Church bars severely autistic boy from mass...

Standing more than six feet tall and weighing more than 225 pounds, 13-year-old Adam Race cuts an imposing figure for his age.
Adam is also severely autistic, and his meltdowns during mass at the Catholic church in Bertha, Minn., have prompted a public battle between the parish priest and Adam’s parents.
The Rev. Daniel Walz, disturbed by what he said is Adam’s dangerous behavior, filed court papers to bar him from the Church of St. Joseph with a temporary restraining order against his parents. The Races are ignoring the order, which they see as discriminatory, and getting support from advocates for the disabled.

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Wow, I’m torn on this one. If the family has been given options as the article says, but then has refused those options, what can you do? The Priest MUST consider the safety of ALL parish members. At the same time, I am certainly a strong advocate of families attending Mass together so I can feel for the family. :frowning:

I’m with the parish priest on this one. You can’t have a child at Mass seriously disrupting the Mass for one thing and you certainly can’t have a child who may be dangerous to others at Mass. The child can still receive holy communion and go to confession. He’d just have to do so at his home most likely. And who knows if he is even culpable enough for his sins to go to confession. I don’t even know if he could receive communion if he hasn’t reached the age of reason. I know the universal age of reason is 7 years old but surely it would be older than this for boys such as this.

I think I’ve heard before that in exceptional circumstances the Sunday obligation can be transferred (eg for certain doctors or the emergency services etc.) It might be possible for the family to attend mass together, even in church, on a different day if it is pastorally impossible on a Sunday. On a weekday there would be fewer people around, and an evening mass might allow a small group of family and friends to attend. :slight_smile:

no, many times those afflicted with the severest forms of autism cannot receive communion, because of behavioral as well as cognitive reasons, and have no culpibility for any actions. but the disruption and yes violence, sadly, that can erupt from a full grown severely autistic person are almost impossible to imagine for those who do not have experience with it. We make a strenuous effort to identify all children and adults in the parish with special needs and bring them to the sacraments, but it is a sad fact some, for whatever reason–and there are many other than behavoir–simply cannot attend Mass or receive communion.

In such cases the child should always be baptized and confirmed, in a private ceremony if necessary, and catechized to the extent of their abilities. But communion is not a given and the person must still evince–even non-verbally–a knowledge of who Jesus is, that He is present in the sacrament, and the desire to receive.

I won’t related individual stories but the pastor has to take every effort to get to know the person and the family, and talk to the caregivers, and make a pastoral judgement. I hope the parish bends over backward to help this family.

I read the entire article, and although there may be facts missing, I find it hard to believe that for an autistic child (where typically large crowds are unsettling) the best solution is for him to attend the crowded regular Sunday Mass. Is binding him and sitting on him to calm him the best approach for the child?

The pastoral needs of the child should be recognized along with the pastoral needs of the community. It is a challenging situation. However, I have difficulty believing that the current circumstance of tying up the child at Mass, sitting on him in the pew, and clearing space for him actually benefits the child.

Aye yai yai!..what a perdicament! More prayers!!

I wonder if there is anyone in the Church who has experience working with older autistic children and could assist the family at Mass, volunteering to sit with them and take their son outside when he needs a break from the stress of being at Mass. I don’t know exactly what kind of dangerous behavior he’s exhibiting, but if removing him from the situation when needed works, I think they should try that first. Surely, there is some way they can work with this family without making them feel shunned.

My son is autistic and sometime I keep him home from things when he is having a rough day. It is not good for him or those around him to be in public on a difficult day. I think the idea of a dispensation for fulfilling sunday obligation on a week is worth trying. The lesser amount of people could help an autistic kid from going into sensory overload, a common cause of meltdowns or rages.

This is not a requirement to receive communion. The Eastern rites of the Catholic church give communion to infants.

no way to comment knowledgeably without more facts that in the article, but it sounds as if the church tried to work with the parents but have been rebuffed. It only remains to note that if the boy injures someone on church property the parish, pastor and diocese will quite likely be sued.

my son is autitic and receives communion…of course if he were having a bad day …I wouldn’t take him.

True and the disabled have the same right to be educated and receive as long as they do it properly…

I am also torn on this one. I know as a parent of small children I would be concerned having someone that large be fairly uncontrollable. I too, think it would be best on the teen if he were to attend Mass during the week when fewer people are present. I think a private family Mass every week would be a wonderful way to honor the togetherness of this family.

My son has a boy in his class who is autistic. The teachers have to make sure the class understands to give their autistic friend a lot of personal space. The boy is twice my son’s size and it does worry me that my son could be injured during one of this little boy’s meltdowns.

