1. Pope’s sex abuse adviser seeks to keep survivor voice heard. 

By Associated Press, March 23, 2017, 7:33 AM

Pope Francis’ top sex abuse adviser has insisted the pope is “thoroughly committed” to ridding the church of abuse, but says his advisory commission must regroup following the clamorous resignation of Irish survivor Marie Collins.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley told a seminar Thursday that the commission has always maintained a “victims first” priority and that the issue of continued survivor involvement would be discussed at the group’s plenary meeting starting Friday.

Collins resigned from the commission March 1 citing the “unacceptable” lack of cooperation from some Vatican offices in implementing the experts’ proposals. Her departure dealt a blow to the commission’s credibility and again raised questions about the commitment of the pope and the Vatican to fighting abuse and accepting outside expertise.


2. Jesus’ tomb unveiled after historic restoration. 

By Ruth Eglash, The Washington Post, March 23, 2017, Pg. A8

Renovations at Christianity’s holiest site — carried out over the past nine months — were finally unveiled Wednesday in a ceremony that brought together rival Christian denominations and ushered in a new era for pilgrims wanting to get closer to their savior. 

And it’s all ready in time for Easter, which falls on April 16 this year.

Restoring the Holy Edicule, the chamber where Christians believe Jesus was buried and rose from the dead after his crucifixion, was no simple undertaking. 

The shrine, which is thought to encase Jesus’ 2,000-year-old burial cave, stands at the heart of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a 12th-century edifice built atop 4th-century remains. 

Control of the sprawling church is shared by six Christian denominations. The Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Orthodox churches are the primary custodians, while the Syrian, Coptic and Ethio­pian Orthodox churches, and even some secular entities, have lesser responsibilities.


3. Pro-life group embraces big data to connect with women who are seeking abortions. 

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, March 23, 2017, Pg. A7

An innovative pro-life group is using marketing techniques and data-driven research to better reach out to women considering an abortion in hopes of changing their minds.

Brian Fisher founded the Human Coalition only five years ago, but the nonprofit’s early results have him convinced that big data can play a key role in persuading women to look at alternatives to abortion.

The Human Coalition owns seven pregnancy centers and works with 35 additional clinics across the country. Mr. Fisher and his group approaches abortion counseling the way the general manager in “Moneyball” approaches building his baseball team’s roster.

Instead of on-base percentage and runs scored, the Human Coalition’s variables include “market penetration” — a measure of how effective a pro-life clinic is at reaching out to women seeking abortions — and “effective rate,” which measures how good a clinic is at persuading a woman not to obtain an abortion once she’s in the door.

The problem most pro-life pregnancy centers face, Mr. Fisher said, is they never make contact with the group of women most at risk for abortion. According to the Human Coalition’s data, the pro-life movement only makes contact with about 3 out of every 100 women who are determined to obtain an abortion.

To better reach their target demographic, Human Coalition clinics serve as laboratories to test everything from marketing techniques and counseling strategies to what color to paint the walls. Most of the experimental approaches fail, Mr. Fisher said, but the ones that work have uncovered dramatic results.

For example, the Human Coalition began to use sophisticated web-based and location-specific advertising in order to make contact with women searching for abortion clinics online. One pregnancy center in Pittsburgh that used the advertising strategy saw its market penetration rate increase from 3 out of 100 abortion-determined women to 36 out of 100.


4. At Rome summit, Africa’s Church faces its growing pains. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 23, 2017

To the extent there was a unifying take-away from day one of a major summit on African Catholicism in Rome, perhaps it was this: Some sixty years after the push for a distinctively African form of Christianity began, the Church on the continent now is all grown up.

“The Church in Africa has come of age,” said Nigerian Father Paulinus Odozor, “and now it needs to reflect on its life.”

Given that by mid-century the Catholic population of Africa is projected to reach 450 million, making it by far the world’s largest Catholic continent, those deliberations have consequences not just for Africa but Catholicism writ large – because these days, if Africa sneezes, the whole Church catches cold.

The March 22-25 conference is titled “African Christian Theology: Memories and Mission for the 21st Century.” Sponsored the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, it’s taking place at the university’s “Global Gateway” center in Rome.

The sense that African Catholicism needs to take stock ran through discussions on the first day of the summit in at least four areas: the discipline of theology, liturgical practice, the role of women, and the Catholic role in Africa’s social and political life.


