Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Autism and The Church

Feast of Saint Perfecto

Man, I was all fired up to make a really good blog post on this, when I read it this morning, but now it is at the end of the day and I am not quite so fired up (not sure if I am even warm).

The Arizona Republic wrote an article titled “Church Denies Communion to Autistic Boy”. I remember reading an article years ago about a family who left the Catholic Church because their daughter had Celiac Disease and could not consume gluten. They complained the Church would not allow a communion wafer made from something other than wheat. I remember being outraged at this, because there were no accommodations made for this girl (though I knew it was not a good reason to leave the church). I have since learned the Church was correct in this matter. Canon 924 of the Code of Canon Law states that the host (communion wafer) cannot be made of anything other than wheat and water. If it is made of something else, or another ingredient is added, then it is invalid & does not turn into the Body of Christ. At one time since then, we thought we were facing Celiac Disease. It was suggested to us that the Precious Blood be received. Christ is truly present under both kinds, so really, only one is needed. In the case of this girl and her family, I do not know if this option was offered to her. I can only guess they were not properly catechized in the Faith. (By the way, there is a gluten free host now available, and approved by the Church.)

Regarding the article, I support the Bishop’s position. I am Catholic and I have a child with Autism, so I feel especially qualified to speak on this.

First, let me make this perfectly clear, the Bishop is NOT denying communion to this boy, it’s just that he cannot approve the method the boy receives communion.

The article states that the boy does not swallow the Host because of the texture, yet he can put it in his mouth. I fully understand sensitivities to textures. Obviously the boy has learned to tolerate putting the Host in his mouth, so I think with proper therapy, swallowing will come. Perhaps the parents have tried this, or perhaps they didn’t because they thought they had this other option. I have seen texture sensitivities improve with proper therapy; unconsecrated hosts can be bought & used in therapy.

But there are bigger, more important issues here. I will quote a friend of mine because she said it best

I say, thank heaven there's a bishop out there willing to stand up and enforce the rules which protect the Eucharist from desecration! This is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Savior. If this little boy is unable to consume the host, he is unable to make a communion. Tragic, but factual. A man with no hands cannot become a priest nomatter how badly he wants to. Nobody's fault, just can't be done. We all have to bear the difficulties of our circumstances. It makes me curious as to whether this Bishop denies communion to the publicly pro-abortion politicians in his diocese...
She went on to say
If you begin to allow novelties in the reception of communion, even for excellent reasons--- hygiene, health, whatever----suddenly you are faced with all manner of demands for special considerations; and reverence for and belief in the True Presence erodes, which leads to more abuse, which leads to further disbelief, and on and on in a downward spiral----until we have today's situation, where only a small fraction of Catholics even believe in the True Presence anymore. (And very few of the bishops seem to be among them.) Once we no longer have God at the center of our religion, where are we then?
I don’t blame the family for being angry. Here they are, they thought they had found a method that works. No one says anything about it, then one day someone does say something. This is another example of poor catechism. I, too, have been denied communion. I went to a new church, but the priest refused me communion because I was receiving improperly. I was receiving as I always had, but no one bothered to teach me – to show me my way was irreverent. Once I was properly catechized, I understood, but at first I was not happy about being refused. I thank the priest now for refusing me so that I could find a much more reverent way to receive Our Lord.

It needs to be noted that the diocese has really tried to accommodate the family – from trying different forms of hosts (though they all contain the same two ingredients, there is still a vast difference in how they are made) to offering respite care.

I have had my own struggles within the church, in regards to my child and how others treated him – not with the faith, as I knew I had found the truth. But I think you will find that everywhere. There will always be battles to fight, battles to win, and battles to admit defeat.

This is really rambling – I should have written earlier when I had more energy. I just want to say one more thing. Don’t we tell our children to follow the laws, even if we don’t like one of them? Don’t we teach them to do their best in whatever they do? Is it no different in this situation?

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