Understanding disability

what is the proper understanding of disability in light of church teaching and the bible?

also does anyone have any resources on how disability was viewed in the middle ages? i’ve tried searching on the intrenet but all i get is people and their biased opinions wiht nothing referenced.

and from my personal life, it has ranged from me being punished for sin to being punished for other people’s sin to not having enough faith in god which is why i’m not healed or the other extreme, when people come up to me and automatically think i’m a saint. it’s all very confusing.

In some of my past studies I concluded that disability and illness were often viewed as punishment for sins, and often of the parents. More often than not many cultures viewed the sick or disabled with disdain or as a burden. There are exceptions of course.

For example I worked with Hmong Immigrants for close to 15 years. I passed out once, and all of the community present wanted to touch me as they felt this was indication that the spirit of God had touched me. I can’t quit remember the name of a book related to this but I think it is “The Spirit Touches Her and She Falls Down.” It covers the history of a child with a seizure disorder and differences between Western care and Eastern care as specifically related to the beliefs of the Hmong people.

As far as my own education in the Faith, and the advise from a Spiritual Director, having a disability is not some form of punishment for your sin or anyone else. This is a very unfortunate and common belief held by a lot of people. However, any disability or illness, difficulty or suffering can be offered to God for the salvation of souls. We can unite ourselves with Jesus and his sufferings through our own.

No one should ever make a person with chronic illnesses or disabilities feel like a burden or imply that they are such. I have suffered from illness my entire life, and know that it can be limiting and frustrating. I have found the worst difficulties to be not the illness itself, but the attitudes of others about related limitation and problems I have as a result.

We are called to care for the sick and the weak, not dismiss or bring them harm or further difficulty. It sometimes helps to view my limitations as a grace from God that keeps me humble, makes me more understanding and compassionate and teaches me patience. Perhaps the disabilities we suffer also keeps us from serious sin, that if we were healthy we might become involved in and risk our salvation?

i agree with you, and hold pretty mucht e same belief.

why do you think it’s such a common belief though? couldn’t the church have said something about it especially in the middle ages?


L’Arche was founded by Jean Vanier. The man will be a saint one day. This man teaches the real Christ-centered understanding of disabilities.



Oh, I know how this goes…

Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

First of all, people have opinions on all kinds of issues. So don’t feel like you are being singled out. My wife and I know of Catholic women who are having a lot of kids and they are being scrutinized :shrug:

Secondly, if you are having issues with understanding moral theology, it’s a good idea to find one person who can be your spiritual director. Your priest is a good place to start. :thumbsup:

I don’t think you’re going to find the answers on-line, even on here.

I think there are different ways to look at it.

One time in the Bible, a man was born blind, and the people were asking Christ why that had happened. At least in that particular case, Christ said it wasn’t the blind man’s, or his parents’ fault, that he was blind in order to manifest the Glory of God.


On the other hand, the Church has recognized a number saints, some of whom had physical illnesses, like St. Bernadette. Some people are believed to be “victim souls” and suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally in atonement for sins.

I think you are on to something. Even in Jesus time he had to teach people that illness was not due to the sin of the person. (Blind man)

There are ideas that come about to a lack of understanding the Bible and our Faith. Church leaders develop in their understanding ever bit as much as the lay person, and I am sure ideas existed that disability/illness was present due to the persons fault or sin.

i guess the bible isn’t always clear on the matter. disability isn’t always portrayed in the best light either. ex. sons of aaron with a blemish not allowed to be priests.

also that story was just one particular blind man, it might not apply in all situations.

but anyways this is my take on it. god created me for a purpose. i don’t really know what it is yet but i’m sure i will find out eventually. we all have crosses to bear, this must be mine. and frankly it really isn’t the worst thing out there. it has taught me many life lessons i would probably not have learned otherwise. not making fun of others, helping those who are suffering or lonely, being friends with the people that other people treat as outcasts. having a positive attitude, compassion. i might not have known all of this if i didn’t have it, who knows.

funny people are bringing up the blind man story, my disability just so happens to be blindness from birth. i almost feel like jesus is talking to me in that passage. born blind so the works of God could be displayed. in that case he meant healing, but maybe in my life, it’s something else. i hope to be ale to bring him glory just by being myself and doing the things i do.

through it all, i’ve also become quite immune to other people and their not so charitable opinions. our earthly bodies are not perfect, we will all have some form or illness or other at some point and time. it’s just a part of life for now.

also, is it weird that i don’t pray to be healed? if feel like it’s become such a part of my identity and i can identify with people much better because of it. and someone mentioned that it’s not the thing itself but other people’s attitude, i couldn’t agree with that statement more. i feel like it’s more of a gift; it has definitely helped me to appreciate things and to depend on him more because people will not always want to help you.

just for the record, non-religious people have strange opinions about it too

Disabilities come to us from many ways.

Sometimes a natural course of action occurs.

Sometimes something goes off course in our development.

Sometimes an accident occurs.

Sometimes the natural course of action is from something we came in contact with that changes our body.

God does not punish us by “dropping a disability” on us - not from our sin, not from others sins. Do not be disturbed because someone has a misunderstanding of how and why disabilities occur.

God also does not apply miraculous healings on every person who ask. Why one receives a miraculous healing and another does not - why one is born into poverty and another is not - does not show God has more love for one over another.

When people come up to you and automatically think you are a saint, you can learn to accept the person’s compliment and not allow it to disturb you. You can reply “Thank you, may God grant me graces to move closer to holiness.”

Learn how to accept your disability around others without concern if someone has an unhealthy reason why you have a disability or overly praises you. Those ideas, thoughts, and feelings are their’s. You can offer them a reason why it is not true, but only if you feel confident enough to share and still remain at peace in your own heart. If it causes you discomfort, excuse yourself from the conversation and don’t let their negative words disturb you.

May God bless you and bring you peace so as not to be concerned about other people’s misguided ideas.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.