Eugene Cho

autistic boy banned from church

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.

Filed under: health, religion,

64 Responses

  1. Kacy says:

    This is difficult to answer because many will have different views, however banned is not the appropriate word. If the the parents were taken to aside and have explained to them the problems caused by the child`s behaviour then there is a great possibility that the parents would accept this and keep the child in control or have someone babysit. What we have to remember is the child may well not be aware of what he / she does is wrong so therefore should be given the benefit of the doubt.

  2. Kacy says:

    This is difficult to answer because many will have different views, however banned is not the appropriate word. If the the parents were taken to aside and have explained to them the problems caused by the child`s behaviour then there is a great possibility that the parents would accept this and keep the child in control or have someone babysit. What we have to remember is the child may well not be aware of what he / she does is wrong so therefore should be given the benefit of the doubt.

  3. dreamxchaser says:

    i come from a fmaily where autism runs in it. Its deffintly not something you can disciple your child, to get them to stop. but like kacy above said, they sometimes dont even know what their doing. you can try to help them understand what they are doing is wrong. Its not easy by anymeans. But i think banning them from the church was harsh. maybe they shoulda tried working it out. but thats deffinitly a difficult situation.
    My brother suffers from autism, not as sever, but he used to have melt downs if there was ticking clocks around. When they have those, its really hard to stop it. the school tried throwing my brother out over it. Until the principal and my mom talked and worked it all out. Now that school has all digital clocks. (even tho my brother is all grown up now.)
    The preist shoulda maybe took them aside and explained it calmly. they prolly coulda worked it out without all this publicity. all this publicity ,im sure, isnt helping the situation anymore.

  4. anonymous says:

    What if… the entire Church welcomed Adam as their brother? What if… the entire church saw Christ’s face in Adam’s? I wonder what Jesus Woud Do?

  5. Paul says:

    Priests go out of the sanctuary and minister to shut-ins all the time. Would this not be an opportunity for this priest to do the same – provide what the family looks foward to receiving when they go to church? You have to believe it isn’t easy preparing Adam for church, so they are more than willing to do what it takes to get there. I would think the priest would welcome this kind of dedication.

    A good shepherd looks after ALL his flock.

  6. emjay says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with anonymous above… Isn’t it interesting that nothing is said in the article about how the *community* responded to the situation?

    I don’t claim that I would have acted better than the priest, myself–I’m weak, and it’s easy to sit here with a cup of coffee and think “shame on him!”–but what if he had taken his concern to the congregation (perhaps not during a Sunday morning service; maybe through a series of face-to-face conversations) and asked the community what it means for them to be the body of Christ to and for that family?

    Just a thought. Again, I don’t claim to know that I would have acted differently, myself. But I’d like to think I would have.

  7. John Scott says:

    Even the media understands something basic about the church: that everyone should be welcome to gather and worship! And even though Paul repeatedly exhorts us to use ‘good order’ in worship, the exercise of any type of authority or disciple in public worship must be done with the utmost level of self-sacrificing love if at all. That being said, there is no reason I can see why a restraining order is called for, even though it was granted. None at all.

    And I agree with Eugene – there’s something going on here that isn’t being reported. Knowing small-town MN, I would guess that a few generations back, 2 Norwegian mothers brought the same hot-dish to the church potluck. After that, their Cat’olic children married some Lut’erans and now the whole community has gone downhill (skiing, that is). 🙂

  8. david k says:

    I can see where previous comments are coming from, and there should be not doubt that a priest/pastor/minister has a responsibility to his whole flock, including Adam and is family – but also including the remainder of his congregation. If he feels that Adams presence was a large enough disruption to the rest of the church worshipping God, then perhaps he made the only choice that he could. This is not to say that Adam should not be welcome in that church family, but maybe a formal mass is not the best way for the church to serve him and his family.

    Terrible call for the priest to have to make though. Don’t envy him at all. And the fact we’re discussing a news report shows its terrible press for the church as a whole.


  9. Mark L says:

    this is dispicable
    christians are to be loving and accepting people and to go to this extent is very disheartening
    my wife and I left the catholic church 8 years ago due to the “blind-eye” and selective processes within the church……the abuse of children (especially) young men never happened according to the church, until it was exposed to the point where they could not deny it any longer…then those who were guilty of these crimes were allowed to remain in the church as long as they repented
    well let me see now, a young man with (seemingly) severe autism is banished from a so-called loving congregation because of something he cannot control and his family seems to have a challenge with
    my advice, leave that church and go where you will be accepted…remember, that church is not GOD, they are people who think they are

  10. Redtown says:

    This isn’t a kid just making a few noises. According to AP, “Adam struck a child during mass, nearly knocks elderly parishioners over…, spits and sometimes urinates in church and fights when he is being restrained. He also… assaulted a girl by pulling her onto his lap.” When he started two cars in the parking lot, “people could have been injured or killed.”

