Peter Baklinski

Open to life, even with a 25 percent chance of cystic fibrosis

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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ALASKA, July 25, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Ken and Allison Howell were leading what they considered a “charmed life.” The newly married couple were part of a Pentecostal church where the “preaching was fiery, the services long and emotional, and the music pulled one from the depths of weeping to the heights of dancing.”

But the Howell’s first child Rees, born in 1994 — four years into their marriage — was about to turn their charmed life inside out, leading them on a difficult journey that would test their marriage, their faith, and the way they valued human life.

Rees entered the world after a storybook pregnancy and birth. But by the time he was nine months old, he had contracted pneumonia twice, a rarity for a child who was breast-fed.

Further testing revealed why. Rees was found to have cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease caused by two recessive genes passed on to him from his parents.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a hereditary disorder which causers abnormally thick mucus to be produced, which often leads to serious respiratory infection. Havoc wreaked on the lungs by this disorder is the primary cause of CF-related deaths.

The Howells were devastated by the news, not only because of concern for their son, but also because of their participation in what Allison refers to as the “divine health-and-wealth-teaching church.” It was impressed upon members of that church that “divine healing is an integral part of the Gospel” and that “deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.”

“Although we were scared silly, we assumed that there would be some grand miracle for Rees to showcase God’s power,” said Allison who related her story to LifeSiteNews.com.

The Howells brought their son to “prayer warriors and healing services,” desperately clinging to the idea that his “sickness was from the Devil and that our faith in Jesus’ healing power was all that was necessary for his cystic fibrosis to go away.”

But the Howells had been set up for bitter disappointment.

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When Rees’ healing did not occur, the parents were led to believe that something was wrong with their prayers, their faith, their worship, or even with their trust in God. The leaders of the sect convinced the distraught couple they must be harboring a “secret sin” and that they “didn’t love God enough, didn’t love others enough, didn’t sing enough, and didn’t speak in tongues enough.”

For the first time, Ken and Allison began to doubt each other. They began to doubt God.

“The whole thing caused great harm to our marriage, as thoughts crept in of the other one being the hindrance to healing. Our relationships with God crashed.”

Ken and Allison ceased attending church services for a year, trying to sort out the spiritual mess which they found themselves in.

“We were angry with each other, angry with God, angry with our pastors and college professors, and maybe even angry with Rees,” she recounted.

A Turning Point

But the Howells did not want to give up so easily on their Christian roots. They returned to church services, wanting to pass Christian values on to their son.

But troubles in their church’s leadership led the couple to seriously question the matter of authority. What the couple discovered through reading and research led them to the door of the Catholic Church.

“We decided to investigate the Catholic Church’s claim to be the church founded by Jesus Himself. We bought books, lots of them. We rose early to read and spent our evenings reading. We interrupted each other. We shook our heads. We were excited.”

One evening while pouring over some books, Allison remembers turning to Ken and saying: “My God, we’re going to have to become Catholic.”

“We already are in our hearts and minds,” Ken replied.

The Howells were excited to discover the Catholic understanding of suffering as redemptive. They came to recognize that their son’s illness was not a curse from God, but a calling for him and for them to bear fruit by becoming united to the mystery of Jesus’ redemptive Passion.

Along with St. Paul, the parents learned to think of suffering as “complet[ing] what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24).

Ken and Allison desired to grow their family, but they were scared by the knowledge that a child born to them had a 25 percent chance of having CF.

“I remember wanting someone to tell me, when all we had was Rees, that it was OK to have more children,” Allison recounted.

However, as the Howells progressed in their faith journey, they came to realize that each life is a gift. They discovered in themselves a new attitude toward life and became open to having more children, even if that meant children with CF.

They realized that “no one is guaranteed tomorrow” and that health is not all what life is about. They recognized that every life, whether with CF or not, is imbued with a “spiritual component” that is “more real and lasting” than the elusive and ephemeral happy-healthy lifestyle that many people consider to be the reason for existing.

“All life is of value and all life is in God’s Hands, no matter how long or short, how fancy or poor, how sick or healthy,” they came to see.

The couple’s newly discovered openness to life was fruitful. John was born in 1997, followed by Clare in 2001, both without CF. Then came Ian, Ambrose, Luke, and Joseph, all without CF. Adah was born earlier this year and has CF.

All Children are a Gift

Some people think the Howells are irresponsible, or crazy, for being open to conceiving children who might have CF. But Ken and Allison simply smile and tell them that “every single life can have health problems, from the moment of conception and onward through all of life.”

“No one is guaranteed anything in life,” they say. They tell people that CF is manageable and that there are ways to keep CF kids healthy.

They also point out that a child with health problems, like a Tiny Tim, brings out the best in people.

“They have ‘something’ you can’t put your finger on. They tend to be wiser. They charge into life, full-force. They make the world a better place and they want to be here.”

The most important lesson Ken and Allison say they have learned from their CF children is that “all life truly matters.”

They have seen how their own family has blossomed and grown more closer by ordering their family life around the lives of their children with CF.

“We are very close, in part because of the necessary CF care which includes things like ‘lung clapping,’ where one must pat the CF person all over the chest and back to loosen the thick mucus in order for it to be coughed up.”

Up until Rees was 10, the Howells would “hop onto the couch” with Rees to do his lung clapping (pulmonary therapy) for 20 minutes, three times a day.

“When more children came along, they would join us in the activity. Now that we have another baby with CF, the other kids argue over who gets to do ‘lung clapping’ for Adah.”

While Rees now uses a hand-held device for his pulmonary therapy, Allison is convinced that the years of hands-on therapy with her son has “forged an enviable closeness” that she says is now paying off in Rees’ teenage years.

Life is Normal with CF Kids

Rees, now 17, recently graduated high school and is looking forward to beginning college this fall.

Allison says that she cherishes her son’s every accomplishment because she knows the struggle behind what he has done.

When Rees achieved a black belt in marshal arts, Allison could hardly contain from shouting out to the crowd: “Do you people know that he has CF? Do you know that it took him a year longer to accomplish this than it took other kids? Do you know that he has lung troubles and hospitalizations?”

Rees’ recent graduation ceremony for homeschoolers had to be planned around one of his hospitalizations. He was given permission to attend the ceremony only if a nurse accompanied him. “We all met him in the city, he processed, walked, received, ate, visited, and headed back to the hospital. No one knew that under his gown was a taped-up IV tube in his arm.”

Now with little Adah following in the footsteps of her older brother, Allison says that she has the routine down pat.

“The baby needs to swallow tiny pills that I mix with applesauce before each nursing session, and she needs her scheduled ‘lung clapping.’”

The Howell family likes to spend “as much time as possible” hiking and camping in their beautiful Alaska. On their family outings, Ken and Allison make sure to bring everything that their CF children require to take part in the adventure.

“Pills, the flutter valve, and applesauce can easily be tucked into backpacks, and when a nebulizer is needed, we have an electrical converter that uses the cigarette lighter in the vehicle.”

At the end of each day, Ken and Allison rejoice in the lives of all their children. While they love their CF kids “exactly the way they are,” they nonetheless “pray every day for the researchers who are working on a cure.”

“Every child suffers in some way, whether with CF or not,” they say. “All parents can do is hold them, love them, and help them. There is an awesome mystery to life.”

The Howells have come to a simple conclusion: “Life is precious!”

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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