It such a difficult circumstance. I commend the mother for differentiating between The Church and the people in the Church. The priest is also to be commended for caring so deeply for his flock and their safety.

They are more apt to hurt themselves than others…:shrug:

Very good point. He is still very large though. That is my primary concern. This young man is just shy of my husband’s size. When my husband sleepwalks he is also more likely to hurt himself rather than others, but he has managed to bump into our children and knock them down.

I admit my bias based on my experience seeing someone this large and uncontrollable, though for entirely different reasons.

  1. The idea that a child “disrupts” mass blatantly goes against the explicit teaching of Jesus: the Apostles were mad at the children being “disruptive” and “distracting,” and Jesus scolded them.
  2. The idea of the “age of Reason” is ridiculous and also contrary to the Gospel, esp. when it is only used in the Roman Church, and it is based on outmoded ideas of human development. What is necessary is that the person believe the Eucharist is really Jesus. Any two year old can tell you that.
  3. A restraining order is about the most un-pastoral thing this priest could have done. I wonder how many times he’s visited these people at their home? Back where I used to live, there was a man with Down’s syndrome who came to mass every day. He served at the altar during daily masses and some Sundays. He was treated very kindly by several pastors in a row. He would do odd jobs around the parish, and had keys to the whole parish.

He made some of the Charismatics uncomfortable, since they were afraid of “catching what he had,” but most of the parish loved him. Then a more liberal pastor came along who kept up the same routine but routinely ridiculed the poor man.

The next pastor was extremely uncomfortable with him, as were the nuns. They stopped letting him serve at Mass. They took away the various roles he’d held at church. Of course, being denied the role he’d so long enjoyed made him angry, so then they said they were “afraid” of him.

They took away his keys. He fell into a deep depression and died.

Based upon my experience with priests and disabled parishioners (including my experience as a disabled parishioner), I think the pastoral approach has a lot to deal with this situation.

  1. I used to attend a daily mass where a family always brough their autistic son. He’d yell “Amen” and stuff throughout the mass. No one found him “disruptive”. His presence was a joy. Again, the attitude of the parishioners is a big factor.

  2. However, I have Asperger’s, relatively functional, but Asperger’s none the less, and my wife and I always wonder if that’s not more of a disabilitiy than my Marfan syndrome. Crowds make me extremely agitated, especially when I know I’m being looked down on for my obvious physical disabilities. My wife is fianlly coming to terms–after eight years–with the fact that it’s just not fair to force me to go to certain kinds of social situations that my brain can’t handle.

Often, we had to accept that God does not always want us to worship Him the way we think is best. It is probably not best for the parents to take this child to Mass at this parish. Obviously, the pastor and other parishioners are hostile, and the boy is picking up on that hostility.

It’s a big myth that people with autism and Asperger’s lack awareness of other people’s feelings. Just the opposte: we know exactly what other people are feeling. We know what they’re feeling beneath the surface, and that awareness colors how we deal with people. On the Asperger’s end, we don’t see the logic in putting on a facade and we hate that other people put on facades.

It would be best to take this child to a smaller parish with a loving pastor and congregation, with a very “low key” liturgy that is not going to overwhelm his over-sensitive senses.

Ah okay. Thank you for this information. :thumbsup:

again only judging by what the news story said, my concern would also be that the parents, for whatever motivation, are forcing the boy into a situation he himself finds threatening or overwhelming, which most of the families I work with agree is to be avoided whenever possible. It does sound like the child has done actual damage, not merely that others are over-reacting out of ignorance, and that the parish has made every effort to find a good solution for the family, but that the family will not work with the parish. again, can’t judge an individual situation based on a news story. being disruptive as in making noise is not the issue–if it were babies would be excluded.

“….Adam struck a child during mass, nearly knocks elderly parishioners over…, spits and sometimes urinates in church and fights when he is being restrained. He also… assaulted a girl by pulling her onto his lap and….There were people… who could have been injured or killed…”

Adam’s parents call his banning from the church “discriminatory”. You bet it is. There’s such a thing as RATIONAL discrimination.

*"Some disability advocates are getting behind the Races,” *just going to show that there’s no end to Political Correctness, all public safety and common sense be damned.

Of course, we’re uncomfortable with excluding anyone, especially someone disabled, from Mass. Jesus loves everyone. But what would Jesus have actually done in this situation? He probably would have affected a miracle cure of Adam by “driving out his demons.”

Unless Fr. Walz can affect such a miracle cure, is it unreasonable to ask Adam’s parents to accomodate everyone else’s rights to public safety and undisrupted worship?

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