Big Catholic Families

I’m posting this column reprint as a followup to my “Why Stop at Two” post of a few weeks ago.  In that post, I talked about why we’ve chosen to have a big family; this post focuses on the Catholic Church’s teachings on family size.  This was too long for the East Tennessee Catholic in this form; it was condensed and split into two columns which appeared, I believe, in early 2009.
“God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’”(Genesis 1:28).
You know He said it, but what did He mean?
A few months ago I told you why we have chosen to have a “big Catholic family.” Today I am making good on my promise to write on what the Church says about family size.
To be honest, though, I am humbled by the task I’ve set myself. It’s already been done, you see, much better than I could ever do it and by scholars with much more authority than I. But you’ve probably never read Gaudium et Spes, have you? Or Familaris Consortio? How about Humanae Vitae or Evangelium Vitae? If you’re in a Renew group, you’ve at least read some of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but we haven’t gotten to this part yet.
I’m not criticizing you, although I think it’s a shame, and I hope that Catholic educators today are doing a better job of getting some of this material into the hands of high school students. Even though I minored in Theology at a Catholic university it was only by accident that I ended up in a Christian Marriage class where some of this material was required. I’ve been fortunate since that my work with the Diocesan Respect Life Committee and with this column have led me to delve deeper into the writings that explain the doctrines Catholics profess to believe. I hope after reading just the small sampling I provide here that you might be tempted to go further, to be inspired as I have been by the Church’s vision of marriage and family–it’s so much more than the secular version.
Here’s the crucial point for most of you: The Catholic Church does not require or even suggest that you forgo all forms of birth spacing or regulation in order to bear as many children as physically possible throughout your reproductive years. Surprisingly, that’s actually an Evangelical Protestant idea–a minority idea–called the “Quiverfull Movement.”
This movement springs from Psalm 127:3-5: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” Its adherents, mostly U.S. conservatives, believe in receiving as many children as possible as blessings from God, rejecting even Natural Family Planning.
Now the Catechism of the Catholic Church does say that “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity” (2373). But it also says, “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children” (2368). In Gaudium et Spes we read that “certain modern conditions often keep couples from arranging their married lives harmoniously, and . . . they find themselves in circumstances where at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased”(51). This is further clarified in Humanae Vitae: “Responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family, or by the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth”(10).
The problem is that many people hop on the “It’s okay to limit births,” part of the message without paying attention to the “grave motives” and “moral law” part. This is NOT okay: “In the task of transmitting life . . . they are not free to proceed completely at will, as if they could determine in a wholly autonomous way the honest path to follow; but they must conform their activity to the creative intention of God, expressed in the very nature of marriage and of its acts, and manifested by the constant teaching of the Church . . . If, then, there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infecund periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier” (HV 15-16). “It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood” (CCC 2368).
So, to simplify: Catholic couples are called to cooperate with God in the transmission of life, being as generous as their particular circumstances allow, limiting births only by the use of natural methods and for suitably serious reasons.
This casts it all in such a negative light, though! Listen to what some of these documents have to say about the meaning and the function of marriage and family in God’s plan: “Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God” (CCC 2367). “Spouses, as parents, cooperate with God the Creator in conceiving and giving birth to a new human being . . . God himself is present in human fatherhood and motherhood . . . In procreation, therefore, through the communication of life from parents to child, God’s own image and likeness is transmitted, thanks to the creation of the immortal soul. . . . in their role as co-workers with God . . . we see the greatness of couples who are ready ‘to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Saviour, who through them will enlarge and enrich his own family day by day’ . . . Thus, a man and woman joined in matrimony become partners in a divine undertaking: through the act of procreation, God’s gift is accepted and a new life opens to the future” (Evangelium Vitae 43).
“Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents . . . All should be persuaded that human life and the task of transmitting it are not realities bound up with this world alone. Hence they cannot be measured or perceived only in terms of it, but always have a bearing on the eternal destiny of men”(GS 50-51). “Conjugal love . . . does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person. . . .Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God . . .Christian marriage and the Christian family build up the Church: for in the family the human person is not only brought into being and progressively introduced by means of education into the human community, but by means of the rebirth of baptism and education in the faith the child is also introduced into God’s family, which is the Church. . . . The commandment to grow and multiply, given to man and woman in the beginning, in this way reaches its whole truth and full realization” (Familiaris Consortio 14-15).
If you were married in a Catholic ceremony you answered “yes” to the following question: “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” Chances are when you promised that you did not really understand any more than I did what it really meant. Now that you have read just a little of the teachings that inspired the question, I hope you might prayerfully consider whether that longing you’ve sometimes felt for “just one more” might be the voice of God.
 

