November 9, 2018

A reflection on the 40th anniversary of the bishops’ pastoral statement on persons with disabilities

(En español)

Most Reverend Charles C. ThompsonNov. 16 marks the 40th anniversary of the “Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities.” It is an important moment to look back on all that has taken place since, as well as the guidance and challenge we continue to find in these words today.

In 35 short paragraphs, an essential foundation was laid for the Church’s outreach to persons who have a disability, in order to best serve the spiritual, intellectual, moral and physical development of all.

In fact, this pastoral statement constitutes a mandate for a national office which would serve as a resource center for dioceses and parishes in working with and for individuals who have a variety of disabilities as well as working with their families. Today this office is known as the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

We are reminded that any pastoral outreach is rooted in the dignity of each person, which leads us to safeguard the rights of each, including not only the right to life, but to education, employment, housing, as well as decent personal care and human support. Such rights also extend to full participation in parish life—including first and foremost the liturgical and sacramental life of the parish—but including evangelization and catechesis as well as various other faith formation and social opportunities. This participation is not merely as people to be served but also as people who have the desire and capacity to serve.

Even beyond rights, our Christian response is rooted in an understanding love which leads us to support one another in the struggles of life, and to recognize the invaluable gifts and contributions individuals who have disabilities bring to our community, and the witness they are to each of us.

I am pleased to acknowledge this important anniversary and encourage the faithful of our archdiocese to acquaint themselves with this document, available via the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) website:

Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson
Archbishop of Indianapolis

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