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Reflecting the Mind of the
Vatican since 1850
Free Article
The Disabled in the Life of the Church
As a young man, I was in a supermarket with my family on one occasion. A very concerned lady came up to my parents and said what a shame it was that the poor boy was blind. “What does he do all day?” she asked. “He practices law,” I answered.

We in the Church have, unfortunately, often been in that position, unwilling to recognize the lives of disabled members as exactly that – the lives of equal children of God, laboring together according to a multitude of gifts and talents in the vineyard of the Lord. There is still widespread discrimination with regard to the disabled within the Church. Buildings are often inaccessible, documents are not accessible to them and assumptions often do not reflect the lived reality of disability. When applying to join the Jesuits, for example, I was initially told that I should look for a less academic order. It was only when I informed the vocations promoter that I was completing a PhD (completed the year I joined) that I was allowed to proceed. And yet disabled people are supported by, and support, networks and communities. We too are Church.

I have the great privilege of living, not only within a parish but also a supportive religious community – the Society of Jesus. At the same time, both before joining religious life and now, I have been supported by my family, friends and the broader community who have not only met my basic physical needs but also provided companionship, supported growth in the faith and offered wise counsel.

As a disabled person, too, I have walked with others seeking to bring about a better and fairer world for people who are hurting, and often excluded from the discourse of Church and world.
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