Knights of Columbus Charitable Fund

Knights of Columbus has announced the launch of the Knights of Columbus Charitable Fund, which is modeled on community foundations like The Cleveland Foundation or Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Knights of Columbus Charitable Fund will serve as a way for Catholics to create charitable funds and direct charitable giving on an individual, family, or community level. There’s nothing quite like this, and I expect it will become a major part of the culture of Knights of Columbus:

Knights of Columbus, one of the largest Catholic philanthropic organizations in the world, today announced a new affiliated vehicle for donors called “Knights of Columbus Charitable Fund” (KCCF). KCCF allows donors to open donor-driven accounts, recommend charities to which donations can be sent through a safe, secure and confidential portal.

Carl Anderson, CEO of Knights of Columbus, said, “Catholics today are looking for opportunities to demonstrate their faith and to support organizations that reflect their values. They want to direct their charity to organizations easily and efficiently.”

The addition of a donor-advised fund option satisfies a unique customer and market niche that is a powerful tool for maximizing philanthropic impact on organizations that align with Catholic values and teachings. Donor-advised funds have become the fastest-growing segment of charitable-giving vehicles due to their flexibility and simplicity. Assets in the donor-advised fund are invested tax-free with no distribution requirements, excise taxes, or other reporting requirements for the individual donor. Donors can make a current charitable contribution, receive an immediate potential tax benefit, and then recommend grants from the fund over time. And tax-free investing over time can result in larger ultimate gifts for charities.

Noa Pothoven’s suicide

Ross Douthat writes on the suicide of 17 year-old Noa Pothoven:

In the Netherlands, a depressed teenager … committed suicide at home, starving herself while parents and doctors offered palliative care. …

It remains shocking that a young woman’s parents and doctors would give up on treating her at seventeen and let her kill herself. And it remains shocking that Western nations are normalizing euthanasia for mental illness among otherwise healthy adults. …

When such a system emerges as a seemingly organic feature of the liberal order, what then should be your attitude toward liberalism itself? …

Liberalism has never done as well as it thinks at resolving its own crises. America’s gravest moral evil, chattel slavery, was defeated by an authoritarian president in a religious civil war, not by proceduralism or constitutional debate. The crisis of the 1930s ended happily for liberalism because a reactionary imperialist withstood Adolf Hitler and a revolutionary Bolshevik crushed him. The liberal peace that followed may depend on fear of the atomic bomb.

All of which hints that a genuinely post-liberal politics might, indeed, someday be required — to save liberal civilization from dystopia or disaster. The post-liberalisms presently on offer are not as serious as either their advocates hope or their critics fear. But if you cannot imagine ever being a post-liberal, left or right, you are not being serious either.

It couldn’t be clearer to me that the logic behind pro-suicide laws in the United States, which claim to be interested only in permitting suicide for those near death and with a terminal illness, will in time result in lawful suicide for practically anyone, in any condition. When a teenager’s suicide is affirmed and facilitated by both her family and the state, that’s a good indicator that the society has lost its ability to distinguish justice from injustice.

‘Incompatible with life’

Pope Francis recently witnessed to the importance of a humane attitude toward human life:

No human being can ever be incompatible with life, not due to his age, his health conditions, or the quality of his existence. Every child that enters a woman’s womb is a gift, which changes the story of a family: of a father and a mother, of grandparents and siblings. And this baby is in need of being received, loved and taken care of….

Yet, there is something that medicine knows well: children, who from the maternal womb show pathological conditions, are little patientswho not rarely can be cured with pharmacologic, surgical and extraordinary care interventions, now capable of reducing that terrible gap between diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities, which for years constituted one of the causes of voluntary abortion and abandonment of care at birth of so many children with serious pathologies. Fetal therapies on one hand and perinatal hospices on the other obtain surprising results in terms of clinical-assistance and provide essential support to families that accept the birth of a sick child….

Therefore, it’s indispensable that doctors have very clear not only the objective of the cure but the sacred value of human life, whose protection, in the end, rests on medical practice….

