1. A Read on the Conscience of Neil Gorsuch. 

By Sohrab Ahmari, The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2017, Pg. A19

To get a better picture of the Coloradan’s philosophy, and his sense of right and wrong, start with his book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.”

Published in 2006, the same year he joined the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the book reveals a profound and morally imaginative mind that defies the caricatures of an enemy of progress. His main impetus is to preserve—not dismantle—the Anglo-American legal tradition’s commitment to universal equality and human dignity.

At the heart of the book is the question of when to limit self-determination in classically liberal societies, like America’s, that are constitutionally committed to maximizing it.

As the [Gorusuch] writes, in its decision upholding a right to assisted suicide (later overturned by the Supreme Court), the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “deliberately left open the possibility that, at a later date, the right might be extended to persons who are depressed or suffering other psychological ailments that cannot be, in its phrase, ‘significantly ameliorated.’”

Once assisted suicide is legal, one scholar quoted by Judge Gorsuch says, justice requires that there also be involuntary euthanasia for those patients who don’t have a “realistic desire” for continued care. Another argues that “majority sentiment” should govern which patients lack sufficient dignity to continue living.

To which Judge Gorsuch responds by asking: Who decides, and where do we draw the line? Even on their own purely utilitarian terms, euthanasia proponents can’t guarantee that legalization won’t lead to coercion and abuse, targeting people with disabilities. But even if those risks could be controlled, legalization necessarily sends the signal that the lives of some Americans are less valuable than others’.

If we don’t value all life equally and intrinsically, Judge Gorsuch writes, “a critical rationale for equal protection would wither.” A decade since his book’s publication, the road from assisted suicide to involuntary euthanasia is much clearer—clear enough that disability activists have now joined social conservatives at the forefront of the opposition.


2. Pope begs forgiveness for church role in Rwanda genocide. 

By Associated Press, March 20, 2017, 8:20 AM

Pope Francis has begged forgiveness for the “sins and failings of the church and its members” during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and told Rwanda’s president that he hoped his apology would help the country heal.

In an extraordinary statement after Francis’ meeting Monday with President Paul Kagame, the Vatican acknowledged that some Catholic priests and nuns “succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission.”

The Vatican said Francis also “expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which unfortunately disfigured the face of the church, may contribute to a ‘purification of memory’ and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace.”

The Vatican’s statement followed an official apology issued last year by Rwanda’s Catholic bishops.


3. Freeing religion from government’s grip: Trump must overturn the Obama order that discriminates against those who stand by their belief. 

By Robert Knight, The Washington Times, March 20, 2017, Pg. B3

On Feb. 2, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump said, “My administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty.”

Right now, he has a golden opportunity. He can sign an executive order that has been on his desk since early February that would halt some of the ongoing attacks on religious conscience all over the country.

The directive, reportedly called “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” would protect religious organizations’ right to their mission and beliefs when contracting with government, provide conscience protection from the Obamacare abortifacient and contraceptive mandate, and protect from penalties or coercion anyone who believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

You’ve probably heard about the Christian bakers, photographers, florists and wedding planners who have been fined heavily or put out of business for declining to service same-sex ceremonies. And the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have been threatened with ruin for declining to pay for abortions.

But did you hear about the law signed on Sept. 30 by California Gov. Jerry Brown that singles out religious colleges? They have to jump through hoops that other institutions are spared, simply because their beliefs are suspect in the eyes of the government.

The law’s anti-privacy provisions “would force California’s religiously-affiliated colleges and universities to report four times a year on every expulsion and suspension of a student, and the reasons for the discipline,” according to the Becket Fund.

The law also requires “religious colleges to use government-dictated language to communicate their religious beliefs to their students, faculty, and communities,” Becket warns.

There are many more incidents, including several in the armed forces, which still harbor leftover Obama apparatchiks intent on weeding out Christians.

But let’s move on to solutions. President Trump should sign the executive order guaranteeing religious freedom. He should also overturn Mr. Obama’s order that discriminates against federal contractors who won’t bow to sexual anarchy. And, his new defense secretary, James Mattis, should issue a directive stopping cold the persecution of chaplains and others who are trying to live out their faith.

Given Mr. Trump’s own declarations and the support he received from evangelical Christians, 80 percent of whom voted for him, plus a majority of Catholics, none of this should be considered heavy lifting.

Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.


4. What if Francis and Burke aren’t mortal enemies after all? 

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, Crux, March 20, 2017

I confess I pretty much reached the breaking point on headlines about Cardinal Raymond Burke and Pope Francis when the American cardinal was asked if he was being “punished” by the pope by being sent to Guam to oversee a sexual abuse trial involving an archbishop.

As it happened, a Vatican congregation sent him over there, reflecting the seriousness of the allegations. But this was just one of many headlines feeding a consistent, and convenient, storyline of opposition.

The basic reason, however, that the “Pope vs. Burke” narrative drives me crazy is that the two men actually have a lot in common.

In countless homilies, I hear Pope Francis caution against lukewarm Christianity. He calls people out of false security, rallying them to be countercultural. In the best of the Jesuit tradition, he leads people in an examination of conscience about indifference and motivations. He focuses people on Christ. And, yes, even conversion.

