Disability experts say Church making good progress

Pope Francis uses sign language during an audience with catechists and people with disabilities at the Vatican, October 2017 (CNS L’Osservatore Romano)

Experts on disability, who are also pioneers in developing a more profound theology of disability, have said the Church under Pope Francis is making good strides in terms of welcome and acceptance. Source: Crux.

But they say more needs to be done for “creative learners” to be fully incorporated into their ecclesial communities, beginning with seminary formation.

John Swinton, who specialises in mental disability as a professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral care at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, said, “There have been big movements across all of the churches” on the inclusion of disabled individuals in recent years.

At an academic level, the area of disability is now a more “accepted field of study,” meaning that many of the “bigger theological issues” surrounding disability “are now part of the conversation” in a way that they weren’t in the past, he said.

“There are significant changes that have happened, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, from the top down and the bottom up, which I think is pretty much what you need,” Professor Swinton said.

“As far as how it transforms the Church in practice, that’s a bit more difficult to gauge. It depends on the place, and it depends on the priest or minister ... if the person at the top of the chart doesn’t shift or see the issue, then nothing is ever going to change.”

Cristina Gangemi, an expert in pastoral care for people with intellectual disabilities, praised the progress made under Pope Francis, saying that in his nine years on the Throne of Peter, Francis “has facilitated our voice” as theologians specialising in disability.

Professor Swinton, Ms Gangemi and other experts and theologians attended a June 3 conference on disability organised by the Italian bishops’ conference to discuss the topic of disability in the areas of family life, care services, and parish life.


Experts on disability say Church making good strides, more to be done (By Elise Ann Allen, Crux

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