Does the church really believe in the holiness of people with disabilities? Some people believe the church should do good things for the poor. but do we believe in their holiness?
In my ministerial formation class last year, I shared with my group that I’d been wrestling for some time with the question of who sets the norm for faith. Do people that our society calls “normal” — people whose bodies and minds function in ways we recognize as proper — serve as the standard when we ask questions about holiness and salvation?
If so, the we need to come up with adjustments and accommodations to deal with people whose bodies and minds do not work in “normal” ways. We say things like: “Well, to be saved, you have to repent and pray to Jesus for forgiveness, but Joey does not have the IQ to understand that, so God makes an exception.”
Is that the right way to understand it?
Or is it perhaps the case that the mentally disabled or impaired are the norm of spiritual life and relationship with God, and we “normal” people complicate and confuse things? Like the people of Israel who demanded a king, when they already had God, we demand a system of complex ideas to give our big brains something to do other than seek communion with God and neighbor. God obliges us, just as he obliged Israel by giving them king Saul.
I’m not sure these thoughts really get at the questions raised by Vanier. I do find the questions provocative. Do we believe in the holiness of people with disabilities? What do we mean by holiness when we ask this question?
Here is how Vanier’s quote at the beginning of this post ends:
I get upset when people tell me, “You’re doing a good job.” I’m not interested in doing a good job. I am interested in an ecclesial vision for community and in living in gospel-based community with people with disabilities. We are brothers and sisters together, and Jesus is calling us from a pyramidal society to become a body.
What do you think?