At the social level, the fear and hostility in meeting disabilities often induce to the choice of abortion, configuring it as a practice of “prevention.” However, the teaching of the Church on this point is clear: human life is sacred and inviolable and the use of prenatal diagnosis for selective ends is energetically discouraged, as an expression of an inhuman eugenic mentality, which removes from the family the possibility to receive, embrace and love their weakest children. Sometimes we hear it said: “You, Catholics, don’t accept abortion, it’s the problem of your faith.” No, it’s a pre-religious problem. Let us not charge faith with something that has not been its responsibility since the beginning.  It’s a human problem….

Abortion is never the answer that women and families seek. Rather, it’s fear of the sickness and loneliness that makes parents hesitate. The difficulties of a practical order, both human and spiritual are undeniable, but precisely because of this the most incisive pastoral actions are urgent and necessary to support those that accept their sick children.

“No human being can ever be incompatible with life, not due to his age, his health conditions, or the quality of his existence.”

Human remains, abortion, and eugenics

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Box v. Planned Parenthood, ruling 7-2 that Indiana’s human fetal remains law is constitutional. Americans United for Life had filed a brief in support of Indiana’s law, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court because the Seventh Circuit had struck it down as unconstitutional:

Americans United for Life filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of Indiana on behalf of AUL and the Charlotte Lozier Institute, asking the Supreme Court to take the case to address this nationally important question. The brief explains that human fetuses are human beings, and as such, it was constitutional for Indiana to require the humane and dignified disposition of human fetal remains—especially in light of reports of an Indiana waste company dumping human fetal remains in landfills. 

“AUL is delighted that the Court agreed to address this important issue,” said AUL’s Litigation Counsel Rachel Morrison. “Without laws like Indiana’s fetal remains law, medical providers are free to dispose of human fetal remains by incineration with medical waste, by dumping in landfills, and even by burning the remains to generate energy. Indiana’s law recognizes the simple biological fact that human fetuses are human beings and, as such, should be treated with humanity and dignity whether in life or in death.”

Box v. Planned Parenthood is a major victory for life-affirming law and policy, because it is a de facto acknowledgement by the U.S. Supreme Court of the basic humanity of those once-living human beings whose lives were terminated through abortion. Where do human fetal remains comes from, but from human beings?

Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrence is highly significant, because he uses Box v. Planned Parenthood to speak authoritatively on an aspect of the case that the Supreme Court has punted on, namely whether eugenic abortions (abortions for reasons of race, gender, disability, etc.) are permissible. Thomas writes powerfully on the history of eugenics and abortion, and concludes by getting to the heart of the matter, which is that abortion will continue to haunt the Supreme Court because it is the Supreme Court itself created the right to abortion and therefore will need to continue to legislate its boundaries so long as it continues to promote abortion as a legitimate human practice:

“This case highlights the fact that abortion is an act rife with the potential for eugenic manipulation. From the beginning, birth control and abortion were promoted as means of effectuating eugenics. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was particularly open about the fact that birth control could be used for eugenic purposes. These arguments about the eugenic potential for birth control apply with even greater force to abortion, which can be used to target specific children with unwanted characteristics. …

Today, nonwithstanding Sanger’s views on abortion, respondent Planned Parenthood promotes both birth control and abortion as ‘reproductive health services’ that can be used for family planning. And with today’s prenatal screening tests and other technologies, abortion can easily be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics.

“Indiana’s Legislature, on the 100th anniversary of its 1907 sterilization law, adopted a concurrent resolution formally ‘express[ing] its regret over Indiana’s role in the eugenics movement in this country and the injustices done under eugenic laws.’ Recognizing that laws implementing eugenic goals ‘targeted the most vulnerable among us, including the poor and racial minorities, … for the claimed purpose of public health and the good of the people,’ the General Assembly ‘urge[d] the citizens of Indiana to become familiar with the history of the eugenics movement’ and ‘repudiate the many laws passed in the name of eugenics and reject any such laws in the future.’