Peace

The Statue of the Blessed Mother at church, crowned with flowers for May

Just this morning, as my husband and I were rushing through breakfast and trying to wake our older kids up for Mass, I said, “Sometimes I envy those people who post things on Facebook like, ‘Having a peaceful Sunday morning reading the paper,’  don’t you?  Wouldn’t it be nice just to be able to sit at home and relax, or sleep in on Sunday?”
But later, as I was sitting in our usual pew, I realized that it’s really only at church that I find that very peace I was seeking.  Last year, I was having a rough time emotionally for a lot of reasons.  I was depressed, and irritable, and anxious.  Wanting to figure out what was wrong with me and what I could do about it, I started thinking about what things in my life made me happy.  The very first thing that came into my mind was being at the 11:30 Mass at Immaculate Conception Church.
The Easter Candle at today’s celebration of the Ascension

I was thinking about that this morning in relation to the issue of the lack of balance in my life right now, and about my desire to slow life down a little bit, when I realized the real reason that church is a place of peace for me.  And it’s not only because God is there.  It’s because it is the one time and place when I know for sure that I am where I am supposed to be.
Statue of Mary in the garden at Immaculate Conception

May is the month of the Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother of the Son of God

'Tis the Month of Our Mother

My son and his 8th grade classmates at the 2009 May Crowning

Sitting outside this evening, I smelled the honeysuckle and looked over at our garden statue of the Blessed Mother and suddenly found myself launching into “‘Tis the Month of Our Mother.” (I frequently burst into song at the least provocation and have an extensive all-occasion repertoire, which drives my children crazy.)

I cherish the memory of the May Crownings at the St. Joseph School of my childhood.  EVERYONE brought flowers, in vases, in coffee cans, in coke bottles.  We didn’t have anything blooming in our yard in May, so we always left a little early that morning to make a stop at my grandmother’s yard, leaving with handfuls of multi-colored iris wrapped in wet paper towels and aluminum foil.
The year I was in the 8th grade, our class had the privilege of arranging the flowers around the statue.  There was a veritable sea of every kind of spring flower you could think of arrayed around her in a semi-circle for several feet.  It was beautiful.
Things have changed a bit–don’t they always?  Nowadays, many of the kids bring bouquets from Kroger instead of handfuls of homegrown blooms.  And adults with an eye for design arrange a few tasteful bouquets around Mary.  You can see in the picture above how pretty it looks, but to me it doesn’t compare to the mismatched bounty of the past.
The songs haven’t changed, though.  I remember Sister Janice and Sister Georgeanna coaching us on all the hymns to the Blessed Mother in preparation for the May Procession.  “Salve, Salve, SALVE REGINA!” we would crescendo.  And they still begin with my all-time favorite, which I was also singing in the backyard this evening: “Bring flowers of the fairest, bring flowers of the rarest .”
I think some time this month we are going to pick some buttercups and honeysuckle and whatever else I can find blooming in our yard at this time of year.  We will fill some pretty bottles we have with water and use them for vases we can place around our statue.  We will make a crown of flowers (I’m not at all crafty, so that will be the hard part!) and Lorelei can place them on the Blessed Virgin’s head while we sing.

