US Bishops Statement
Welcome and Justice
for Persons with Disabilities
A Framework of Access and Inclusion
A Statement of the U.S. Bishops
Twenty years ago we issued a
statement calling for inclusion of persons with disabilities in the life
of the Church and community. In 1982 the National Catholic Office for
Persons with Disabilities was established to promote this ministry. And
in 1995 we strengthened our commitment with passage of the
Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with
This moral framework is based upon Catholic documents and serves as a
guide for contemplation and action. We hope that the reaffirmation of
the following principles will assist the faithful in bringing the
principles of justice and inclusion to the many new and evolving
challenges confronted by persons with disabilities today.
We are a single flock
under the care of a single shepherd. There can be no separate Church
for persons with disabilities.
Each person is created
in God's image, yet there are variations in individual abilities.
Positive recognition of these differences discourages discrimination
and enhances the unity of the Body of Christ.
Our defense of life and
rejection of the culture of death requires that we acknowledge the
dignity and positive contributions of our brothers and sisters with
disabilities. We unequivocally oppose negative attitudes toward
disability which often lead to abortion, medical rationing, and
Defense of the right to
life implies the defense of all other rights which enable the
individual with the disability to achieve the fullest measure of
personal development of which he or she is capable. These include
the right to equal opportunity in education, in employment, in
housing, and in health care, as well as the right to free access to
public accommodations, facilities and services.
celebrations and catechetical programs should be accessible to
persons with disabilities and open to their full, active and
conscious participation, according to their capacity.
Since the parish is the
door to participation in the Christian experience, it is the
responsibility of both pastors and laity to assure that those doors
are always open. Costs must never be the controlling consideration
limiting the welcome offered to those among us with disabilities,
since provision of access to religious functions is a pastoral duty.
We must recognize and
appreciate the contribution persons with disabilities can make to
the Church's spiritual life, and encourage them to do the Lord's
work in the world according to their God-given talents and capacity.
We welcome qualified
individuals with disabilities to ordination, to consecrated life,
and to full-time, professional service in the Church.
Often families are not
prepared for the birth of a child with a disability or the
development of impairments. Our pastoral response is to become
informed about disabilities and to offer ongoing support to the
family and welcome to the child.
are most effective when promoted by diocesan staff and parish
committees which include persons with disabilities. Where no such
evangelization efforts exist, we urge that they be developed.
We join the Holy
Father in calling for actions which "ensure that the power of salvation
may be shared by all" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente,
n. 16). Furthermore, we encourage all Catholics to study the original
U.S. bishops and Vatican documents from which these principles were
For consultation and assistance contact:
National Catholic Partnership on Disability 415 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20017-4501
(202) 529-2933 telephone
(202) 529-4678 fax (202) 529-2934 tty
NCCB/USCC Home Page Doctrine
& Pastoral Practices Home Page
Doctrine & Pastoral Practices
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000
here for information on Services and Ministries for Persons with
Disabilities in the Diocese of Cleveland
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Last Update to this page was
March 15, 2011
Copyright © 2006 Dennis C. McNulty