1. Judge Gorsuch nomination backed by dozens of pro-life groups. 

By Catholic News Agency, March 22, 2017

Judge Neil Gorsuch deserves “swift confirmation” to the U.S. Supreme Court, leaders of pro-life and pro-family groups have said.

“Neil Gorsuch has proven himself to be a defender of the most basic human rights,” said the March 20 letter, organized by the Susan B. Anthony List and addressed to U.S. Senators.

The letter cited Gorsuch’s book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he said “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Over 50 leaders signed the letter, including representatives of the Susan B. Anthony List, Live Action, National Right to Life, Students for Life, and state pro-life groups and pro-family groups.


2. Pope challenges Africans to make Gospel ‘more credible’.

By Crux Staff, March 22, 2017

Challenging participants to render the Christian Gospel “more credible” in their context, Pope Francis on Wednesday sent greetings to a major summit of African Catholic leaders taking place in Rome March 22-25 and sponsored by the University of Notre Dame.

“Mindful that this conference will bring together a diverse African assembly, including bishops, professors and experts in sacred disciplines, the Holy Father encourages all present to profit from this opportunity to discern ways in which the Gospel can be rendered more credible in the African context,” the pope said.

Titled “African Christian Theology: Memories and Mission for the 21st Century,” the conference is sponsored by Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, and is taking place at the university’s “Global Gateway” center near Rome’s Colosseum.

On his call to discernment, Pope Francis said it will “help deepen the commitment to evangelization, which will not be complete unless it takes into account ‘the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social,’ quoting his own 2013 document Evangelii Gaudium.

Beyond [Nigerian Cardinal John] Onaiyekan, several of the continent’s other most prominent ecclesiastical leaders will take part in the meeting, including Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, the Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a member of the group of cardinal advisers who’re helping Pope Francis reform the Roman curia; and Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, head of the Vatican’s office for Integral Human Development.


3. Pope to Visit War and Famine Hit South Sudan in October: Bishop. 

By Reuters, March 21, 2017, 12:03 PM

Pope Francis will visit South Sudan in October if the security situation in the country stricken by civil war and famine does not worsen, a bishop from the country said on Tuesday.

“We have been informed (by a Vatican official) that he will come in October but we don’t know the exact date yet,” Bishop Erkolano Tombe of the city of Yei, told Reuters in an interview.

Oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar ended with fighting, often along ethnic lines. Both sides have targeted civilians, human rights groups say.

Kiir’s government and the United Nations have declared a famine in some part of the world’s youngest country, where nearly half of its population of 5.5 million face food shortages.

Tombe, in Rome for meetings of the Catholic charity group Caritas Internationalis, said the situation was dire in his city of Yei, which lies southwest of the capital Juba and near the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters mainly blames the government for the famine, yet it is boosting its forces by using millions of dollars from oil sales.


4. Supreme Court nominee drilled on abortion, religious freedom at hearings. 

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, March 21, 2017, 4:50 PM

The judge nominated to replace Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court answered questions on abortion and religious freedom jurisprudence on Tuesday.

While he avoided commenting on how he may rule in certain cases, Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals discussed the legal principles underlying topics such as the right to life and freedom of religious expression.

Speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he acknowledged Roe v. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S. – as settled precedent, though he declined to say whether it was decided correctly and how he would rule in future abortion cases.

Tuesday marked the second day of the committee’s confirmation hearing for Judge Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Gorsuch was tapped by President Donald Trump in February to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

Trump had insisted while on the campaign trail in 2016 that he would appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.

Senators also pressed Gorsuch about religious freedom cases, particularly the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to jurisprudence. RFRA was a law passed in 1993, and it set up a test to determine cases where a person claimed their free exercise of religion had been violated by the federal government.

The government may not “substantially burden” one’s free exercise of religion, the law says, unless it proved that its law “furthered a compelling governmental interest” and was the “least-restrictive means” of doing so.

Gorsuch, while on the Tenth Circuit, ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts chain owned by a Christian family who claimed that the mandate violated their religious freedom because they had to provide employees coverage for drugs they believed caused abortions.

He insisted on Tuesday that the religious freedom law “applies not just to Hobby Lobby. It also applies to the Little Sisters of the Poor and protects their religious exercise,” he said, and protected a Muslim prisoner in Oklahoma who wanted to keep his beard at a certain length for religious purposes against prison rules.