Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: A Saint For Our Times

 

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
Image of St Gianna Beretta Molla in the Basilica of St Martin, Magenta, Italy.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla was a wife, mother and physician.  She lived her life believing wholeheartedly in Divine Providence and with a fervent desire to carry out God’s will even when that required great sacrifice.

As the family comes under attack in so many different ways, as the importance of self is elevated and the maternal instinct is squashed, Saint Gianna’s virtuous life is a reminder of the truth about the dignity of the human person and of marriage and family life.

Saint Gianna’s Early Life
Born on October 4, 1922 in Magenta, Italy, Saint Gianna was the tenth of thirteen children.  The family had a deep faith where prayer, sacrifice, service to others and giving of one’s self permeated daily life.

At the age of 15, while attending a retreat, Saint Gianna made resolutions which would form the basis of her entire life.  These resolutions included offering all her joys, disappointments and sufferings to Jesus, a firm hatred of mortal sin and offending God, and the desire for a holy death.

Saint Gianna became very involved with Catholic Action where she taught young girls.  She studied diligently and became a doctor, believing it to be an opportunity to serve others and to bring the soul to Christ.  Her greatest desire was to join her brother Alberto in Brazil as a missionary.  However, this was not God’s plan for her life.

Instead marriage was to be her vocation, a vocation she embraced completely.  Talking of family life, Saint Gianna remarked “You must adapt yourself all the time to family life because you cannot enter into this way if you do not know how to love.  To love means the desire to perfect oneself and the loved one, to overcome selfishness and to give oneself.  Love must be total, full, complete, governed by God’s law and it must carry over into eternity.”

Marriage and Children
It was with great joy that Gianna married Pietro Molla on September 24, 1955 at the Basilica of St Martin, in Magenta, just outside of Milan.  They moved to the town of Ponte Nuovo, living in the house provided by the company Pietro worked for.

Gianna longed to begin a family with Pietro.  Their first child, Pierluigi was born in 1956, Mariolina in 1957 (she later died at the age of six, a short time after Saint Gianna went to her heavenly reward), and Laura came in 1959.  Throughout these years Saint Gianna continued to serve the community through her work as a physician.  However, she promised Pietro that with the next child she would give up her practice that she loved so much.

The Choice
In 1961, Gianna and Pietro realised they were blessed once again with a child.  However, about two months into the pregnancy, a large growth (fibroid) was found to be growing near her uterus.  This fibroid caused Saint Gianna a great deal of pain and it also threatened the continuation of the pregnancy.

Gianna was presented with three options:

  1. A hysterectomy, which would have removed the fibroid, but also result in the death of her unborn child.  This option would mean Gianna and Pietro could never conceive again.  Under the principle of double effect*, it would have been morally acceptable in Gianna’s situation to undergo this surgery, and the most typical intervention at that time.
  2. Removal of the fibroid and an abortion.  This option would have allowed Gianna and Pietro to try for another child, but would have been a direct abortion which is always morally wrong.
  3. Removal of the fibroid through surgery while attempting to save the unborn child and continue the pregnancy.  This surgery would hold many risks which would last throughout the pregnancy, including the possibility of a secondary rupture of the uterus, a situation which would put both Gianna and her unborn child in immediate lethal danger.

Her choice was to have the fibroid removed while attempting to save the child’s life.

In the book Saint Gianna Molla, A Woman’s Life, Ferdinando, Saint Gianna’s brother, also a doctor, recalls discussing the situation with her.  He says “she listened to me patiently and attentively, but showed one decisive concern:  that her baby be saved.  And this was the desire that she expressed to Dr Vitali when she underwent the surgery a few days later.”

Soon after the discovery of the fibroid, Gianna started haemorrhaging.  She was treated immediately and the haemorrhaging stopped, but it was decided that the surgery to remove the fibroid should be brought forward.

The surgery was successful and Gianna recuperated, although she still suffered.  Her husband, Pietro wrote “In the months following the operation, you suffered so greatly without any complaint!  You prayed so much that the baby might be born healthy and normal and both your lives might be saved.  It was your complete trust in the Lord’s providence, your certainty of the efficacy of prayer, and your abandonment to the will of God that gave you strength and support during that long, anxious wait. 