    The church has tried to accommodate, but the behavior has become more dangerous. It’s not the boy’s fault, but his own parents cannot always control his behavior.

    I doubt that even Jesus would condone the enabling of such dangerous and disruptive behavior — posing great risks to others and self — in the name of “acceptance”. This is sloppy agape.

    Someone can be seriously injured. The pastor has definite moral and legal responsibilities to protect everyone from harm. If some child or elderly person were injured, there would be a major lawsuit. “I was practicing inclusion” would not be a defense for reckless endangerment.

    In a perfect world, everyone would be welcomed everywhere. But if I had a highly communicable disease, say TB, I’d have no right to mingle in large crowds where I posed a serious threat. And I think Jesus would agree, notwithstanding that he loved everyone.

    My right to inclusion ends where your rights to safety begin. Is it unreasonable to ask Adam’s parents to accommodate everyone else’s rights to public safety and undisrupted worship?

  11. Sam says:

    Umm, pastoral sensitivity doesn’t seem to be one of the priest’s strongest qualities in this case.

  12. Weezer says:

    There’s a family in my church with not one, but two severely autistic kids, about the same age as Adam. These brothers are a handful for our congregation, but even though they do disrupt the service, we try our best to distract them away or restrain them firmly with the most a smack on the palm. But as much as they break a ‘holy silence’ or jump into the baptism pool, over time we learn that these things do little to actually ‘rid’ us of God’s presence.

    As for how Jesus would react, well he wouldn’t just accept him… He’d pray for him! I guess I wouldn’t know what to pray for an autistic kid, I’d be freaked out to ‘heal’ him, but its really so important that all members ESPECIALLY the leaders of the church to bless these children.

    Of course, I don’t know anything about this community that resulted in this decision, and neither do I know enough about legal matters but 1Corintians 6 comes to mind – has the church tried hard enough?

  13. Dan Hauge says:

    I would be curious as to what the church’s offers of ‘accommodations’ actually were. There sometimes can be times when special arrangements could be made IF personal safety really is the issue. Although, it sounds to me like the Race family was already making accommodation by sitting in the back or the cry room.

    I admit that I sometimes get suspicious when people talk about issues of ‘safety’ when there is no supportive evidence of anybody actually being hurt. Personal safety is indeed something that churches should be concerned with, but it can also be a word used to buttress the church’s case, when the real issue is not safety but comfort.

    And the church should always be stretching and expanding our ideas of what is ‘comfortable’ for us. We don’t have the right to exclude people because they make us annoyed or uncomfortable. I believe that it is extremely important for us in the church to first look at ourselves and ask ‘why does this make me so uncomfortable? Is my own ‘quality of experience’ really more important than whether or not this person for whom Christ died gets to be included in community?’

  14. Jersey says:

    You can’t control someone with autism like you can a normal child. It’s a given that autism is a mental disorder. You can do some behavioral therapy to try to mildly control or tone down the behavior, but how can anyone expect an autistic to sit still like everyone else?!

  15. eugenecho says:

    @redtown: i think i agree. i want to think that there were some extraneous circumstances but what i don’t get is the restraining order and the cops threatening arrest?

    i think there’s also something about the elevation & quasi-idolatry about the ONE Sunday worship service, mass, or gathering where EVERYTHING has to take place.

    That being said, it would be great to have a church do what they can to accomodate someone for their corporate gatherings and if they can’t, it doesn’t have to end the relationship. I was thinking about what someone said earlier about home visitations to provide, pastoral care, teaching, and communion.

  16. Patty Frazee says:

    In this day and age more and more of our children are being diagnosed with Autism. I am one of the many mothers who have a child with Asperger’s syndrome. When my son was about two, we attended a church that didn’t know how to cope with children like my little son. I would come into Sunday school to find him crying under a table, left alone and uncomforted. Needless to say we decided that God didn’t want us in that Church, So we knew, there must be a place that he wanted us to be, so we began to seek and found a church where the pastor took seriously the verse, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16. Pastor always loved the little ones in the service and we, as a church family learned to hear the word of God even amidst the sounds of our children. Pastor’s wife Miss Sarah became my son’s favorite person. He didliked being touched but from a small child he would have a hug for Miss Sarah. Through the years Miss Sarah was always there with a word of encouragement for my son and me. My last memory of Miss Sarah is her saying goodbye to my now almost grown son. She said ” Andrew, I endured a whole lot of shots at the hospital to come here one more time to get a hug.
    Chuch isn’t a business meeting, or a social club, its where real people come to put into practice God’s love in the very real situations in our lives.

