“In an ordered and productive community, it is a fundamental principle that every human being is a `person’. . . . [One] has rights and duties . . . flowing directly and spontaneously from [one’s] very nature. These rights are therefore universal, inviolable and inalienable.” (9) -Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris
“any other commandment there may be [is] all summed up in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”(Rom.13:9)
All people were made in the image and likeness of God and an unshakable dignity of every human person innately pours fourth from this truth. As a church, we have a responsibility to uphold the dignity of all those with disabilities who are often invisibly ostracized and considered less dignified because of their disability. In imitation of our Lord, who dedicated much of his ministry to the disabled and the poor, we should give preferential care to those in our community with special needs.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau *, 11.6 million people who suffer disabilities are unemployed in the United States. 61% of all persons with disabilities in the United States of America are seeking employment, but are not employed. This greatly increases risk they these members of our Catholic family will fall below the poverty line or face hunger or homelessness.
We therefore, have a particular call to aid those with disabilities to keep them away from the dangers of abandonment, hunger, and homelessness. Our local parishes should be equipped with resources for families with persons with special needs as well as resources for those experiencing economic distress, particularly those with special needs. We also have a responsibility to keep our church communities open and loving to those with special needs, accommodating them despite potential inconvenience. Our church must also seek to be as accessible as possible in sacraments, ministry, and community life to accommodate and include persons with disabilities.
* Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Data Set: 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, C18120
- Pastoral Statement of the US Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities (1978)
- Welcome and Justice for Persons with Disabilities (1998)
- National Catholic Partnership on Disability
- Welcome and Justice for Persons with Disabilities: A Framework of Access and Inclusion- An official statement of the USCCB on the loving treatment of persons with disabilities in the Catholic Church
- Sacramental Preparation for those with Disabilities
- Prayer for Serving as an Aide to those with Special Needs
- More Prayers for special needs, mass intentions, and a special prayer format for a meeting reflecting on special needs
- Contact your parish to find out if there are families with persons with disabilities who could use your help. Organize parish or ministry efforts to aid these families.
- If there is need you can start a disability ministry at your parish. Here are some tips for getting started.
- Justice in Education helps students and parents to advocacy for themselves in our educational system.
- Advocacy for public policy that upholds the life and dignity of all through the Catholic Legislative Network of the California Catholic Conference.
Diocese of Orange Special Needs Advisory Council: At the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange we give special care and attention to those in our community who have disabilities. We have a ministry specifically for the catechesis of those with special needs. We work for the inclusion of all the baptized into the embrace of the faith community including those who because of development challenges, struggles with mobility or other special needs, cannot be present or participate in faith formation without assistance. For more information, please visit the Special Needs Advisory Circle page.
The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”12 – CCC 2208