It’s all too common to hear stories of Catholic priests denying politicians communion because they’re pro-choice. But this is the first time I’ve heard of an 8-year-old New Jersey kid being denied First Communion because he’s autistic.
The boy’s father, Jimmy LaCugna, shared the story on Facebook earlier this week:
Today Nicole and I were informed that our son Anthony would not be able to make his communion this year. As most of you know, Anthony is an autistic non-verbal child who is in his sacrament year. Father Bambric at Saint Aloysis Church in Jackson and the Archdiocese of Trenton came to this position since Anthony is unable to determine right from wrong due to his disability they feel he is not up to the “benchmark required to make his communion”…
The church released a statement — before it shut down its Facebook page altogether — reiterating Church rules that say “a Catholic cannot be denied the sacraments as long as they are properly prepared and are ready to receive the sacraments.” They added that, after some research, “new information has come to light” that would allow them to give the boy communion.
But it shouldn’t have take any research on the Church’s part. According to the child’s mother, he had been tutored at home in preparation for this rite of passage. He was ready and his parents were committed to helping him go through the process. And yet the family isn’t alone. The comments on LaCugna’s Facebook post reveal that congregants with mental disabilities are frequently denied religious rites in all kinds of traditions, Catholic and otherwise.
Maybe the boy, Anthony, knows what communion is about; maybe he doesn’t. But the Catholic Church baptizes babies all the time and they have no clue what’s going on. Heck, Catholics receive communion during services, and we know plenty of them disagree with the Church on some major issues like homosexuality and abortion. So why deny a kid who genuinely wants it?
Hopefully being blasted on social media will be a learning experience for the leaders at this church. But even if they change their minds, the parents say they are no longer comfortable with Anthony receiving communion from a priest who discriminated against him. Hard to argue with that.