  17. Deb says:

    The Priest in this church offered to come to their home for Mass. They refused. He requested they sit in the hall where they could hear Mass at the church, they refused. Their child cannot be controlled. Is it the child’s fault or the parents, no it is not?

    No Priest would have gone as far as getting a restraining order if there was not a threat to the other parishioners. His mother admits he hit a child. His mother admits he pulled a young girl onto his lap. His mother admits he has to be restrained at times. His mother admits he has nearly knocked down the elderly. The mother admits he has gone into the parking lot and started peoples cars. His mother admits he urinates on himself.

    His mother thinks that because these are things that cannot be controlled due to his Autism, that the community should just learn to accept them. The community should not be expected to have a Mass without wondering or worrying about what is going to happen this time. As someone going to mass to worship. do you want your child being hit or picked up and pulled onto a strangers lap? Do you want your elderly mother knocked down on her way to communion? Do you want to sit and wait again for Mass to continue while the parents sit on their child, tie up his hands and feet?

    The center of the Catholic faith is the Eucharist. If they can receive that in their home or another part of the church and they refuse, I would look on them as being unchristian and totally selfish.

    There are many, many degrees of Autism and I know children who attend my church who are autistic. Everyone is welcome. When your child becomes someone you can not control in a church setting, you need to ask yourself what your motive is for putting everyone, including your child, throught that.

  18. Sam says:

    Thanks Deb because that makes sense. Do you have any links we can personally read?

    I also hope the church issues a letter of clarification because I would hate for them to be unfairly judged.

  19. nate says:

    My cousin, a cute, bright boy, has pretty severe autism. I understand the mom’s indignant response. I don’t know what I would have done were I the priest, but know i would not have taken out a restraining order.

    I love how the media is quick to jump over any mistake made by clergy, especially when it involves a Catholic Priest and a little boy. Perhaps the priest, who reacted out of frustration and perhaps fear, did so incorrectly, but that’s the beauty of the God…he uses quite fallible people to communicate his perfect message.

  20. Hi, I work autism in some of my students, and I would agree that things need to be worked out, compromises must be made. I have come to learn that if your child has autism, you are going to have to accept and embrace new limits in your life. What are those limits? Well it depends on the severity of the autism.

    By very definition, children with autism can’t adapt well in social situations. If this family wants to continue to bring their son to this church, they must take responsibility for the trouble the boy is causing.

    It seems from the article that the priest’s attempts at peacemaking were rebuffed, and that his decision to restrain them was in the best interest of the safety of the parishioners.

    I don’t think it’s fair to ask the parents to discipline their child “out of autism,” but efforts must be made in showing the child his errors. If the priest was not mean-spirited in any of this, then I see no wrong in what he has done.

  21. devster says:

    not that big of a deal i think it seems kinda blown out of proportion


  22. aaron says:

    I have to wonder how much of the story we are getting from the news. I would guess the Church tried to compromise… and obviously an agreement could not be made.

    I would think a volunteer or two could build a relationship with the boy, so that he would trust them and he could be watched by a couple volunteers who he had become comfortable with.

    I do not think it is fair for the family to expect the boy to be able to engage in a service with others when his disability affects social interaction so much.

    As for those who suggested home visits from the priest, I do not think that is the solution. I am not an expert on autism, but I know families with autistic children have extremely high divorce rates. To further isolate a family from the community of the church and support they must need does not seem right.

  23. JB says:

    Every time I’ve had the inside story on something that was covered by the media, the media made a good story out of it with a distinct point of view, but a story that was far from accurate and which left out significant facts. I try to remind myself to never judge a situation based on what I’ve read in just one story, and particularly not in the broadcast media that try to get everyone riled up and outraged because they increase ratings that way.

  24. A consideration may be to have a separate room, where there is audio/visual feeds so that Adam and the rest of the congregation may worship independently. While a restraining order is certainly harsh, the Rev. also has an obligation to maintain an appropriate and safe environment for his worshipers.

    Consider the parallel in schizophrenics who are committed involuntarily because they pose a danger to themselves or others. (I’m not saying autisim is the same, im just using this as an example)

  25. eugenecho says:


    wise words. that’s what i meant when i shared something just didn’t seem right when i first read the story. i’m sure more news will come out to clarify the situation.

