Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What Would You Do?

Below I have included excerpts from an Associated Press article and the link to read it in its entirety. What are your feelings? Would you want to attend service with someone so disruptive or should the church allow any disruptive behavior to attend service? I would hate to be involved in this situation from either side.

Minn. mom fights church ban on her autistic son
Jun 1, 4:01 PM (ET)By DAVE KOLPACK
BERTHA, Minn. (AP) - Carol Race thinks it's important for her 13-year-old son to be in church on Sundays for Catholic Mass. Leaders of the Church of St. Joseph once felt the same way, but not anymore. They say Race's autistic son Adam is disruptive and his erratic behavior threatens the safety of other parishioners. The northern Minnesota church has obtained a restraining order to keep Adam away, an action that has been deeply hurtful to the Race family and has brought them support from parents of other autistic children. "My son is not dangerous," Carol Race said. The church's action is "about a certain community's fears of him. Fears of danger versus actual danger," she said.

In court papers, church leaders say the danger is real. The Rev. Daniel Walz wrote in his petition for the restraining order that Adam - who already is more than 6 feet tall and weighs more than 225 pounds - has hit a child, has nearly knocked over elderly parishioners while bolting from his pew, has spit at people and has urinated in the church. "His behavior at Mass is extremely disruptive and dangerous," wrote Walz. "Adam is 13 and growing, so his behaviors grow increasingly difficult for his parents to manage."
Carol Race was cited for attending church May 11 in violation of the restraining order, and faces a hearing Monday. Walz did not return calls seeking comment, but Jane Marrin, who works for the Diocese of St. Cloud and is acting as a spokeswoman for the parish, said the church board tried working with the Races to find "reasonable accommodations." That included offering a video feed of Mass that could be watched in the church basement. The family refused all suggestions, she said. "It's a difficult issue," Marrin said. "There are no easy answers."
Adam is prone to anxiety attacks. Carol said some of those outbursts force members of the family to sit on him to calm him down, or restrain his hands and feet with a strip of felt. In his court petition, Walz said that after one service Adam got into another family's car, started it and revved up the engine while there were people in front of the vehicle. "Adam's continued presence on parish grounds not only endangers the parishioners, it is disruptive to the devout celebration of the Eucharist," Walz wrote. "I have repeatedly asked John and Carol to keep Adam from church; they have refused to do so. "In fact, Carol told our parish council that she would have to be dragged from church in handcuffs if I tried to keep Adam from attending Mass," he wrote.



  1. I sympathize with the mother but only so far. The Catholic Mass is important because of the Eucharist. The parish should make alternate arrangements for the boy to receive the Eucharist but not allow him in the service. The leaders have tried, but he is clearly out of control. No one should have to worship or try to worship under these conditions. The boy's behavior will only get worse.

  2. Helen - it does seem like the church has made great efforts to accommodate this boy and the mother has refused every effort the church has made for her son. I agree with you. This mother feels she is being punished by the church but what about all the other parishioners?!? They are being punished to endure this boy's behavior.

  3. I agree, the church appears to have tried but boy is out of control.

  4. I feel for the mother too, but I don't think it's fair to make the other members have to put up with the boy's behavior. If the boy is acting out as described, then some other arrangements should be made.

  5. I don't think allowance to church services is at the center of the mother's actions although that is her statement. I believe she isn't acting rational due to the day to day circumstances under which she lives. It has taken her to a dimension of hostility. If her son is that disruptive in church, think of what she faces with him every day. It is heartbreaking but the church can only do so much, and must protect its congregation. Sad, but true.

    PS: Just think, we get all worked up when a baby cries too long during service before the mother takes them out.

  6. When I first began reading this article I thought I knew what my response would be. We attend Sunday evening services at Bro. Bernard's church here in Austin, and they have several autistic children in their church. There are times when they might be considered "disruptive" but people have learned to overlook it. Several people have actually been brought to truth because this church accepts their autistic children. This is why I thought I would know my response.

    My first reaction was that the church should accept them and not keep them from attending. One family in particular here was "not allowed" to attend several churches in town because of their son. Then they found New Life UPC.

    Anyway... it seems to me that this child is more out of control than the autistic children I've been in contact with. My oldest son had an autistic boy in his class through elementary school and it was fine. These children are actually VERY smart in most cases and can be reasoned with when the parents are aware of their "triggers." The parents we know understand their child and watch very closely to make sure they don't reach the breaking point to where they are uncontrollable. There are times when they have a "meltdown" - but the parents are generally aware of when it's coming and remove them from the situation. It seems that maybe the mother in this article has not learned these protective measures for her child.

    If anyone is interested - one of the mothers in Bro. Bernard's church is available to teach seminars on how to work with autistic children in Sunday School.

  7. Mark - this child must not have any structure. That is sad.

    Carol - I think the mother needs to concede to the church and cooperate with their offers of closed circuit viewing.

    Karen - it is a sad situation, but I feel the mother has failed somewhere. The worst of handicapped kids can often be helped if given structure, discipline, and lots of love from the moment of birth on.

    Karla - I have a strong feeling the mother has failed this child. She should know him well enough to be able to predict his outbursts and what causes them. We have had several handicap people who ride our Sunday School busses and we have never had a problem with any of them. If shown proper care, they will generally cooperate. This is a sad story to me because I think the boy could probably do better if his mother worked more with him instead of fighting the church.