Monday, May 19, 2008

Mass confusion: A restraining order and a boy with autism

A court granted a Catholic priest's request for a restraining order against the parents of a 13 year old boy with autism who has been attending the church. Legal documents indicate that the boy struck a girl, urinates and spits while in church, and has almost knocked down elderly parishioners. There were other alleged incidents of unsafe behavior, such as the boy starting two parishioners' cars up after rushing out of Mass into the parking lot, leading to fears that he might run into someone.His mom says that the boy did strike the girl and he is incontinent, but denies that he spits.

A court date has now been set for the violation of the restraining order, since his parents continued to take him to Mass.

The coverage of this story is, to say the least, raising more questions than giving answers. Vague, sensational reporting.

For example, I don't really know what was done to avoid getting to the point where a restraining order was requested, which by all means as a disability advocate I believe should have been avoided. I have read that the priest and others visited the boys' family and discussed alternative arrangements, which were turned down by the family. What were these alternatives and why were they turned down by the family? What steps were taken to address the safety issues before seeking a restraining order? The media coverage falls short as do the court papers which indicate that accommodations were offered.

Legal documents state that: [The] church "explored and offered many options for accommodations that would assist the family while protecting the safety of parishioners. The family refused those offers of accommodation."

The confusion surrounding the facts in this story add to the sensationalism the media is creating around this story. This is a lose-lose for everyone when it's come to this point.

The family is attending a different church and the local sheriff told the press he hopes that this can be resolved in court on June 2. This post discussing the reasons for inclusion is a worthwhile read and a timely one as we pray for the resolution of this difficult situation. You can also find materials on inclusion on the top right of my blog. And, of course, my posts on inclusion at the tags below.


Kathryn said...

I agree - the media coverage on this is really shoddy. It just adds more negativity to the entire situation not to research and find out the details of what the accomodations were. Any college student working the college paper or radio station would know to do that!

Reporting only half the story is just stirring the pot and hurting both sides. There is probably a great deal to be learned from this on both sides.

Terri said...

Thank you for the link, Ruth, I was writing the post when a friend sent me the other article.

I can see it is a real struggle. and unlike other organizations the church must follow Christ's lead and meet BOTH the needs of the one AND the many. Christ leaves the flock to find the one that's lost over and over in scripture.

I can imagine situations where solutions offered by others "for" my child could be unacceptable...
AND safety matters...

I also know that people who take their Sunday obligation seriously and who know the Eucharist as the Body of Christ and the Church as the Bride of Christ would defy anyone who tried to separate their child from that...

I do think Erik Carter's book gives a challenge and a framework for growth for congretations and families.

Ruth said...

Kathryn- Yes, it's very shoddy coverage with lots of gaps.

Terri-Really like what I read about Erik's book on your blog. Books that are experiential are often most helpful as resources.