  26. AG says:

    I just wanted to add my 2 cents. I grew up in Bertha MN. My family has attended mass at St Josephs for as long as I can remember. Even tho I am grown up and moved away my parents still attend mass there. Believe me when I say that that the media has only heard 1 side of the story. The church, for one reason or antoher, has decided not to come forth with more details concerning the situation. This isn’t a ‘new’ issue in the church, it has been going on for years. It’s very sad that it has come to banning the family, I agree with that. However, the family is hiding alot more then what the media is reporting as to how they are raising thier son. Please keep an open mind when reading what the media is reporting concerning this matter.

  27. Janet says:


    You now have families from St. Joseph’s church commenting on your blog? Goodness gracious!

    This is what I’ve been waiting for. We’ve heard absolutely nothing from the church outside the soundbytes and I know there’s something more to this story.

    The media can be so prejudiced against the church that it is really sickening.

  28. brandonsneed says:

    Hey, easy on stereotyping all media members there! I am one and very much a Christian.

    Yeah, it’s paradoxical.

    Anyway, I think that if the priest offered to make a house call and gave those other alternatives, which the mother refused, I can’t blame him for asking them to stay away. Of course, this is part of the problem with not just Catholic churches, but a majority (not all!) … the fact that they are, despite perhaps great efforts, still a corporate-style institution that is going to require some organization and order.

    It’s sad that a kid is too autistic to function in a socially acceptable manner at church, but if the order of events is being disrupted in a negative way – and I’d think bodily functioning in the midst of service is a bit negative – then I really can’t see any fault in the priest here. Perhaps a tough harsh, but then, perhaps harshness is required at times.

  29. brandonsneed says:

    Jeez, I meant a *touch* harsh.

  30. beenthere says:

    I am a member of this church. We have offered the crying room and video streaming of the Mass to another room. The family rejected those offers as well as the priest’s offer to bring communion to them. This isn’t about the priest being a bully – if anyone is a bully in this situation, it’s the mother. Adam has not just struck one kid – he has struck several parishioners. He throws his legs over the pew in front of him and flails them about, he jumps up unexpectedly and runs from the church. I have seen him hit his family members to the point of knocking them over. He is strong and he doesn’t know that he is doing something that could hurt people. That is where it is the parents responsibility to control him. Unfortunately, they are not always able to do so. No, of course he is not always violent and aggressive, but he truly is sometimes, too.
    The Race’s have been members of our congregation for over ten years. We did not just suddenly decide one day that Adam couldn’t come to Mass anymore. We have had compassion for the family, and we have common sense – we are not ignorant hicks who just can’t handle something a little different. If it were just his noises and rocking, that’s one thing, but we cannot say that it’s alright for him to abuse the rest of us.

  31. eugenecho says:

    @ag | @beenthere : thanks for dropping by the blog and sharing your thoughts. it’s good to hear from people that are ACTUALLY a part of that church community.

    i’m curious why there hasn’t been any official press releases or letters from the church leadership sharing their perspective on the situation. [it may be just be me but i haven’t seen/read anything.]

  32. beenthere says:

    The Church and Diocese did send a press release, it just hasn’t gotten much coverage. Also, I know many parishioners who have sent letters to the Editor and emails to press, but I haven’t seen any of that on/in the news either. I myself spoke with the Star Tribune yesterday morning – we’ll see if it shows up…

  33. AG says:

    From what I’ve heard the church are choosing not to speak about due to the hearing. I could be wrong tho. My dad was interviewed by the media a few nights ago concerning this. He was very neutral about it but also wanted the facts out there that this isn’t a new issue, it’s been going on for years. The media chose to air 10 seconds of what my dad had to say. He was very disappointed as he thought it made him sound ‘hick ish.’ I feel the media only wants to hear the one side of the story to make the catholics look bad.

  34. Jax says:

    I attend this church on a regular basis. What people need to understand is that alternatives have been offered numerous times. Plus St. Joseph’s is a very tiny church. There can’t be more than 20 pews in the entire church. So when they sit in the back of church it really isn’t like sitting int the back of a larger church. He has shown more than a few outburst in church. Once my sister sat in the pew in front of Adam only to have a huge chunk of her hair pulled out. The church is not saying he can’t come to church because of him being autistic. They are doing for the saftey of other parishioners. Many alternatives have been given which have all been turned down. It is very sad that it come down to this but really what choice does the church have when Adam is a danger to others and himself.

  35. dsmith77 says:

    Re: anonymous

    What would Jesus do? Maybe heal him of his autism.

