This has to be one of the #DUH items to ever grace the cyber pages here at GetReligion. Let's see if you can spot the religion ghost in this one.
So let's say that you are reading a story about a nice elderly couple in Illinois named Leo and Ruth Zanger. The story appeared in the Quincy Herald-Whig that was picked up by the Associated Press, which is why several people (Hello M.Z. Hemingway!) saw it and sent me stunned, even incredulous notes.
Now, the key to this story is that Leo and Ruth Zanger recently celebrated the birth of their 100th grandchild. Thus, here is the top of the story:
It's a big deal when Leo and Ruth Zanger's family gets together. Seriously, it's a really big deal -- with added emphasis on the "big" part.
The Zangers recently welcomed their 100th grandchild, which makes family functions more than a get-together.
"We rent out a church hall," said Austin Zanger, a grandson of Leo and Ruth.
When Austin's wife, Ashleigh, gave birth to their second child, Jaxton Leo, on April 8, it became a historic moment. Jaxton was grandchild No. 100 for Leo and Ruth. For the numerically inclined, Jaxton was also No. 46 among the great-grandchildren. The Zangers also have 53 grandkids and one great-great-grandchild for a nice round 100.
"The good Lord has just kept sending them," Leo Zanger said of the grandkids. "We could start our own town."
Ah, but what kind of church hall? Seriously, as you read the top of this story didn't the following thought drift through your mind: "The Zangers must be really serious Catholics."
Well, that apparently never occurred to the journalists who produced this story, because -- #DUH -- the word "Catholic" never appears in this story in any of the versions that I have found, so far, in the online news world.
However, with a few clicks of a mouse I was able to use a search engine and find (.pdf here) that -- surprise, surprise -- the Zangers appear to be beloved members of the St. Rose of Lima Parish in Quincy, Ill., which is "A Personal Parish for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite or Traditional Latin Mass" that is led by the "Priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter." The church bulletin recently gushed:
Congratulations to Leo & Ruth Zanger for their 100th great grandkid, to Daniel & Kelly Zanger for their 2nd grandchild and Austin & Ashleigh Zanger for their newly born Jaxton. Welcome to our new parishioner Jaxton Leo who was baptized at St. Rose on Friday April 24!
Seriously now, why in the world would journalists do a rather long feature on this couple and their large army of grandkids without mentioning the Catholic faith that appears to be linked to the abundance of life in their families?
Reading this story, I was again reminded of a quote I have used several times here at GetReligion, drawn from a Weekly Standard essay that ran with the headline "America's One-Child Policy."
... (In) a world where childbearing has no practical benefit, people have babies because they want to, either for self-fulfillment or as a moral imperative. "Moral imperative," of course, is a euphemism for "religious compulsion." There are stark differences in fertility between secular and religious people.
The best indicator of actual fertility is "aspirational fertility" -- the number of children men and women say they would like to have. Gallup has been asking Americans about their "ideal family size" since 1936. When they first asked the question, 64 percent of Americans said that three or more children were ideal; 34 percent said that zero, one, or two children were ideal. Today only 34 percent of Americans think that a family with three-or-more children is ideal.
In other words, people who have lots of children are, more often than not, choosing to do so because of the religious faith that defines and guides their lives. In other words, this is part of the basic DNA, the facts, of the Zanger story. Why omit it?
Wait! Maybe this story was just being really subtle, like this reference in the middle of the text:
Donna Lane, another of Leo and Ruth's daughters, is the unofficial family historian who keeps immaculate records of births, weddings, phone numbers, anniversaries and just about anything else directly or indirectly connected with the Zanger family.
Get it? "Immaculate" records? For all we know, the parish may be keeping records, too.
And then there is this:
The unofficial "mandatory" get-togethers are Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day. And don't worry, there are plenty of other "excuses" for them to gather.
"We enjoy all of the family get-togethers," Leo Zanger said.
You could even say that it appears that they frequently go to church together. And through it all, there is something mysterious that connects them all, that keeps them close. You can see this in the final words of the story:
An obvious sense of family has been instilled in all the Zangers, a special bond that begins at the top with Leo and Ruth.
"All the grandkids know us," Ruth Zanger said.
And that is something that will never get lost in any number, no matter how big a deal it is.
Seriously. I think that the journalists missed a crucial part of the ties that bind in this large, large family. You think?