Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pope urged to give advice about churchgoers with autism

Adam Race

Autism activists are asking Pope Benedict to discuss autism after a Minnesota Catholic church banned a 13-year-old boy, Adam Race, who has autism, from attending services, Christianity Today reports.

The Race family has worshipped at the Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph in Bertha, Minn., since 1996, but the week of May 16, Rev. Daniel Walz of the Church of St Joseph obtained a restraining order against Adam and his mother, Carol, because of "disruptive behavior" and out of "a growing concern for the safety of parishioners."

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Walz, the church's pastor for three years, said in an affidavit that as Adam has grown, the situation has worsened, and the boy has been 'extremely disruptive and dangerous' since last summer. Walz alleges that Adam struck a child during mass and has nearly knocked elderly people over when he abruptly bolts from church. He also spits and sometimes urinates in church and fights efforts to restrain him."

Carol Race told the Star Tribune that the family of seven typically sits in either the church's cry room or in the back pew to avoid disrupting other parishioners.

"He (Rev. Walz) said that we did not discipline our son. He said that our son was physically out of control and a danger to everyone at church," she said. "I can't discipline him out of his autism, and I think that's what our priest is expecting."

"The family continued attending mass", she said in the Star Tribune, "trying to calm Adam and leaving during the closing hymn to avoid interacting with other parishioners on the way out."

No pope has ever talked publicly about autism, according to Christianity Today.