Rich Reese

‘We never stopped trusting’: expecting triplets, couple was advised to make a horrifying choice

Rich Reese
By Rich Reese

October 24, 2011 ( - It’s 10 a.m. in the Holly Springs, North Carolina home of Erin and Jennifer Conley, and it’s breakfast time for their triplets, Jillian, Rebecca and Sarah. The three nine-month-old girls sit in identical chairs as their mom spoons vegetables and cereal to each in turn. Erin and Jennifer’s 3-year-old son, Adam, sits in the living room with their Labrador Retriever, Madison, surrounded by baby toys.

As the girls have grown, their individual looks and personalities have started to emerge. Rebecca, who was the smallest of the three at birth, is now the biggest, while first-born Jillian, who was the biggest, is now smaller than the other two. Sarah is focused on breakfast, while the other two seem happily curious about the visitors who have come to hear their parents’ story.

What is more heartwarming than the sight of a happy baby? And here there are three! It’s impossible to imagine that anyone could ever have wished them harm. Yet, not long ago a doctor who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth had suggested that one of the girls be “sacrificed.”

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At twelve weeks, when it became clear that Jennifer was expecting triplets, her obstetrician referred her to a specialist. The ultrasound showed that the babies, now known as A, B and C, were all doing well. So the parents were shocked when the doctor began to paint a frightening picture.

She recited statistics about the special dangers of pregnancy and fetal development with triplets, the potential birth defects and complications that could attend multiple births. “The glass was always half-empty,” Erin recalled, “never half full.”

“Is there anything wrong with the children?” the parents wanted to know.

“Not at this point,” the doctor said. “But triplets are dangerous. And you know, if they all survive to term, it takes parents more than 24 hours a day to care properly for three infants.”

After listing all the things that could go wrong, the doctor proposed a solution: “Selective reduction.”  By aborting one of the children, she said, there would be more room in the womb for the other two, improving the chances for a “healthy” pregnancy and delivery.

“It didn’t really sink in on me until later,” Erin said, “what she was really suggesting. We had three babies who were doing fine. The doctor recognized that they were living children, our children; they had letter ‘names’ to distinguish them. And she was advising us to kill one of them!”

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Jennifer said. “I let her finish, and then I said there was no way I could permit something like that. It was against my faith.” Not just against her Catholic faith, Jennifer realized, but against her and Erin’s faith in God.

“We didn’t do in vitro,” Erin explains, referring to a procedure where several eggs are fertilized outside the womb and surgically implanted. The Church opposes this procedure because it “dissociates the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2377). “We expected one child. That we had three, they were God’s gift to us. All of them.”

The doctor hadn’t given up, though. “If it developed,” she said, “that one of the babies was threatening the health of the others, would you consider ‘reduction’ at that point?”

Jennifer reiterated her opposition to anything that would harm any of the triplets. “We came out of the office traumatized,” she says. “I don’t think Erin had completely digested what she was saying. Later he called me from work and he was crying.”

“That was my first reaction,” Erin said. “And then I felt incredibly angry.”

The parents returned to the referring physician. “I said that if they couldn’t find a doctor who understood how much these children meant to us, I’d find one myself. My babies were healthy!” Erin said. “Fortunately they referred us to a second specialist who remained totally positive throughout the pregnancy.”

As Jennifer carried the triplets in the ensuing weeks, “God was with us every step of the way,” she said. “My friends at work said, ‘If there’s anyone we know with a strong faith in God, it’s you two, and we know you’re going to make it.’”

Hadn’t the warnings from the first doctor made Erin and Jennifer fearful? “Those things were still in the backs of our minds, of course,” Erin said, “but we never stopped trusting that God would be with us.”

“I’d think of those things,” Jennifer said, “but it would be just passing thoughts. Our faith in God is so strong. We believe in Him and depend on Him in good times and bad, and we thank Him for both, because everything we have is because of God.”

Jennifer also began attending support meetings with Triangle Moms of Twins and Triplets. “It was great going there and seeing what was possible,” Erin said. “I thought if they can do it, why not me?”

When a mother is pregnant with multiples, especially with three or more babies, “making it” comes with slightly limited expectations. The babies will probably be born early, and often require some hospitalization after birth. When Jennifer talked to a nurse about scheduling a C-section, the nurse suggested a “pretend date” at 32 weeks of gestation.  “No one makes that,” she said, “but it’s a goal. If it’s sooner, we can handle it.”

Jennifer made it easily to 32 weeks, then 33 and 34. At 36 weeks, she walked into the hospital. Hours later, her daughters came into the world. Jillian was first, at 6 pounds, 3 ounces; then Rebecca, at five pounds; and finally Sarah, a few ounces short of six pounds.

At home, their family suddenly doubled in size, Erin and Jennifer gratefully welcomed the help of her parents, who came to North Carolina from their home in upstate New York and spent three months helping. They also hired an au pair, Vanessa Fernandez from Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Her journey to the Conleys was an answer to Vanessa’s prayers. After signing with an agency that finds employment in the U.S. for au pairs, Vanessa, a devout Catholic, found more than one couple eager to hire her. “We chose her because she was Catholic,” Jennifer said.

While Jennifer was carrying her children, Vanessa was praying for guidance in choosing a family to work for. “When I saw that they would have triplets,” Vanessa said with a smile, “I wasn’t so sure I could handle that.” But when she learned the scheduled date for Jennifer’s C-section in November, 2010, it had a special significance for her. Her father had passed away four years before. She still missed him and prayed for him, and Jennifer’s delivery date turned out to be his birthday.

Erin, Jennifer, Vanessa and all their children make it to Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Cary each Sunday, but they find each day, with its ups and downs, an occasion for thanks, and an affirmation of the trust they continue to place in the Lord.

“It’s kind of strange sometimes, isn’t it,” Jennifer said, “the way God speaks to us? We just have to open our ears, our hearts and our souls and listen.”

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Note: Rich Reese is the editor of NC Catholic, the online magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. This article originally appeared in NC Catholic and is reprinted here with the generous permission of Reese.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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