You loved our three precious children no less than you loved the baby in your womb.  For all those months you prayed to the Lord, to Our Lady, and to your own mother that the right and guarantee to life for the baby in your womb might not require the sacrifice of your life, that you would be spared for the sake of our children and our family.”

As a physician, Gianna knew that the birth would not be easy.  She knew that it might require her to sacrifice her life for the sake of her precious unborn child, so she readied herself for this reality and put her home in order.

She told her brother “The greater part has yet to come.  You do not understand these things.  When the time comes, it will be either he or I.”

Heroically, she told Pietro “If you have to decide between me and the child, do not hesitate; I demand it, the child, save it.”

Complete Gift of Self
Pietro accompanied Saint Gianna to the hospital in Monza on the afternoon of Good Friday, April 20, 1962.  There, the doctors attempted to induce labour, although this was unsuccessful.  The next day, it was decided to deliver the child by caesarean section.  Gianna Emanuela was born at 11:00am on Saturday April 21st.

Soon after the delivery, Saint Gianna’s condition deteriorated significantly.  She was diagnosed with septic peritonitis and received antibiotics, blood transfusions and injections.  However, her condition continued to decline and she suffered greatly.  Despite this, she asked not to be sedated, choosing to stay lucid.

Gianna slipped into a coma on Friday 27th April.  Knowing that she would not survive, Pietro had her brought to the family home, where she died peacefully at 8:00am on Saturday 28th April, 1962.  She was 39 years old.

Why Devotion to Saint Gianna is so important now
We live in difficult times, where the culture of death is threatening to engulf the whole world.  No family seems to be able to escape its evil tentacles.  Youth are taught to give in to their desires and passions, leading them into a selfishness that doesn’t understand how to truly love another.

Marriage has been profaned.  Only seen as a celebration of “love” (however that is perceived); in many nations civil marriages are now no longer exclusive to one man and one women.

Contraception has become the norm for couples whether married or not.  Abortion is celebrated by some, and many see it as a necessary evil – even within the Church.

Women are urged to think only of themselves and limit the number of children they have through temporary or permanent sterilisation.  Mothers who suffer throughout their pregnancies are given stern warnings when they joyfully welcome another little one into their family.

The world needs the great example of Saint Gianna to show them what love really looks like; that one finds themselves in the complete giving of oneself to another.  Her wholehearted abandonment to God’s will and reliance on His Grace as she lived her vocation as physician, wife and mother reveals that our true strength comes from Him alone.

For those families who are trying faithfully to follow God’s will for them, Saint Gianna is a source of encouragement and consolation in times of difficulty.  Her gentle, maternal presence and her intercession before the throne of God obtain for the faithful many graces.

Saint John Paul II pointed out in his homily during the Mass for her canonisation why devotion to Saint Gianna is so necessary in our age.  He said “following the example of Christ, who “having loved his own… loved them to the end” (Jn 13: 1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfil themselves.  Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call!”

Saint Gianna was a woman of awesome faith, a great defender and protector of life, and a devoted wife and mother who understood the importance of marriage and family.  All are now under an aggressive and intensifying attack.  She is indeed a saint for our time.

 

Saint Gianna is patron saint of mothers, physicians and unborn children.  She was canonised by Saint John Paul II on 16th May 2004.  Her feast day is April 28.

*Principle of Double Effect – this principle is utilized to evaluate actions which have two effects, one good and one evil. The principle of double effect has been summarized into 4 basic criteria: 1) the action in itself must be good or indifferent; 2) the good effect cannot be obtained through the bad effect (because then the end would justify the means); 3) there must be a proportion between the good and bad effects brought about (e.g. life against life); 4) the intention of the subject must be directed towards the good effect, and merely tolerate the bad effect. Some say there is a fifth requirement – that there does not exist another possibility or avenue.

The Edges of Life

Grandpa and baby

The edges of life are controversial. On one side there are the debates about contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilisation. At the end of life the debates are about euthanasia, organ transplantation, and its cousin, brain death.

Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee is rewriting the rules on brain death. Normally when we see this, it’s someone wanting to declare people dead sooner so their organs can be harvested for transplantation into other sick patients. Peter Rhee is taking the definition in the other direction.

