Monday, May 2, 2011

Disabilities and Discrimination

BY Katrina - SWK 280
Discrimination comes in many different shapes and forms. In a couple different class periods we have touched on the subject of people with disabilities facing discrimination. I found an article on about an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who was denied communion. According to the article, when the Rev. Phil Henning was questioned about his motives he replied that the boy had “the mental capacity of a 6-month old.” He also said he didn’t have sufficient knowledge of Christ. The family argued that Catholic doctrine doesn’t require a specific level of knowledge. The boy’s grandmother said that he had been preparing for months for his communion.
In my opinion, telling a child he cannot participate in a religious milestone because his disability does not allow him to be “smart enough” is absolutely horrific. I think this is in every way possible a form of discrimination. First communion is a ceremony that symbolizes acceptance but the church community. They are rejecting this boy’s desire to become a part of the church and take a step closer to his relationship with God.
According to Douglas C. Baynton’s article, Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History, “In recent decades, historians and other scholars in the humanities have studied intensely and often challenged the ostensibly rational explanations for inequalities based on identity-in particular, gender, race and ethnicity. Disability, however, one of the most prevalent justifications for inequality, has rarely been the subject of historical inquiry.” I think we as a society need to question ourselves as well as those in power to ensure everyone is getting equal opportunities.


  1. I said this in class when the news article was brought up, but I'll say it again- WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? This is a perfect example of institutional racism that makes the Catholic Church look very bad.I agree that people with disabilities are by far one of the most discriminated against groups.

  2. Being someone who was raised Catholic but no longer practices I am embarrassed to hear this story. People who claim to be all loving and spiritual but still find it ok to discriminate against someone for a disability? I dont understand what goes on in peoples mind. I do not think we would find this consistant within the Catholic church but the fact that someone who claims to be a man of God has the nerve to tell someone they can attain enough knowledge to have their communion. I went through every stage of the Catholic church and I had no required knowledge what so ever, nor did I obtain any. The Catholic church is known for its strict believes and regulation and in my opinion this isnt what God wants. Especially if it envolves discriminationg against someone who has no control over their situation.


  3. My thinking is that everyone experiences things differently and what ever the boy with cerebral palsy got out of communion shouldn't matter. What should matter coming from someone who is also christian, is that he is closer to God and able to participate in his family's culture and traditions.It doesn't matter what capacity a person has, they are always deserving and welcome to have a relationship with God.


  4. The point that society focuses on racial, gender, and sexual discrimination and not enough on physical disability is key. In our class alone, we barely focused on physical disability. As social workers, it will be essential to understand the difficulties faced with being physically disabled, and the oppression these individuals face. WHat happened here is a case of pure negligence, and mere generalizing about a physical disabliity. Cerebral Palsy affects your body, and not your brain, and this priest was an idiot, who had no right denying anyone communion. The catholic church offers communion to mentally disabled people, so what was the big deal here? Another salient, distasteful episode from a catholic priest, in the United Sttes.

    Matt McGinn