At the bench, Greg’s commentariat weighs in on this story of a Down’s Syndrome lad being denied First Communion with his classmates. I’ve weighed in there, of course. But I have more questions that are appropriate in a combox post. First, let’s hear from the mum:
I believe it is because of his disability that they won’t accept him. I feel very upset my son is being discriminated against and I feel really let down by the Catholic faith.
They need to have more compassion. What they are doing is so cruel. As a child with Down’s Syndrome he may never have a full understanding of what it is about.
It’s up to the pastor to convince the parents in such situations that he is not a discriminating pelagian. And as for full understanding, sorry Mrs Ellarby: even the pope lacks that.
I’m disturbed the parents do not bring young Mr Ellarby to Sunday Mass regularly. If the parish priest were clear about this requirement and “delayed” First Eucharist to other boys and girls who are in this same non-churchgoing situation, the practice might still be wrong from a sacramental or pastoral view, but at least it would be consistent.
By the way, I don’t get why young Mr Ellarby can do well in a mainstream classroom situation for several hours a day, five days a week, but can’t cope with a one hour Mass. That seems fishy to me.
Mr and Mrs Ellarby have known for years their son was special. I’m sure they have had to advocate for him and his needs in other arenas. The Church is no different. It might seem that the Church is always and everywhere accommodating to everyone, and perhaps if the Ellarbys were Lefebvrist Catholics, they would get a better reception. But I would have been much more assertive from the get-go on this. Given young Mr Ellarby’s condition, a strong case for anointing should have been made, on his behalf and that of his family. Confirmation is also a consideration.
As I mentioned at the Bench, the denial of Communion betrays a whiff of pelagianism, the notion that grace can be earned by intellect, intelligence, and academic achievement (however low the bar is set). This is troubling. And maybe the priest and diocese are getting steamrolled by the petition drive and the bad press, but really: Pope Benedict has shown us all how to mishandle public relations at a high level. These people should be prepared.
If I were the parish priest or parish faith formation director, I would have been visiting the Ellarby home a year or two ago. I would have been exploring ways to mainstream the young lad, given the evidence this was in keeping with the parents’ wishes.
C-minus for the parents, and low marks all around for the Church on this one.