While Dr Rhee’s name might not be that well known, some of his patients are. He was one of congresswoman Gabby Giffords doctors. Dr Rhee knows about death. He’s a trauma surgeon who has seen mass shooting patients in the United States. He’s also been to Iraq and Afghanistan to save the lives of soldiers, even going behind enemy lines to treat the injured. He’s even been selected as a personal surgeon to the president of the US on an overseas trip.

But it’s patients in the US that might be rewriting the rules on when death occurs. He’s part of a team that’s been experimenting on ‘suspended animation’, to save trauma patients. The team has permission to start human trials on trauma patients who have gone into heart failure and can’t be resuscitated by current techniques. The team will rapidly cool the patient’s body to 10°C (50°F), where metabolic activity slows almost to a stop. In this state, the heart is stopped, there is no breathing, and no detectable brain activity. This would be normally be considered clinical death. But the surgeons have 2 hours to repair their patient’s injuries before slowly warming them up and reviving them. If their prior work holds up in human trials, up to 90% of patients could survive the cooling and rewarming procedure itself.

And that 2 hours is time the surgeons wouldn’t normally have for life saving surgery. This technique will only work if they are able to apply it to the patient in the minutes after heart failure before brain damage starts to take place. Previous work has so far shown no brain damage or impaired function from the cooling and rewarming procedure. The team will be following their patients closely to see if this is also the case in the human trials.

Some of Rhee’s comments on the research and his clinical work are telling, “Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution”.

Dr Rhee is saying that the current definition of death is inadequate and often premature. We often see that definitions of life and death are based on what is convenient. Some organs can only be ‘harvested’ from a ‘dead’ person where there is a heartbeat. Some of these ‘dead’ people have woken on the operating table, moments before their organs were going to be harvested.

Definitions also chip away at the other end of life too. Many medical and legal organisations now define ‘established pregnancy’ as starting at implantation, not conception (fertilisation). Once pregnancy is defined at implantation, and abortion is defined as ending a pregnancy, then emergency ‘contraception’ doesn’t cause ‘abortions’. And if you jump through the same linguistic hoops, hormonal contraceptives don’t cause abortions either. Despite the words and definitions, human embryos are still being destroyed by so called ‘contraceptives’.

The extreme view of this is held by Australian ethicist Peter Singer, and Nobel prize winning molecular biologist James Watson, who have stated that new-born infants shouldn’t be declared alive straight after birth. These frightening ideas were put forward to allow new-borns to be left to die, or even directly killed. Pro-abortion organisations have even opposed regulations that protect the life of a child born alive after abortion.

Given these developments, we should applaud the efforts of scientist and doctors where they are true to their profession and work to save lives, especially when they are able to save the life that couldn’t previously be saved.

The Pope praises Humanae Vitae

ImageEarly this week an interview of Pope Francis was run by a major Italian newspaper. As is typical with Pope Francis, he is relaxed with the media, and shows a great deal of skill and honesty with his answers. He’s not afraid of the tough questions, and says he even welcomes them when it’s a chance for dialogue.

The interview didn’t avoid any tough questions, it covered the sexual abuse scandal, divorce, remarriage and civil unions, globalisation, Marxism and many other topics.

He also touched on several topics of interest to the pro-life movement, including contraception, and end of life treatment.

He was asked on non-negotiable values, he was adamant that these values are essential. He rejected the idea that these values are like trading cards, which can be swapped and traded, while keeping a few favourites. He compares these ‘values’ to parts of his own body. In his own words:

I never understood the expression “non-negotiable values.” Values are values and that’s that. I can’t say which of the fingers of the hand is more useful than the rest, so I don’t understand in what sense there could be negotiable values. What I had to say on the topic of life I have put in writing in “Evangelii Gaudium.”

The Pope expresses much about values and morals in Evangelii Gaudium. He says that individual doctrines of the Church must be understood as part of the gospel, and joyfully expressed. This links these values to the whole of the Church’s teaching and to the person of Christ himself. So these ‘values’ are no longer dry doctrines, but a living, breathing expression of a Christian’s joyful faith.

The Pope praised Humanae Vitae:

It all depends on how the text of “Humanae Vitae” is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism.

