Thursday, July 20, 2017
The USCCB recently approved updated "Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities", available here. As the Bishops note "Catholics with disabilities, as well as those who minister to or with them, often point out that pastoral practice with regard to the celebration of the sacraments varies greatly from diocese to diocese, even from parish to parish. . . The inconsistencies in pastoral practice often arise from distinct yet overlapping causes. Some result from a misunderstanding about the nature of disabilities. Others arise from an uncertainty about the appropriate application of church law toward persons with disabilities. Others are born out of fear, misunderstanding, or unfamiliarity. Still others seem to be the result of the real or perceived limitations of a parish’s or diocese’s available resources."
These Guidelines should help address much of these uncertainties, with specific advice with respect to all the sacraments. The general guidance flows from the following principles:
1. All human beings are equal in dignity in the sight of God. Moreover, by reason of their Baptism, all Catholics also share the same divine calling.
2. Catholics with disabilities have a right to participate in the sacraments as fully as other members of the local ecclesial community. “Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.”
3. Parish sacramental celebrations should be accessible to persons with disabilities and open to their full, active, and conscious participation, according to their capacity. Pastoral ministers should not presume to know the needs of persons with disabilities, but should rather—before all else—consult with them or their advocates before making determinations about the accessibility of a parish’s facilities and the availability of its programs, policies, and ministries. Full accessibility should be the goal for every parish, and these adaptations are to be an ordinary part of the liturgical life of the parish.
This is an excellent resource for parishes with questions about how to share parish life with all parishioners, and for parents dealing with uncertainty about sacramental preparation for their children with disabilities.