“In March 2016, the Indiana Legislature passed by wide margins the Sex-Selective and Disability Abortion Ban at issue here. Respondent Planned Parenthood promptly filed a lawsuit to block the law from going into effect, arguing that the Constitution categorically protects a woman’s right to abort her child based solely on the child’s race, sex, or disability. The District Court agreed, granting a preliminary injunction on the eve of the law’s effective date, followed by a permanent injunction. A panel of the Seventh Circuit affirmed. …

“Enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the vies of the 20th-century eugenics movement. In other contexts, the [U.S. Supreme] Court has been zealous in vindicating the rights of people even potentially subjected to race, sex, and disability discrimination. … Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever. Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope. In that regard, it is easy to understand why the District Court and the Seventh Circuit looked to Casey to resolve a question it did not address. Where else could they turn? The Constitution itself is silent on abortion.”

I want to highlight something from a footnote from Justice Ginsburg in Box v. Planned Parenthood, because it’s something that will only look worse with time. In responding to Justice Thomas’s concurrence, Justice Ginsburg asserts that pregnant women who choose to abort their children are not mothers: “a woman who exercises her constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy is not a ‘mother’”. While this might be causally accurate—in the sense that women whose children have died are no longer mothers—it’s neither intellectually nor scientifically coherent. Despite his rejection of her, Steve Jobs was the father of his daughter Lisa from the very first moment of her existence—and it’s no different for mothers, despite Justice Ginsburg’s tortured philosophy.

Joe Biden’s Philadelphia headquarters

Joe Biden is headquartering his campaign in Philadelphia:

Joe Biden will base his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, setting up in a city where he has deep ties and in a state that is central to his strategy. …

“We’re proud to anchor our campaign in the birthplace of American democracy,” said a statement to The Inquirer from Greg Schultz, Biden’s campaign manager. “Philadelphia is a thriving city and a testament to the American spirit, built by the ingenuity and tenacity of ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Its storied history and celebrated diversity will serve as an inspiration for Team Biden, and is the ideal setting to continue our fight for the soul of this nation.”

The national headquarters, which will be in Center City, will have around 50 staffers to start, a number that could grow as the campaign goes on, and especially if Biden wins the Democratic nomination. The site will become the day-to-day nerve center for Biden’s strategic planning, media team, and others. …

Democrats and Republicans both view Pennsylvania as one of the most critical battlegrounds in the 2020 race, and the Scranton-born Biden has staked much of his pitch on being able to win back the state that narrowly supported President Donald Trump in 2016.

Biden, the early leader in polls of the Democratic primary field, was sometimes dubbed Pennsylvania’s “third senator” when he represented Delaware and, after his term as vice president, established the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania.

His wife, Jill, grew up in Willow Grove.

Pennsylvania has also been a major focus for Trump, a Penn graduate who has held dozens of rallies in the state and is scheduled to return Monday for an event near Williamsport, two days after Biden appears in Philadelphia.

Good for Philadelphia.

Strange economics

Warren Buffett says no textbook could have predicted the strange economy we have today:”

The current economic environment is one that no one could have seen coming, Warren Buffett said. …

Buffett noted that unemployment is at generation lows, yet inflation and interest rates are not rising. While at the same time the U.S. government continues to spend more money than it takes in.

“No economics textbook I know that was written in the first couple of thousand years that discussed even the possibility that you could have this sort of situation continue and have all variables stay more or less the same,” Buffett told CNBC’s Becky Quick on Thursday ahead of the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha …

The Labor Department said Friday the unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in April, the lowest since 1969. However, inflation was up just 1.6% on a year-over-year basis in March. That’s well below the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target. The overnight interest rate is also below historical levels despite four rate hikes in 2018. The central bank, at its meeting this week, kept rates unchanged at a target range of 2.25% to 2.50% …

“I don’t think our present conditions can exist in terms of fiscal and monetary policy and various other elements across the political landscape,” he said. “I think it will change, I don’t know when, or to what degree. But I don’t think this can be done without leading to other things.”

“While at the same time the U.S. government continues to spend more money than it takes in…”

Women Speak

Americans United for Life hosted “Women Speak 2019: A Symposium on Life Without Roe” this morning at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC:

Women Speak 2019 brings together leaders in law, medicine, economics, and culture, to explore the current cultural and political paradigm that falsely argues abortion is necessary for women’s advancement in society.