Pope PauI VI certainly had the courage to go against the majority. With more than 40 years of experience with contraception, it’s now obvious the damage that it’s causes. When Paul VI wrote Humanae vitae, that damage was much less obvious. But the Pope predicted it accurately. And despite this bold and prophetic proclamation of the truth, document is very gently written, with the heart of a pastor. I think it’s this that resonates with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis reminds us of the need for confessors to show “much mercy and attention to concrete situations”. This is reminiscent of the much misrepresented comments of Benedict XVI on condoms. It’s not a dilution of the teaching, but working with people to bring them to a full understanding of the truth. In many cases, it will not be an instant conversion. We don’t need to change any teaching or approve of any sin.

Pope Francis is also asked about end of life care for the people in a ‘vegetative state’. The Pope reiterated the Church’s teaching on end of life care. He also acknowledged that he isn’t a bioethicist, and the need for palliative care.

In these answers, Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is a “son of the Church”. He follows and protects the doctrines of the Church, but more than that, he wants to show us that they all come from the person of Christ. He wants to make these doctrines or ‘values’ make sense and have a meaning and purpose in the faith of the Christian.

And one year on into his Papacy, the world is still watching and taking notice. Let’s hope that they truly hear the message he preaches.

St John Paul II, Pope of the family

ImageThis last weekend was historic. It has been described as the day of 4 Popes. Pope Francis canonised two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, while Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was present.

For us in the pro-life movement, the canonisation of Pope Saint John Paul II is particularly special. He was a fearless defender of human dignity, human life, and the family. And his insights into human interpersonal relations, including sexual relations was profound, and has been described as one of the Church’s best kept secrets.

Pope Francis in his Regina Coeli address after told the pilgrims of Bergamo and Krakow “Dear ones, honour the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully.”

St John Paul II’s life was remarkable.

He grew up in the town of Wadowice, Poland. A town with a large Jewish population, some of which he counted as his close friends.

It’s ironic, but the “Pope of the Family” lost all of his family by the time he was twenty. An elder sister died before he was born. His mother died when he was eight years old. His older brother when he was twelve, and finally his father died when he was twenty, leave the future Pope as the only surviving member of his family.

At the time of his father’s death, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. He had to take manual labouring work at a mine, and then a chemical factory to avoid being deported. He is also credited with protecting many Jews from the Nazi authorities. It was at this time that he began to feel the call to the priesthood. He started his studies for the priesthood in an underground seminary and eventually had to go into hiding from the Nazi authorities until the end of the war.

As a priest he became popular with young people and as Pope he started World Youth Day, which he and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are now the patrons. As a bishop, he was involved in Vatican II, and had a role in preparing influential documents for the council. He also published his important book “Love and Responsibility”. As Archbishop he was influential in the writing of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He was a walker, runner, kayaker and skier. As a cardinal he was asked if it was becoming for a cardinal to ski, his reply was, “It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly”. He continued to run and weight train in the Vatican during the first few years of his pontificate.

His election as Pope was a surprise. He was the first non-Italian Pope in over 460 years. His energy and achievements as a Pope were outstanding. He travelled to 129 countries and fearlessly preached to all who would listen. Dictatorships fell after his visits, notably in Chile and Haiti and Paraguay. His support for the solidarity movement in Poland was the catalyst that brought down communism in Poland, which started a chain reaction in the eastern bloc countries.

St John Paul II sent out a call to defend life, faith and family before the Cairo conference on Population and Development, and as a result the attempt the make abortion a “human right” failed.

Wherever he went he attracted large crowds, as many as 5 million attended the 1995 world youth day in Manila, the Philippines. His funeral attracted 4 million to Rome, with over 250 000 within the Vatican.

Defence of life, faith and family was his personal mission. His weekly angelus audiences for the first years as Pope were devoted to the “theology of the body”. It’s a teaching that is slowly gaining popularity within the Catholic Church, and recently within other Christian Churches too.

St John Paul II was a priest, Pope, theologian, writer, poet, actor and sportsman. He wrote 14 encyclicals, beatified 1340, canonised 483 and improved relations with Judaism, Islam and other Christian denominations. He was shot and critically injured, but survived, then meet and forgave his attacker.

But he will be remembered as Pope Francis said, “the Pope of the family”.

Frozen with an expiry date

Image

November 22nd this year will be a bad day to be an embryonic New Zealander in vitro.