Lorelei and William with our church’s statue of Mary on his First Communion day

Why stop at two? Reflections on Having a Big Family

In honor of Mother’s Day I am reprinting this column, which appeared in the ETC about two years ago.

When Emily started kindergarten at St. Joseph School in 1996, the largest family at the school had four children. What happened to all the big Catholic families, I wondered. It was a far cry from my days there, where in my class alone there were representatives of families of seven, eight, nine, even ten.
Big families have been making a comeback, although five seems to be the new ten these days. Still, our family of five is not the biggest at St. Joseph, where offhand I can think of families with six, seven and nine kids.
When I tell strangers I have five children they say, “I couldn’t do it. Two [occasionally three] is as much as I can handle.” I am not here to make judgments on anyone else’s decisions concerning family size–only you can know what is best for your own family–but I wonder if people give themselves enough credit. There’s nothing special about me or my husband that makes us able to handle more kids than most people. Any additional noise or chaos tolerance we have has been acquired “on the job.” I tell people, “If you have three, you’re already outnumbered. After that, it just gets louder.” Going from one to two is the hardest adjustment. Once you’ve figured out how to divide your attention between two kids, adding a few more is not that hard.
Why do it, though? Why have a large family? I’ll answer that question from our family’s perspective this time, and from the Church’s perspective another time, but I have to say that I wonder the opposite–why would anyone NOT want to have lots of children? Having a baby is the most amazing, creative thing we can do in this life. When you add to your family you are a co-creator with God of an immortal soul. Nothing else you accomplish in this life will last forever but your child’s soul will exist to give glory to God for all eternity!
Even in THIS life, think of what a gift a child is to the world. The zero population growth folks like to frame human beings as nothing more than consumers of the earth’s precious, non-renewable resources. They forget that a child IS a resource, a more precious one. It’s trite but still true that the child you choose not to conceive might be the one who would have come up with solutions to global warming or the lack of a cheap alternative to oil. Family size is only one aspect of environmentalism and not the most important part.
I know some people who think that it’s not fair to the other kids in the family to keep having more. How can baby number five possibly get enough love and attention? It’s true that Lorelei does not get the focused attention from me that Emily received. She’s got something better, though–four older siblings to give her attention and love. When we are looking at books about babies, she always asks where their brothers are. When I told her that I did not have any brothers and that her father had no siblings at all, she looked at me uncomprehendingly. When you ask her to name the people she loves, she has a long list to fire off. “Aren’t you a lucky girl,” I say, “To have so many people who love you?”
And there is nothing like seeing a teenage boy who spends a lot of the time driving you crazy comforting a crying toddler or watching movies with her. I don’t think Lorelei is the only one deriving benefits from being one of five.
In a big family, kids have fewer material things and more responsibilities, yes. But is that a bad thing? We make sure our kids have everything they need. In our family, needs are pretty basic. Clothes are a need, but designer clothes are a want. Ipods and cell phones are not needs. Emily has an ipod but she earned the money to buy it herself. Her cell phone was her 16th birthday present. Our big kids have chores they have to do every day. John and I both have evening commitments outside the home and we expect them to take care of the little ones–feed them, bathe them, help William with his homework, and put them to bed–if we aren’t there. So they are learning to clean house, do laundry, cook, take care of small children. Even William and Lorelei–aged 7 and 3–can set the table if need be.
So, are we done yet? The answer is that I don’t know. We still feel like someone might be missing from our family. Each child is unique, and it’s fascinating to watch their personalities develop, and to know that you are partly responsible for the existence of this human being who will grow up and accomplish things and live after you. Honestly, it’s a wonder to me that anyone wants to stop at two.
Update:  I miscarried our sixth child in May 2008.  Our “baby” is 12 now.  I still wish we’d had just one more.
 
Why Stop at Two_Reflections on Having a Big Family

Pro-life, or Anti-Abortion?

