“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, December 16, 2004

U.S. Catholic Bishops part 7

The following statement is from the "Doctrine and Pastoral Practices" website sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is available at http://www.ncbuscc.org/doctrine/disabilities.htm

"7. We must recognize and appreciate the contribution persons with disabilities can make to the Church's spiritual life, and encourage them to do the Lord's work in the world according to their God-given talents and capacity."

You know, I honestly don't think we do recognize and appreciate the potential contribution persons with disabilities can make. We have an idea of what it might be like if persons with disability were integrated into the church, but really, we don't know.

I remember back in 1985 when I bought my first computer, a Mac (it was amazing). Although I had a notion of what I might be able to use a computer for, part of me felt like I was buying a Cadillac to go the grocery store when I already had a perfectly good electric typewriter. Now, I can hardly imagine life or work without a computer.

Perhaps if persons with disability were truly integrated into the church we would begin to recognize the contributions they have always been available and able to make but never had the opportunity to make because they were not fully included.

The Bishops also chide us that we must "encourage them to do the Lord's work." As I have stated elsewhere in this blog, a friend of mine named Jack is an adult with developmental disabilities who lives at a healthcare center for seniors. Jack lives there because of a medical problem he has, however, he is far and away the youngest man at that place. Many of the other residents are in advanced stages of senility, alzheimers, whatever you might want to call their gradual mental regression. But Jack knows all their names, says hello as he walks through the facility, talks about the Lakers (his favorite subject), reads the newspaper with them among many other things I am sure I am just not aware of. Jack is a minister of friendship and encouragement to the people living in that place. He also facilitates prayer for people in that place, staff and residents at times, through mentioning their names at times when we pray at church.

In my mind there is also something special about the prayer of a person with cognitive disability. Now don't get me wrong. The specialness has nothing to do with some idea that they have a special soul, or any other theological goofiness. The Bible says that the prayer of a righteous person avails much. Other notions of prayer are linked to faith. I find that persons with cognitive disability often have great deal of faith (as Jesus recommends, the faith of a little child). I really don't think God looks on us and says, "Your faith isn't as good as someone else's faith because you are cognitively impaired. Or your faith is greater because you are a professor at CBU." It is more about what we do with what we have. If I am to have the faith of a little child, then there might be something that I need to loose in order to gain that innocence. I need to loose my overly analytical mind, my need for proof. We are saved by faith. I see some of my cogntively disabled friends much ahead of me in terms of basic faith in God. I also find they are righteous. No they are not perfect. But their unrighteousness is often different from my unrighteousness.

People with unquestioning faith are definitely in need in the church. I could give many examples of such faith in persons with cognitive disability. Times where they encouraged children and adults with their "take Him at his word" approach to God.

So although I appreciate the Bishops' statement, and agree with it, I really don't think we know of what we speak, as the saying goes. Are there blessings to be had if the church is more open to and inclusive of persons with disability? What would we see if the congregation represented the community?

Lets find out...


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