5. Abortion-Rights Opponents Press Republicans to Back Health Bill: Groups say they will track GOP lawmakers’ votes. 

By Michele Hackman, The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2017, 4:08 PM

Republican lawmakers who are wavering in their support for the GOP health-care plan are feeling stepped-up pressure from another corner: antiabortion groups that enthusiastically back the measure.

The National Right to Life Committee and the Faith and Freedom Coalition, two leading abortion-rights opponents, both recently said they would track lawmakers’ up-or-down votes on the bill, which they say goes further than any previous health-care legislation to limit access to abortions. Including the contentious vote in such closely followed scorecards can help interest groups wield influence over a lawmaker.

The groups’ enthusiasm for the bill comes from the steps it takes to isolate abortion from the rest of the health-care system. The bill includes a temporary halt in federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America as well as a cluster of provisions designed to discourage private insurers from offering abortion coverage.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders are trying to get different factions on board to shore up support for the bill ahead of the planned vote on Thursday.


6. Pope says migrant crisis “biggest tragedy” since WWII.

By Associated Press, March 22, 2017, 1:19 PM

Pope Francis has described Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis as the biggest tragedy since World War II.

Francis urged tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday during his weekly public audience “not to forget” the problem but instead welcome and help refugees. He also encouraged efforts to integrate them in society.

He said integration should keep in mind “the reciprocal rights and duties of those who welcome and those who are welcomed.”

Francis repeatedly urged Europe to do more to help the hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers and economic migrants who’ve arrived in recent years.


7. Leahy Botched Abortion Talking Point: Pro-life leaders say his anecdote is about a Nazi-trained abortionist. 

By Bill McMorris, The Washington Free Beacon, March 22, 2017, 4:25 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy’s attempt to defend Roe v. Wade won applause from pro-life activists on Wednesday, who said the anecdote he shared highlighted how safety laws would protect patients.

Sen. Leahy (D., Vt.) recounted his experience prosecuting a Nazi-trained doctor who crossed the Canadian border to perform illegal abortions in Vermont to the Judiciary Committee during the third day of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing. Leahy called the incident representative of the “dark days” before the Supreme Court struck down state laws against abortion in the landmark case.

“She was trained to do these abortions working for the SS at Auschwitz so she could abort the women prisoners that they had impregnated so that they could keep on using the women that way before they put them in the gas chambers,” Leahy said.

Pro-life groups welcomed the remarks, saying Leahy had inadvertently highlighted the reason lawmakers have sought to increase safety regulations and health inspections at facilities that provide abortions.

Numerous states have adopted stricter measures in the wake of the 2013 arrest of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was later convicted of murder for severing the spinal cords of numerous babies born alive. Jeanne Mancini, president of the annual March for Life pointed to Leahy’s statements as an affirmation of why abortion clinics “not continue to be given a pass” when it comes to safety standards.

Maureen Ferguson, a senior advisor at The Catholic Association, said the industry has not made the progress that Leahy claims.

“We share Senator Leahy’s stated concern about shady and dangerous abortionists preying upon women in crisis, but he should open his eyes to the prevalence of such incompetent and unethical doctors today under Roe’s regime of legal abortion,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Today’s legal abortion industry is notoriously unregulated, health and safety violations are commonplace, and it attracts a disproportionate number of seedy doctors who take advantage of vulnerable women.”


8. Gorsuch made an important distinction when asked about assisted suicide. 

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, March 22, 2017, 4:11 PM

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch made a crucial ethical distinction in his response to questions about doctor-prescribed suicide during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, said one ethicist.

When asked what his views were on end-of-life care in the case of a terminal patient enduring unbearable pain, Gorsuch replied that “anything necessary to alleviate pain would be appropriate and acceptable, even if it caused death. Not intentionally, but knowingly. I drew the line between intent and knowingly.”

This is an important distinction, said Edward Furton Ph.D., director of publications and an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. He told CNA that the situation presents the case of “double-effect,” where proper steps taken to alleviate a patient’s pain may have the side effect of causing their death, but are permissible when certain conditions are met.

“You’ve got a good intention, the action you’re doing is good – in this case, it’s alleviating the pain with appropriate amounts of medication,” he explained, emphasizing that the dosage of pain medication may never be lethal and should not render the patient unconscious except when “absolutely necessary.”

“You’ve got a side effect, which is not intended, but is foreseen. It is going to happen, but you don’t want it to happen, you’re doing your action for another reason. And there is really no other route to alleviate the pain. So this is perfectly appropriate, it makes good sense,” Furton said.

Gorsuch, a judge on the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, faced his third day of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday as he is considered for confirmation to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.