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  • Deacon Dan Wright serves the Diocese of Austin, Texas. His work outside the parish is as a special education teacher serving students with significant cognitive disabilities.



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« Sunday Homily: On Being Authentic Christians | Main | Adam's Pew »

June 03, 2008



This is painful, Deacon Dan, but I can see the parish's side far more than Carol's. Adam is clearly and inarguably a genuine danger to himself and others. The parish has done everything they can to make it and keep it Mass for everyone. I know this won't help much, but my family and I have often sat in the parish hall, watching Easter Mass televised on a large screen. It wasn't the same, but it was Mass.

Deacon DW

Carol, I don't see that it is so clear that Adam is a danger to himself and others. Nor is it clear from the article that the parish has done everything they can.

I actually have a problem with the press when it comes to this kind of story. I have far too many times seen a tendency in the press to make people with autism look like monsters. For one, I simply do not accept that the boy has done everything reported, and if he has then why has the parish or diocese not stepped up and offered to make things safer for him and others.

I also must say that I find it unspeakable that a Catholic parish would go to the trouble of going to court to get a restraining order to prevent a person with a disability from attending Mass.

I work with kids every bit as big, loud, and unruly as this boy may be, but I have found that typically they are a danger to no one. Also, with the right kind of support in place they can attend assemblies and events with little trouble. Again, what is needed is education about autism, and a healthy dose of tolerance on behalf of the devout parishioners mentioned in the article.

Resources may be found here.


But he got into someone else's car and turned it on and revved it up--what if he'd put it in gear? This is not a smallish boy merely rocking and talking to himself! 6' tall and 225 lbs. If he urinates during Mass and attempts to spit on people and almost knocks down kids and elderly when he bolts from the pew--an accident which could be fatal, which would jeopardize his freedom in community for real and for all his life--and if his parents do not accept any of what a parish can offer, rejects it out of hand, and then when his mother even defies a court order, it's not a matter of the parish needing more tolerance. The mom needs to accept facts, as hard and heartbreaking as they are. A parish cannot wait to see if something will prove to be even more dangerous than what has happened already. It would be requested whatever the trouble is at the seat of such behaviour--these people are not anti-autistic kids. It's right there in black and white by mom's own mouth, that he goes out of control at home, and has to be sat on and restrained.

Would you ask your own parishioners to field all this every Sunday? We've had severely retarded people, almost as large, in our midst at Mass now and then, and for the most part, we all just pray that today won't be the stubborn time, etc. But Adam is far from this. I don't know if it's important to Adam to be at Mass, but I think you could really help his mom by giving her the name/number of trained someones who can sit with him as you mentioned. She is not going to stop and will simply bring him to some unsuspecting parish hoping for the best. All parents feel badly about this, I'm sure. It's really not a matter of NIMBY. It's far more. There is no easy answer.


This reminds me of the story of the black man in the deep south who becomes acquainted with the pastor of an all-white church. He tells the pastor he’s thinking of joining his church, and the pastor, worried how his parishioners would react, tells him, “Sam, you shouldn’t jump into a decision like that too quickly. Why don’t you pray about it before you make up your mind?” Over the next several weeks, every time Sam brings up the prospect of joining the church, the pastor tells him to pray about it some more. Eventually Sam stops bringing it up. One day the pastor gets up the nerve to ask Sam what he ever decided about joining the church. “Well sir,” says Sam, “I prayed about it like you said, and God answered me. He said, ‘Good luck with that, Sam, I’ve been trying to get into that church myself for years, and they won’t let me in either.'”

Deacon DW

I find the comments made here by Fr. Robert G. Showers OFM Conv. to be quite enlightening, especially concerning Mrs. Race.

Deacon DW

Here's the version of story straight from Adam's mom in her own words--a side we really haven't heard.

And, ironically from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

“In 2005, the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud presented Carol Race, Adam’s mother, with an award, recognizing her efforts to encourage families with disabled children to attend mass, she said. The award cited her “untiring efforts … to educate and advocate for others who have children with disruptive disabilities such as autism and seek to participate as a total family at Sunday mass.”


To me the solution seems so simple. There's a TV in the basement where they show the mass? Anyone who doesn't want to be in the same room as Adam-- whether because they aren't comfortable being in the presence of a disabled person, they're paralyzed by a fear of differences, or they're operating under the delusion that the mass is a show that takes place on the altar instead of something of which each individual, including (and maybe especially) Adam, is a vital part-- can sit in the basement while Adam and his family truly celebrate the mass. Why should they all give up their pews just for one child? Because that's what it's all about, that's why.

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