice departments will “evaluate a school’s compliance with these obligations.”

The federal Title IX statute prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities, like sports. AP reported that the Obama administration earlier had warned schools that denying transgender students access to the facilities and activities of their choice was illegal under its interpretation of federal sex discrimination laws.

In their statement Bishop Malone and Archbishop Lucas noted that the Catholic Church “consistently affirms the inherent dignity of each and every human person and advocates for the well being of all people, particularly the most vulnerable.”

“Especially at a young age and in schools, it is important that our children understand the depth of God’s love for them and their intrinsic worth and beauty. Children should always be and feel safe and secure and know they are loved,” they said.

They said that children, youth and parents in “difficult situations,” such as the focus of the federal guidance, “deserve compassion, sensitivity and respect.”

“All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents,” the two prelates said, but pointed out that the guidance issued May 13 “does not even attempt to achieve this balance.”

“It unfortunately does not respect the ongoing political discussion at the state and local levels and in Congress, or the broader cultural discussion, about how best to address these sensitive issues,” they said. “Rather, the guidance short-circuits those discussions entirely.”

They quoted Pope Francis, who said recently that “biological sex and the sociocultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.

“We pray that the government make room for more just and compassionate approaches and policies in this sensitive area, in order to serve the good of all students and parents, as well as the common good,” Bishop Malone and Archbishop Lucas said. “We will be studying the guidance further to understand the full extent of its implications.”

 

 

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Nebraska repeals the death penalty

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By Catholic News Service

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Legislature May 20 passed a measure to repeal the death penalty with enough votes to override Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ promised veto.

Members of the unicameral body gave final approval to the bill with a 32-15 vote.

At a news conference a week earlier, Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha joined about 15 religious leaders, priests and women religious in calling for an end to the death penalty in the state.

Noting that all life is sacred, Archbishop Lucas said he was pleased and privileged “to join friends from other faith communities at this important moment.”

The archbishop also noted he was representing the Nebraska Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s three Catholic bishops.

There are currently 11 prisoners on death row in Nebraska.

According to a posting on the Catholic conference’s website, a total of 37 people have been executed in Nebraska since it became a state in 1867. Thirty-four took place before 1972, the year the U.S. Supreme Court put a moratorium on use of the death penalty.

After the high court restored the death penalty in 1976, the state executed three men: Harold Otey in 1994, John Joubert in 1996 and Robert Williams in 1997.

Nebraska lawmakers voted in 1979 to prohibit capital punishment, but then-Gov. Charlie Thone vetoed the measure and the Legislature did not have enough votes to override it.

News reports have made much of the fact that the Republican lawmakers were among those pushing to repeal the death penalty. Ricketts had five days to sign or veto the bill before it becomes law automatically. If it becomes law, L.B 268, will apply retroactively, giving those currently on death row a sentence of life without parole.

Catholic teaching recognizes the state has recourse to the death penalty if it is the only available means to protect society from a grave threat to human life, Archbishop Lucas said in the news conference, held May 13 at the Omaha Press Club. But because of improvements in the penal system, such cases are rare, if not practically nonexistent, he said.

The death penalty does not provide rehabilitation and there is no clear evidence that executions deter crime, the archbishop said. At the same time, some criminals will never be fit for reintegration into society and just sentences are needed to keep Nebraskans safe, he said.

“Public safety can be assured through other means,” the archbishop said. “And justice requires punishment, but it does not require that those who have committed capital crimes be put to death.”

 

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