This is a reprint of the very first column I had published in the East Tennessee Catholic.  Although it appeared in late 2001, I had actually written it over two years before, as one of three sample columns which were rejected by the then-editor. 
What does it mean to have a “consistent life ethic?” You may remember that as Jesus hung on the cross, the soldiers cast lots to decide who should have the robe he was wearing.  They couldn’t split it among them because it had no seams.  Some have referred to the concept of a consistent life ethic as the “Seamless Garment.”  Life is a continuum, and we cannot pick and choose whose lives we are going to care about and protect.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God”(2319).
If we are to be consistent–constant, dependable, invariable, steady, unfailing–in what we believe and do regarding life issues, we must protect and care for all life, not just the lives of the innocent unborn.  Many people have bumper stickers on their cars proclaiming, “We vote pro-life!”  Well, I would love to vote pro-life but I can’t find a pro-life candidate.
Under the topic of “You shall not kill” in the catechism, we read the obvious: abortion, homicide, suicide, and euthanasia are all prohibited.  But we also read that those who contribute to famines are liable for the deaths of the starving, that destroying whole cities in wartime is a crime, and that “the arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race” (2329). The death penalty is limited to cases in which it would be necessary to protect other victims from the aggressor–something solitary confinement in a maximum security prison can certainly do.

Photo credit: wht_wolf96653 via Flickr

It is relatively easy to be pro-life when it comes to the slaughtering of an innocent in the womb. It’s harder to care about a serial killer. It’s pretty easy to know it’s wrong to throw a newborn in a dumpster. It’s harder to say that no one, no matter how sick he is or how much he is suffering, has a right to take his own life. It’s easy to decide to support laws which ban abortions. It’s harder to support laws requiring that tax dollars be spent to keep poor children off the street, to provide aid to mothers on welfare, to create programs for job training for unskilled workers.
Being consistent isn’t easy. All human beings are a mass of inconsistencies. Being a truly pro-life Catholic isn’t easy either, but Jesus never claimed that His was an easy road to follow.
“I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to buy a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough to love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please.”   –Wilbur Reese
God, the Giver of life, the Creator of life, calls us to believe in life 100%. If we’re only willing to give $3.00, then we aren’t pro-life. We’re just anti-abortion.

The Feast of St. Bernadette

When I was a little girl, I received The Song of Bernadette as a Christmas gift.  The story of Bernadette and the apparitions at Lourdes captivated me, and I immediately decided that Bernadette would be my Confirmation saint years down the road.

I recently re-read (and who knows how many times I’ve read it already) the book, and found that I am now able to appreciate the adult parts–the political, historical, and ecclesiological parts I used to skim.  Not the least interesting fact about the story is that its writer is not a Christian, but a Jew, who wrote the story after he was hidden from the Nazis in Lourdes before making his escape to the United States.
When I was in high school, my grandmother took me on a 17-day tour of France.  The highlight was our visit to Lourdes (which Sister deLellis, my high school French teacher, had told us reminded her of a Catholic Gatlinburg).  It’s true that cheap Catholic souvenir shops lined the main road to the Grotto, but miracle and mystery existed there too.
Bernadette’s “lady” had asked that “processions come hither,” and every night thousands of pilgrims walk to the grotto carrying candles and singing “Ave Maria.”  I cannot describe how beautiful and powerful it was.
Bernadette was just a simple peasant girl, who retired to a convent and died a painful death from tuberculosis of the bone.  Today is the anniversary of the day she died at the age of 34, and thus her Feast Day.
Years after her death, Bernadette’s body was exhumed and was found to be incorrupt.  It is still on view today at the convent of the Sisters of Nevers, where she lived as a sister.

Above the Grotto where the lady appeared are suspended crutches left behind those who were cured after drinking from or bathing in the miraculous spring.  I took home several bottles of the water to use at home.  My friends and I used to bless ourselves with it in college before we took our exams!
If I had the money to travel, Lourdes would be one of the first places I would go.
St. Bernadette, pray for us.