“Women Speak” addresses itself to the heart of the presumption underlying the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe and Casey abortion jurisprudence—that is, the idea that American women have a “reliance interest” in abortion.  A few scenes from the symposium:

Paul Strand was there and reports:

Americans United for Life organized the event, with its leader Catherine Glenn Foster arguing women would no longer need to kill their unborn children if society was more accepting of motherhood.

She asserted, “It is not women who need to change, but a nation that would discriminate against pregnant and parenting women.”

Because of that prejudice, many women feel they’ll threaten their careers, their opportunities if they embrace motherhood.

Writer Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review answered, “It’s actually deeply disempowering to women to tell them that they need the right to kill their own child in order to be flourishing, in order to be happy.”

Foster told CBN News, “The Supreme Court has this mistaken assumption that women rely on abortion to succeed in society. They say that we can’t make it on our own, that we’re not enough, that we have to have abortion, legalized abortion on demand, all nine months of pregnancy, in order to succeed. And that is simply false.”

She suggests as women fill up more and more positions in the working world, businesses and the women will both be better off if institutions learn to positively accommodate motherhood. If they won’t, it sends a deadly message. …

“Since Roe v Wade, 61 million Americans are not here because they’ve been aborted,” said Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO)…

Women Speak was a great symposium and is available in its entirety on Facebook and YouTube streams:

8:30 a.m. – Registration
9:00 a.m. – Welcoming Remarks by Melanie Israel
9:10 a.m. – Opening Remarks by Catherine Glenn Foster
9:20-9:35 a.m. – Congressional Address by Rep. Vicky Hartzler
9:40-9:55 a.m. – Congressional Address by Rep. Debbie Lesko
10:00-10:30 a.m. – Law & Policy Panel
10:35-11:05 a.m. – Women’s Health Panel
11:05 a.m. – Break
11:15 a.m. – Presentation of “Defender of Life in the Media” Award
11:30 a.m. – Culture Panel
12:05 p.m. – Closing Remarks
12:15 p.m. – Lunch

Care, not suicide

I spoke this morning on Fox & Friends in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent advocacy of suicide by physician for New Yorkers:

I spoke alongside Kristen Hanson, Community Relations Advocate for the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, as well as Dennis Vacco, former New York State Attorney General. Dennis Vacco successfully argued the landmark 1997 U.S. Supreme Court case Vacco v. Quill, wherein the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that no constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide exists.

Suicide by physician was made lawful in New Jersey over the weekend, which is apparently what prompted Gov. Cuomo to suggest making it legal in the Empire State, too. We’re living through a time when we think we’re cleverer than we are. Suicide is suicide.

Papal Foundation and a major grant

Matthew O’Brien argues that former Cardinal Donald Wuerl misled the Papal Foundation’s board of directors in obtaining a major grant. He also suggests that the purpose of the extraordinary grant may have been to help then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick win leniency from the Vatican as his sex abuse investigation was taking place:

In 2017, Cardinal Donald Wuerl provided false and misleading information to the board of the Papal Foundation to secure a $25 million grant for the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), a scandal-plagued hospital in Rome. 

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin requested this grant from the Papal Foundation in June 2017, on behalf of Pope Francis. When the Papal Foundation board met in December 2017 to discuss the grant, Wuerl made two false assertions which were recorded in the meeting minutes. First, he claimed that the Italian religious congregation that oversaw the IDI’s descent into insolvency through fraud and embezzlement (the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception) was no longer involved with the IDI. Second, he understated the amount of debt encumbering the IDI and its affiliates since the hospital group emerged from state-administered insolvency proceedings in April 2015. He painted a picture of a hospital that was experiencing momentary cash-flow problems, but was otherwise sound.

But the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception was not separated from the IDI. It retains indirect ownership today, in partnership with the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, through the non-profit Fondazione Luigi Maria Monti and a limited liability subsidiary, Luigi Maria Monti, S.r.l. Together they own and operate the IDI and its affiliates. Moreover, IDI’s debt was far greater than Wuerl suggested: Though Wuerl mentioned that the IDI group owed $26 million in payables, he did not mention that it also owed $60 million in mortgage debt. Because Wuerl resisted lay board members’ requests to obtain financial statements from the IDI hospital, the Papal Foundation board had to rely upon Wuerl’s remarks about its ownership and financial situation when evaluating the $25 million grant request.

