By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As we do each year, we are posting new and reposting the best of previous run stories about people with Down syndrome and their families.
Msgr. Charles Pope, from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., had just spend an afternoon taking part in a “webinar” that “focused on providing support, Church teaching and information to families who receive a pre-natal diagnosis that their child will be disabled in some way.” His reflections are captured in the title of his blog entry– “A Life Like Yours”: On The Dignity of the Disabled and the Call to Save Them From Abortion.”
I don’t bother you with links unless I think the piece is very worth reading. This one is, many times over. But the real reason you should go there are the responses found at the end.
Those of us who are not the parents of children with a disability may still think we understand what Msgr. Pope describes as the “enormous pressure” to abort when parents are “informed that the child will have Down syndrome, or perhaps a birth defect that will lead either to early death, or to a lifetime of challenges.” We can’t, even those of us with family members who have faced exactly those pressures.
Msgr. Pope helps us to understand the powerful impact of the idea that “there is such a thing as a life not worth living.” We have, he writes, “stumbled upon the very unusual and tragically ironic concept that death is a form of therapy, that the ‘treatment’ for disabled babies is to kill them.”
As many as 90% of these babies with a poor prenatal diagnosis are “lost,” he writes. “We in the Church cannot remain silent in the face of this. We must prophetically and compassionately reach out to families in such a crisis.” The remainder of his remarks are filled with examples of very un-dramatic but pivotal things we can do—“gifts”—to help families resist “the urgent pressure that they terminate the pregnancy now.”
Not everyone will have the time to go to blog.adw.org, so I want to end with the paragraph that especially moved me.
Msgr. Pope writes,
Life is not usually what it seems. In this world we esteem things like wealth, ability, strength and power. But God is not all that impressed by these sorts of things. God has a special place for the poor and the humble. The Lord has said that many who are last in this life are going to be first in the next (Matthew 19:30). There is a great reversal coming wherein the mighty are cast down and the lowly are raised up. In this world we may look upon those who suffer disability with a misplaced pity.
But understand this: they are going to be the exalted ones in the kingdom of heaven. As we accept the disabled and the needy into our midst we are accepting those who will be the royalty in heaven. We ought to learn to look up to them, beg their prayers and only hope that their coattails may also help us attain to some of the glory they will specially enjoy. They have a dignity that this world may refuse to see but we who believe cannot fail to remember that the last are going to be the first. Life is not always what it seems.