That’s the first deadline of the 2004 HART (Human Assisted Reproductive Technology) act. All embryos in New Zealand that have been frozen for 10 years or more will be destroyed on that date, unless their parents obtain specific permission by May this year. That permission to extend frozen storage must be granted from an ethics committee, not the facility storing the embryos. One chain of fertility clinics says 350 couples or women will be affected at this deadline. And with over 10 000 embryos in storage in New Zealand, it’s only the start of this issue.

So why are there so many frozen embryos?

IVF has a relatively low success rate per cycle and per embryo. This is particularly true for older women. So to achieve a birth, many embryos and several cycles of IVF may be needed. As there is the expectation that several cycles of IVF may be needed, many oocytes (eggs) are removed from the women and fertilised at once. The ‘best looking’ ones are used for the first cycle of IVF and the remaining embryos are frozen as backups if the first cycle isn’t successful, or if the couple want subsequent children.

The process of removing eggs from a women is very invasive and carries real risks for the women. So it’s not something that the medical staff want to put the woman through repeatedly. It is possible to freeze unfertilised eggs rather than embryo, but currently frozen eggs are far less successful for achieving pregnancy. Embryos survive freezing much more successfully, so the clinics fertilise the extracted eggs, both to implant into the women and to store frozen.

If a cycle results in a live birth, the remaining embryos are left in frozen storage, unless the couple wants another child, or they decide to destroy the embryos.

So it’s the inefficiency and risks of the process that results in the temptation to make ‘excess’ embryos. Most of the embryos that are created don’t survive. Some are discarded after fertilisation. Some don’t survive the freezing and thawing, and are discarded. And many that are implanted don’t survive to birth. And many just remain in storage, with their parents not knowing what to do with them.

Throughout this process, and particularly when the embryos are in frozen storage, they are considered property. And tied to this is the attitude that parents have the right to have children.

The Church considers children to be a gift, not property or something that the parents are owed (CCC 2378). She also teaches that a child’s origin should be an act of love between his or her parents. In this way the child’s interests are put first. And as the weakest party, it should always be the child’s interests that are considered first.

This doesn’t mean all infertile couples are condemned to be childless. IVF isn’t the only answer that medicine has for infertility. Originally it was to be the last resort for couples who had trouble conceiving. It has now all but replaced the more conventional approach of diagnosing the specific problem and providing a therapy for that problem, where possible.

But the result of this attitude to children is the large numbers of embryonic children are in frozen storage in New Zealand and around the world. For most of them, it’s a death sentence. The ones that survive are treated for at least some of their life as possessions of their parents. Unfortunately this feeling of entitlement to children is spreading, and was very evident in the recent marriage legislation debate.

For the sake of our children, we need to defend the right of a child to be born from an act of marital love, and to parents known to him or her.

40 Days for Life

40 days of hopeImage

I remember during my early years at university becoming friends with an exchange student from West Germany. When she left her home country, a wall divided it from the communist country of East Germany, and people had been killed for trying to cross that wall. By the time her year in New Zealand was over, Germans could freely travel across the border between the two Germanys, and official German reunification had taken place within a year.

When she came to New Zealand, the fall of the Berlin wall was a distant hope, with few people expecting it to happen within their lifetime. It seemed beyond reasonable for the wall to fall.

But it did.

The flame of resistance within the eastern bloc countries had been lit a decade before when Pope John Paul II visited his home country of Poland. His battle cry, “Be not afraid”, gave the people of Poland hope. A hope that spread throughout Eastern Europe, and contributed greatly to the eventual collapse of communism in Europe.

That same battle cry was also for the pro-life movement which was always so close to his heart. We have the Lord himself on our side. No matter how strong the opponents of the ‘Culture of Life” might be, they cannot endure. No matter how strong they seem, or how much they influence government policy, they are running on borrowed time. In fact, the war against them has already been won. It was won on the cross.

And victories are happening.

In the US, there have been a record number of pro-life laws being passed1,2, and it’s bringing abortion rates down. Spain is considering ending abortion on demard3.

So how might an end of abortion look? Especially here in New Zealand?

We have seen the numbers and rates of abortions drop here and New Zealand and in the US as well. And the greatest declines in abortion rates are in the youngest age groups. We can expect this to continue.

