Thursday, 19 January 2012

The case of a downs syndrome child being "refused Holy Communion""

The report from Mail Online is here. I know a little bit about this case because the mother rang me to ask if her child could receive his First Holy Communion in my parish. I told her this would be difficult because an important part of the preparation for Holy Communion is an experience of community - even at a basic level. When we receive Holy Communion we receive the whole Christ, but there is an aspect of this which includes the Church - we are "in communion" with each other and it is Christ, in the Eucharist, who "makes the Church" (Vatican 11). This lady does not attend her church regularly and her son is unable to cope with anything lasting up to an hour. She makes the point that she has another, younger, child and that restlessness and noise can be a problem. However, I have many children attending my church. Some of them can be very noisy at times. They are all welcome. One mother comes with three children and since I have now been here for just over five years I can remember when the two older children were quite small, and one in particular was a real handful. She coped amazingly. Also, last year - as some of you will remember - we had a severely autistic child receive his First Holy Communion. He has a depth of understanding we cannot judge! He is a gem, and a much-loved member of our parish -BUT, here is the important point, his parents are weekly churchgoers and have supported him in his preparation for the Sacrament, giving ample time for that preparation to begin even before the official time of preparation for the other children. He has a sister who also supports him (she received Holy Communion at the same time). There is, in this story, a tragic lack of understanding on the part of the parents which is the really troubling lack (not so much that of the child). I have to say that I deplore what they are trying to do in their use of the media. They are actually being dishonest by not allowing the whole story to be told and by not accepting that regular attendance at church is a fundamental part of any pre-Holy Communion programme.


  1. Thank you for that kind and enlightening piece Father. The newspaper judged the Priest harshly, but knowing parish life as we do, one felt that had to be more to the story.
    Thank you for the clarification.
    Blessings and prayers,

  2. Just to say also Father, when I was an Anglican I met a mother, A REGULAR CHURCHGOIER, whose "learning disablities" child had been refused Communion,on the basis she would not understand, I saw the letter from the Bishop of *********--it is over 20 years ago and I cannot remember the details, but I do remember this, that this lady and her children stopped going to the Anglican Church as a result and became Baptists. I know also there was something funny going on regarding a local nursing home with a local priest of that same area who had done an exorcism--and there were results which are known to very few, but I am one of them, and it is only in my head as memories, but certain things you don't forget--however, I remember being shocked by the letter I was shown, although it was supposed to be private I suppose, but the lady was very upset.