A lot has been written both for and against the Pope’s visit this week.
Apart from the fact that he continues to tell people in the third world that to use condoms as a protection against HIV and AIDS is a sin, the main thing that rankles for me is that the Catholic Church has never publicly updated its belief in the origins of Disability.
Talk to many older Catholics and they can remember their Priests telling them that a person was born disabled due to a sin committed by one or both of their parents. I bet the Priests loved it when a Disabled child was born out of wedlock because then they could say “I told you so!”
They tell me that today’s more enlightened Priests no longer say this, but that old belief has never, to my knowledge, ever been fully weeded out from the faith. Even today, in countries such as Spain where Catholicism is the leading religion, a lot of people still believe that Disabled children are only born to those who have sinned. I’m told by Spanish Disabled people that it is mainly due to this belief that they have found it difficult to move towards any real equality within their society.
Perhaps it is time for the Pope to lay to rest this outdated and damaging belief and to use this visit to the UK to do so publicly.
Only by hearing it from the lips of ‘God’s representative on Earth’ will many Catholics put down this corrupt understanding and start to work with Disabled people towards our full and unconditional inclusion into societies throughout the world.