I read today about the Roman Catholic church denying First Communion to disabled, as policy, when I was looking up the story of the Roman Catholic Parish that got a judge to ban a family from attending Mass — to the point where a sheriff was waiting outside the home to arrest a family if they tried to attend.
I compared this to my own small Quaker worship group, which has been very inviting to my seven year old, non verbal child with PDD-NOS.
It makes me wonder what other policies are out there. A faith that insists that you understand the host is the body of Christ is going to be less inclined to give a child communion. In the case of the child denied, he had ‘oral defensiveness’ and could put the host in his mouth, but his father had to finish it. (My own son was unable to eat from birth — so it is a matter of medicine, not being ‘difficult’.) What would a different church do? I know of another child who is facing a possibility of being barred from his first communion for his disabilities, involving his ability to cope with large crowds. What about Bar Mitzvahs? Are those only for those who can read, memorize, perform in front of others?
As our children are out of institutions, and in our communities, our faiths need to decide what role they will ‘allow’ our children to have in their churches, temples, meetinghouses, places of worship.
Understand, though, as parents, if we feel that you are rejecting our children for their disabilities, we may very well reject you. It makes me sad to know that this is ok, and perhaps even desirable with some religions. But we’re not going away. Our children aren’t locked up any more, and we want them to be full members of our communities.
Will our religions step up to the plate? Or will they turn their backs on us.
I’m glad my group of Friends stepped up. I’m sad to read about others (primarily the Catholic Church) that said no. These people need to be members of the faith community, not just recipients of social services from them. (But then, as members of the community, they may not have much to donate, if they can’t work. However, Catholic Charities and the like DO make money off the government offering various services to the disabled.)
When it comes to communion, I can understand not taking it because you’re not in a state of grace, or whatever (I, personally will not take whereas other ‘lapsed (Roman) Catholics will), because that is a religious barrier, one that has to do with you at that moment in time. But when you are taking people who may be born with an inability to ever do it, or who for whatever reason have to stop later on, for medical reasons, then that isn’t very fair, and to me, not very loving. Does God care to what extent you can vocalize the meaning of the act to you? Or does God know your heart, and approve?
I would go so far as to say it is morally wrong to deny someone communion for those reasons, as you are taking God’s most vulnerable and denying them Him on that level. Do we, as “able bodied” adults have a responsibility to make sure that others partake in His rituals as much as possible? I think so.