Update: Read some of the comments from [self-claiming] parishioners of St. Joseph’s and their perspective on this situation.
Did anyone catch this news yesterday? Clearly, not the best publicity for this small Catholic church in Bertha, Minnesota. Again, I want to give some level of benefit to the leadership of that church but something just doesn’t seem right with this story.
The church leadership claimed that the autistic boy was extremely disruptive:
“Fr. Walz said Adam struck a child, bolts unexpectedly from church nearly knocking people down, including elderly people. He said Adam also spits and urinates during church.”
QUESTION: So, if you were the priest, pastor, or amongst the leadership of that church, what would you have done if you genuinely felt like Adam’s presence disrupted the spirit and celebration of worship and communion or posed some sort of harm to the other congregants? Note that this family has been attending this church since 1996.
The priest of the small-town parish fears injuries from the teen’s behavior, but autism advocates are rallying behind his parents. The boy’s mother says: “I can’t discipline him out of his autism, and I think that’s what our priest is expecting.”
Standing more than six feet tall and weighing more than 225 pounds, 13-year-old Adam Race cuts an imposing figure for his age.
Adam is also severely autistic, and his meltdowns during mass at the Catholic church in Bertha, Minn., have prompted a public battle between the parish priest and Adam’s parents.
The Rev. Daniel Walz, disturbed by what he said is Adam’s dangerous behavior, filed court papers to bar him from the Church of St. Joseph with a temporary restraining order against his parents. The Races are ignoring the order, which they see as discriminatory, and getting support from advocates for the disabled.
The battle started last summer, according to Adam’s mother, Carol Race, when Walz came to the family house along with a church trustee and “made kind of a federal case out of the situation with my son.”
The church counters that it “explored and offered many options for accommodations that would assist the family while protecting the safety of parishioners. The family refused those offers of accommodation.”
The Races and their five children typically sat in either the church’s cry room or in the back pew to avoid disrupting other parishioners since they began attending in 1996, according to Carol Race.
No one had complained to them about Adam until the priest’s visit last June, she said.
“He said that we did not discipline our son. He said that our son was physically out of control and a danger to everyone at church,” she said. “I can’t discipline him out of his autism, and I think that’s what our priest is expecting.”
The family continued attending mass, she said, trying to calm Adam and leaving during the closing hymn to avoid interacting with other parishioners on the way out.
Months later, after failed attempts to make peace with Walz, the family received a letter asking them to stop bringing Adam to church, Carol said.