Call for Pope to act on autism in the wake of church ban

By agency reporter
30 May 2008

Autism campaigners around the world are urging Pope Benedict XVI to act on autism in the wake of the banning of a 13 year old boy with severe autism from the Roman Catholic Church of St.Joseph, in Bertha, Minnesota in the United States. This is probarbly the first ever occasion where a teenager with autism has been banned from a church on the grounds of 'disruptive behaviour.'

Fr Daniel Walz wrote in an affidavit: “The parish members and I have been very patient and understanding. I have made repeated efforts through Catholic Education Ministries, Caritas Family Services, and most recently sought to try and mediate the matter with the family to ask them to voluntarily not bring Adam to church, but it has been to no avail.”

Mrs Race has refuted the allegations from the church.

Pope Benedict XVI has been asked tp provide guidelines on how Roman Catholic churches should deal with autism and other disabilities after Fr. Daniel Walz took out a temporary restraining order on 13 year old Adam Race and his mother Carol Race. The Sheriff of Todd County threatened to arrest the pair if they broke the order by entering the church.

Autism is a neuro developmental disorder - over 60 million people around the world are on the autism spectrum. According to the CDC 1 in 150 children in the United States has autism. In the UK, researchers say that 1 in 100 children is on the autism spectrum. There are over 500,000 people with autism in the United Kingdom.

No Pope has ever spoken out in public on the complex needs of children and adults with autism and Asperger's syndrome.

Pope Benedict XVI has been asked to speak out on autism and reach out to the 'marginalised, the socially excluded and the downtrodden,' by autism campaigners who are calling for a dialogue between religious organisations and parents, carers and people with autism and Asperger's syndrome.

The banning of 13 year old Adam Race from the Church of St.Joseph has divided opinion in the United States. Mrs Race has now moved to another church as a result of the temporary restraining order taken out by Fr. Daniel Walz.

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