Jesus Is My Uncle

Well, maybe he’s not.  Actually, I don’t believe it at all, because I’m Catholic and our tradition denies that Jesus had any siblings.  This is some of the suspicious information you run into doing internet-based genealogy.  I was investigating my family history on Ancestry.com one day.  They have this neat little “hint” feature that will suggest missing members of your tree based on the “research” of other members.  So I was happily clicking and adding branch after branch until people like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lion Hearted and Charlemagne and Joseph of Arimathea started appearing in the tree.  First I was excited to be descended from such luminaries, but soon I learned that although some people wish to prove descent from antiquity, most experts don’t really believe that’s possible.
The above screen shot comes from Geni.com, which is a collaborative project in which all users can add to each others’ trees.  That means that sometimes you get useful information and find new relatives, and other times, you end up with Uncle Jesus. 
I’ve found a lot of good information on Rootsweb, where users post ancestry and descent.  You can search by name, and compare trees, and pick the one that looks the most authentic.  That’s where I went to find out if Con Hunley really was my cousin–he is!  For years, people would ask me if we were related and I would say no, but I was wrong.  He’s my father’s fourth cousin, which I was able to figure out by finding an article that listed his father’s name and then plugging that into Rootsweb.  I quickly found his branch and added him to my tree. 

Cousin Con

The Genforum boards, organized by the family names that you are researching, have also been fun and useful places to ask other researchers questions about those elusive people at the top  of the tree. 
Of course, using the internet is a lazy way to do genealogy, and I feel guilty when I think of my cousin Laurie, who has spent years doing actual research by going places and looking at historical records.  I’m lucky that she shared all her authenticated information with me, so I had a place to start on my mother’s side of the family.  So far, the only field trip I have been on was to visit graveyards in Union County to look at the final resting places of ancestors on my father’s side. 
My great-great-great grandfather's grave in Carr Cemetery, Maynardville

Well, except for several trips to Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, to visit the grave of our most illustrious ancestor, my great-great-great grandfather General James D. Hagan, who served in the Confederate Army. 
For me, right now, genealogy is a hobby, so accuracy isn’t paramount.  In the future maybe I will actually try to verify everything I’ve learned.
I guess I’ll have to wait until I get to Heaven to check with Jesus about the uncle thing, though!

Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia, Alleluia!

I loved Easter long before I appreciated its religious significance–the excitement of the Easter Bunny, the new clothes, the family dinner, the egg hunt, and most of all the springtime.  It’s my favorite holiday as an adult, not just because for Christians it is the climax of the Church year, but because it is a fun family time that is not as demanding as Christmas and which takes place at the time of year that makes me happiest.
This was our first Easter in a new home, and we had a wonderful time.  We put the kids at our new outside table, and later we all sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful day.  But it was an emotional day, too.  The evening before, both my mother and my youngest sister were present at the Easter Vigil service at our church, Immaculate Conception.  There was a freakish accident involving the sacred fire from which the Easter Candle was to be lit.  My mother saw our deacon and two altar servers catch on fire.  My sister and my niece, just arriving, heard the screams and knew that something was terribly wrong.  We have known Patrick, one of the servers, since he was born, and he is in my son’s class at Knoxville Catholic High School, so we were particularly upset and worried about him.
I haven’t been to the Easter Vigil in years, as much as I loved it as a child, because a service that lasts from nine until midnight just doesn’t work well with five children.  So I got my first inklings of the news from a Facebook post, more from WBIR’s Twitter feed, and the rest from a phone call to my mother who had stepped out of Mass (which did go on, and how our pastor did it is a miracle itself).  As you might imagine, we thought of little else the rest of the evening, even as we went about the usual holiday preparations, filling baskets, rolling out dough.
Father Joe rose to the occasion again at Mass the next morning, encouraging us to sing out those alleluias, upset as we all were.  Then during the Prayers of the Faithful came another blow when we were asked to pray for the soul of Bob DeWine, who had died just an hour before.  His death was not tragic–he was 90 years old, and died surrounded by his family on Easter Sunday morning, surely a significant and blessed day for a Christian to enter New Life.  But how the church will miss him!  How difficult it was that morning, to celebrate and sing the joyful songs while death and tragedy were still so near.
The three people injured in the blaze are going to be O.K.  The deacon and his daughter are still being treated at the burn center at Vanderbilt; Patrick has been released and is recovering at home.  Bob DeWine is celebrating Easter in Heaven this year.  Resurrection takes on a new meaning for all of us this Easter season.