Burke, meanwhile, is a natural when it comes to talking about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. My first encounters with him included not discourses on canon law and politics but prayer and devotion. A devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is something he not only grew up on, but has helped sustain him throughout his priesthood.

Burke, for his part, wrote an oped in 2014 that I used to hand out to people who saw the Church as almost first and foremost enmeshed in politics and polarities. It said in part:

“The Holy Father, it seems to me, wishes to pare back every conceivable obstacle people may have invented to prevent themselves from responding to Jesus Christ’s universal call to holiness. We all know individuals who say things like: ‘Oh, I stopped going to Church because of the Church’s teaching on divorce’, or ‘I could never be Catholic because of the Church’s teaching on abortion or on homosexuality’.”

“The Holy Father is asking them to put aside these obstacles and to welcome Christ, without any excuse, into their lives. Once they come to understand the immeasurable love of Christ, alive for us in the Church, they will be able to resolve whatever has been troubling them about the Church, His Mystical Body, and her teaching.

Burke went on to write:

“The Pontificate of Pope Francis should be seen as a radical call to redouble our efforts for the new evangelization. Radical in the sense that, in our dialogue with others and with the world, we must start with the beginning, Christ’s call to life in Him. This call of Christ is the good news of God’s love and mercy which our world so badly longs for.”

There are important debates about Amoris Laetitia and all kinds of difficult and seemingly impossible-to-solve-or-recover-from issues in the world. But if we miss the heart of Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke, we miss the heart of salvation.


5. What happens when persecuted Christians fight back?

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 19, 2017

In recent months, hundreds of lives have been lost in southern Kaduna State in central Nigeria as a result of violence pitting nomadic ranchers against local farmers. As it happens, the vast majority of those ranchers are Muslim and the farmers Christian, so inevitably the situation has a clear religious dimension.

Nigeria is the world’s largest mixed Muslim/Christian country, with a population of around 190 million almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. As an imam in Abuja, the national capital, once told me, it’s like the Vatican and Saudi Arabia rolled into one.

Although the Catholic church estimated in December that more than 800 people had died in the Kaduna clashes, the government officially pegs the total much lower. Government officials have also tried to insist there’s no religious dimension to the conflict, suggesting it’s largely about tensions between the ethnically Fulani ranchers and the patchwork of small tribal groups that farm the region.

Try telling that, however, to Christian farmers who’ve watched their villages burn down while Fulani militants shout Allahu Akbar, wave Islamic flags, and vow to drive infidels from the area.
The thing about Nigeria, of course, is that although the isolated farming communities in Kaduna may be largely powerless, Christians overall aren’t. They’re half the country, and there are plenty of successful Christian entrepreneurs, politicians, and other professionals.

If they want to, they’re more than capable of fighting back.


6. Pope Francis to visit Egypt in April as dialogue improves

By Frances D’Emilio and Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, March 18, 2017

Pope Francis will visit Egypt in late April, reflecting improved Vatican-Muslim dialogue after years of tension that developed during the previous papacy of Benedict XVI.

The Vatican said Saturday that details of the April 28-29 trip will be announced soon.

In Egypt, presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said the visit to the majority Muslim nation comes in response to an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who met Francis when he visited the Vatican in late 2014.

The Vatican said the pope was going also upon invitations from Catholic bishops in Egypt, Coptic Orthodox church leader Pope Tawadros II and the grand imam of the Al-Azhar mosque, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib.

Youssef said that during his visit Francis will meet with el-Sissi as well as with the imam, who is Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, and with Tawadros. He said Egypt hopes the visit will cement the “spirit of tolerance and dialogue” among followers of different faiths and further isolate extremism and terrorism.

Pope Francis has stressed working for reconciliation and overcoming divisions among all peoples as urgent goals of his four-year-old papacy.

Since his election in 2014, El-Sissi has sought to reassure Egypt’s Christians, promising them equality and protection.

But a series of brutal killings of Christians recently in northern Sinai claimed by a local affiliate of the Islamic State has forced hundreds of Christians to flee the area in search of safety elsewhere in Egypt.

The IS group also claimed a suicide bombing in December that targeted a packed Orthodox church in the heart of Cairo, killing about 30, mostly women, during a morning service.


7. Pope Signals Elderly Married Men Could Become Priests.

By Reuters, March 17, 2017, 11:00 AM

Pope Francis has said he is willing to consider ordaining older married men as priests in isolated communities, but has ruled out making celibacy optional to tackle a shortage of clergy.

The shortage has prompted calls from some progressives to end the ancient tradition of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests.

In an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper, the pope said this option could be considered.

“We have to give a thought to whether viri probati are a possibility. We then also need to determine which tasks they could take on, such as in isolated areas, for example,” he was quoted as saying.

He ruled out, however, opening the priesthood to all married men or watering down the Catholic Church’s commitment to celibacy, which is seen as a virtue that frees priests to devote their lives fully to serve God.

“Voluntary celibacy is often discussed in this context, especially in places where there are shortages of clerics. But voluntary celibacy is not a solution,” he said.

A U.S. university report published in 2015 said the world’s Catholic population had increased by 57 percent, or 445 million people, between 1980 and 2012, while the number of priests over the same period had dropped by 17 percent, or 20,547.