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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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