Wuerl’s actions are especially questionable in light of what he knew at the time about then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s interest in securing the grant. The Holy See, Wuerl, and McCarrick—an ex-officio member of the Papal Foundation board—knew that McCarrick was at the time under investigation in New York for sexually abusing a minor, according to two sources with personal knowledge of the situation. Wuerl was aware that McCarrick stood to win leniency in his sex abuse case if the Papal Foundation secured $25 million for the Vatican’s Secretary of State.

Wuerl’s actions roiled the Papal Foundation’s donors and lay board members. Several people involved with the Foundation spoke on background for this article and shared copies of Foundation meeting minutes and legal reviews. Shortly before Wuerl resigned from the chairmanship of the Foundation’s board at the end of 2018, he orchestrated a change in its bylaws that decreased the already limited influence of lay board members by shortening their terms of service. 

Today Wuerl remains a member of the Papal Foundation’s governing board of cardinals. As one of just two American members of the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican, Wuerl oversaw the recent appointment of his successor to the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Wilton Gregory. Gregory too serves alongside Wuerl on the Papal Foundation board.     

The sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church is not just about sex. Nor is it just about clericalism. It’s also about money. The controversy over the Papal Foundation’s $25 million grant reveals how sexual abuse, its cover-up, and money are intertwined.

The Papal Foundation was founded by Cardinal McCarrick. And the Papal Foundation’s typical grant amount is not $25,000,000, but rather $100,000.

U.S. Digital Service and taxes

Justin Elliott reports that Congress appears ready to prohibit the IRS from offering free online tax filing:

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system. …

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa.

In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. Companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block have lobbied for years to block the IRS from creating such a system. If the tax agency created its own program, which would be similar to programs other developed countries have, it would threaten the industry’s profits. …

Experts have long argued that the IRS has failed to make filing taxes as easy and cheap as it could be. In addition to a free system of online tax preparation and filing, the agency could provide people with pre-filled tax forms containing the salary data the agency already has, as ProPublica first reported on in 2013. …

Intuit and H&R Block last year poured a combined $6.6 million into lobbying related to the IRS filing deal and other issues.

Devin Coldewey, meanwhile, reports the latest from the U.S. Digital Service, which exists to modernize existing federal services, websites, etc.:

The USDS is a small department that takes on creaking interfaces and tangled databases of services for, say, veteran benefit management or immigration documentation, buffing them to a shiny finish that may save their users months of literal paperwork.

… the USDS overhauled VA.gov, which is how many veterans access things like benefits, make medical appointments, and so on. But until recently it was kind of a mess of interconnected sub-sites and instructional PDFs. USDS interviewed a couple thousand vets and remade the site with a single login, putting the most-used services right on the front page. Seems obvious, but the inertia of these systems is considerable. …

These projects are often short-term, putting modern web and backend standards to work and handing the results off to the agency or department that requested it. The USDS isn’t built for long-term support but acts as a strike team putting smart solutions in place that may seem obvious in startup culture but haven’t yet become standard operating procedure in the capitol.

The work they do is guided by impact, not politics, which is likely part of the reason they’ve managed to avoid interference by the Trump administration…

“I signed up for a three month tour, and that was three years ago,” [head of the U.S. Digital Service Matt Cutts] said. “It’s really a whole civic tech movement here, there are a ton of people sort of holding hands and working together. There’s also stuff happening at the state and local level, at the international level, from the UK to Estonia and Singapore — everyone’s starting to realize this matters.”

I remember reading about the corporate lobbying effort to kill free tax filing a year or two ago, when lobbyists for the for-profit companies were trying to rally people under something like the banner of “Keep government out of the tax filing process!” I don’t think it was quite that intellectually self-defeating, but it was nearly so.

It’s a scandal that there might be a bipartisan Congressional consensus that is allowing the IRS to tie its own hands from serving Americans with a simpler filing process.