There are already shortages of staff willing to participate in abortion4. And this has affected abortion services5. The 40 days for life program includes prayer for medical staff involved in abortion, and has seen 88 workers leave abortion providers. This is something that could easily happen in New Zealand, and we know there are abortion staff in New Zealand who have doubts about their jobs6. They need our prayer.

I have noticed a change in public perception of the pro-life movement. We are now seen as the ones who are helping women. The opposition is still there, and they can still dominate the political process and the media. But the general public are more open to the pro-life message than ever before. I’m constantly surprised by the people who are genuinely enthusiastic about our work helping expectant mums. As in Eastern Europe during the last years of communism, hope is rising. And I can feel the change.

There is still more work to do. More prayer and pro-life work is needed. But slowly the public is seeing that abortion isn’t the solution that they thought it was. One day they will see that it isn’t a solution at all.

We need to hope. We need to pray. And we need to “Be not afraid”.

 

 

Get involved: 40 days for life

 

1.            Johnson, J. Pro-life laws and clinic closures lowered abortion rate: CDC | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2013). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abortion-laws-and-clinic-closures-lowered-abortion-rate-cdc>

2.            Johnson, J. ‘Record number’ of pro-abortion laws being introduced dwarfed by pro-life gains, legal expert says | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2014). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/record-number-of-pro-abortion-laws-being-introduced-dwarfed-by-pro-life-gai>

3.            Metaxas, E. Restricting abortion, Spanish style | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/restricting-abortion-spanish-style>

4.            Board forced to bring outsiders to staff abortion facility -. CathNews N. Z. (2012). at <http://cathnews.co.nz/2012/10/16/board-forced-to-bring-outsiders-to-staff-invercargill-abortion-facility/>

5.            Hill, M. Abortion clinic opens in secrecy to protect staff. Stuff.co.nz (2012). at <http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/7813405/Abortion-clinic-opens-in-secrecy-to-protect-staff>

6.            Whelan, M. A day at the clinic. The Wireless at <http://thewireless.co.nz/themes/free/a-day-at-the-clinic>

A Pro-life view of ‘Tolerance’

“Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions.” G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Something about ‘tolerance’ has always made me uncomfortable. I’ve long been aware that the loudest preachers of tolerance are the ones who are the most intolerant of my own beliefs. I’m well aware of that, and the contradiction of it, but somehow it never really was the reason.

And those who preach tolerance are full of conviction. It’s their followers who they expect to abandon their convictions, or conform to what is politically correct. We all know plenty of them. I’ve also been aware of this for a long time, but it was never the whole source of what was bothering me about ‘tolerance’.

There was always something else that I could never put my finger on.

Then I was blessed enough to hear Fr Jim Brand from Vatican radio talking about ‘tolerance’, and my eyes were opened. “What might we tolerate?” he asked, “A fly buzzing around…”

Essentially he was reminding us all that when we only ‘tolerate’ something bad or irritating. When we declare our tolerance of a person, it’s actually a put down. And that’s a problem for a Christian. The worth of each and every person comes from them being made in the image and likeness of God. Whether it’s a ‘reproductive rights’ protestor, an expectant mum at a pregnancy centre, or her preborn child. Another human being is never a ‘thing’ to be ‘tolerated’, but a chance for us to practice our Christian vocation of love.

So tolerance is far below the standard required of a Christian. If an expectant Mum came into our centre, and I merely tolerated her because of her beliefs about abortion, then I have failed her, myself and our Lord.

Her, because she will pick up the difference between a ‘tolerant’ attitude and a true Christian attitude of unconditional love. It’s the reason that faith based crisis pregnancy centres have been so effective. I’ve failed myself because I’ve failed to live up to my Christian vocation, and it doing so, I’ve failed our Lord too.

But there is the call to be intolerant. Yes, Christians are called to be intolerant. Our Lord himself showed a great deal of intolerance towards the practice of ‘money changing’ in the temple.

While we are not to be intolerant of people, there is plenty we are called to be intolerant too: Abortion, contraception, poverty, human trafficking, violence and anything that robs people of their God given dignity.

It’s our mission and vocation to bring the Gospel of Life, a world where everyone experiences God given grace and dignity, from conception to natural death. And it’s our job to be intolerant to a culture of death that robs people of their God given dignity, and then so often, their lives too.

And in this, may we never be that man without a conviction!

“All men are equal as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the King.” G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)