bob dewine 1
Here’s one view of a memorial set up in the back of our church for Mr. DeWine, who was an usher at the 10 a.m. Mass for many years.

bob dewine 2
He always had a big smile and a “good morning” as he held open the church door.

What's in a Name?

The following is a reprint of a column that ran in The East Tennessee Catholic newspaper on August 11, 2002.  It explains the name of my former column, which is now the name of this blog.
Names are important.
Think of the time we spend choosing the names we give our children, the hours poring over baby-name books, making lists, asking opinions, only to be told years later by an unappreciative adolescent, “I hate my name!”
Now, any writer or artist will tell you that his creative product is something like “offspring” to him.  So when it was time–past time–to name this column, I agonized over the choice for days.  Then, coming up blank, I followed my usual procedure for titling my work:  I stole.
Image result for bartlett's familiar quotations
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations with its handy index is an old friend that has proved its worth to me many times.  I looked up life in the back of the book, and voila, the works of far better writers than I were at my disposal.
The phrase “life in every limb” sounded perfect at first reading, and once I investigated the source became even more so.
First, the author:  William Wordsworth, famed English poet of the Romantic Period, and as it happens, an old favorite of mine.  My first college English professor, later my advisor, is a preeminent Wordsworth scholar who spends summers at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in the Lake District.  By virtue of his enthusiasm almost as much as Wordsworth’s talent, he taught us to love Wordsworth too.  This seemed like an omen.
Image result for wordsworth
Next the poem whence the line came: We Are Seven. The poem’s narrator encounters a “little maid,” who in answer to questions about her family asserts again and again that there are seven children, even though two have died.  This inclusion in the family’s number of two who are unable to speak for themselves resonated with me as I thought of the voiceless unborn and their need for similar champions.
Finally, the enire quotation:  “A simple child/That lightly draws its breath/And feels its life in every limb/What should it know of death?” I thought of the unborn child, alive in every way, in every part of its tiny body, heart beating, blood pumping, at the very beginning of its life doomed so often to a premature and violent death.
I wonder what Wordsworth might add to the abortion debate if he were with us today.  My first child’s godmother (a fellow student of the aforementioned professor) created a beautiful cross-stitch as a gift for Emily when she was born from a paraphrased Wordsworth quotation: “Children come trailing clouds of glory from God who is their home.”
This comes from his Ode on the Intimations of Mortality, in which he expounds upon his belief that children are closer to God because they remember glimpses of heaven that are more and more lost to us as we grow older.  His own heavenly visions, the “spots of time” he celebrates in his long autobiographical narrative poem The Prelude, were a continuing source of inspiration to Wordsworth.  I have a feeling that he would have viewed the killing of the innocent unborn, fresh from God’s hand, as the worst kind of sacrilege.
Moving to a different sort of literature, the phrase “life in every limb” calls to mind St. Paul‘s metaphor of 1 Corinthians 12: ” . . . [T]he body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body . . . .”  Each person, born or unborn, is a part of that body and has a unique role to fulfill.
In valuing all members of the body equally, our church espouses a consistent ethic of life.  Although abortion is the focus of this column, I plan to write about many other life issues, such as the death penalty and euthanasia.  We might think of the abortion issue as just one of the many limbs of the church’s pro-life teachings.  For we are a church that embraces and celebrates and protects all life, that of the innocent unborn equally with that of the convicted murderer, of the ill and disabled along with the healthy, of the non-Christian along with the Christian–life in every limb of the Body of Christ.