    Somehow, I don’t think that’s an option in this case. I really wish we knew what the rest of the story was because I think there’s something missing. This is a tragic situation and I don’t see an easy solution. It sounds like everyone was able to cope easier when the kid was younger. Now that he’s bigger, he’s harder to control. It also sounds like these people have all tried to make it work out and all of those efforts have failed. The end result? The paster put out a restraining order on the family because of the child. I can’t see how that was the right thing to do at all. On the flip side, I’ve not been attending that church for years and I don’t see what it’s done to the church either.

    This is a classic situation of the rights of the one versus the rights of the many. I wish there was an easy solution (and there probably is) but someone isn’t taking it or has quit taking it. The ultimate solution to this must be some kind of compromise both on the part of the child, the parents, the pastor, and the church community there.

  36. denvernana says:

    The Church is right, the parishoners wrong.

    It’s pretty common knowledge that autistic children (a) respond well to a set routine, one which is set and approved by the child; and (b) “act out” when their needs are not met, and/or when something happens that they perceive is outside that routine and/or when they are upset and (c) self-control is almost non-existent.

    Mom says she wants her autistic child to attend Mass “in the hope that it will calm him.”

    (1) What medical person suggested Mass as a way to calm an autistic child? or is this Mom’s suggestion?

    (2) Obviously, since this has been going on for years, the Mass is not calming the autistic child but accomplishing the opposite – it’s upsetting to him, causing him to act out. Suggestion: Don’t take him to Mass, he doesn’t like it.

    (3) It is nearly impossible to keep an autistic child quiet and inactive for 1 hour.
    His parents must know that he will act up and yet they persist in following a course of action that has failed for years.

    (4) What other positive actions have Mom & Dad taken to assist the child? Does he visit with a Neuro-psychiatrist? Is he in special classes with other autistic children to encourage socialization and learn self-control, at least on a basic level.

    (5) I don’t think the priest ever intimated that he expected the parents to “discipline him” out of his autism.

    The priest was right. He weighed the rights of the many against the rights of the one. I am sure he weighed the danger of having the child at Mass and the benefits the child would receive from attending Mass. It will be too late to rectify the situation after the child knocks over an elderly parishoner, possibly causing that person serious injury.

    (6) If you paid $10 to see a movie at a theater, would your views be so altruistic if these parents brought the child to the movie and he urinated, spat, pulled your hair, talked and got up and walked around while talking?

  37. triska says:

    maybe the priest had a point – we all go to church to hear mass hoping to be at peace with God and not be surprised by someone pulling your hair, but alternatives could be given and the word banned is quite harsh really.

  38. Wow.

    Personally I don’t have an opinion – except … the first thing I thought of when someone said, “What would Jesus do?” was… well… Jesus would heal him! I would think if Jesus saw a child in church struggling to function as a human being – for the sole purpose of just being a human being – that Jesus would have pity and mercy on him – and He’d lay his hands on him or whatever Jesus wanted to do (E.S.P.?) And Adam would just be healed. One minute he’d be assaulting someone and the next….apologizing for his behaviour!

    So. I don’t know. I can’t say. I wasn’t there…..Thank goodness. I’d hate to be the priest OR the parent in this situation. I hope for their sakes that they get it worked out.

  39. beenthere says:

    The Saint Cloud Visitor as well as our local ABC affiliate both did stories from the church’s perspective. Trustees and Council members were interviewed. If anyone can find those news segments/articles online, I would love to see the link posted. I haven’t been able to find them, but I saw the television one, and I got my Visitor today, so I read that. They were both very good pieces and told “our side” better than the mainstream media has.

  40. Linda says:

    @eugenecho : 1) Might I be a brat and point out that it would be more PC to use ‘people first terminology’ and say “boy with autism” instead of “autistic boy”? 🙂
    2) I just finished reading all the blogs by related to this case. She gives a great summary about all sides of the situation in her first post ( and a thorough, eloquent reply to Father Showers in the link you provided above. I agree with what she says, and as much sympathy as I have for people with disabilities and their families/caregivers, I still feel that Mom is not getting the bigger picture of public safety and best practices for raising a child with autism.

    This story brings to mind a related issue about kids with autism regarding medication. While I don’t like the idea of infusing young bodies with extraneous unnatural substances, there is merit to using it to calm the kid who socks another kid in the eye and bolts out the door into street traffic (one of my students last year), or the 6ft+ 15 year old who beats his petite mother and tears out the bathroom sink (one of my students this year). It’s true you can’t “discipline [a child] out of his autism” using the usual tactics, but there are certainly ways to figure out what makes him tick and adjust your strategies for behavior management toward it by using methods like applied behavior analysis (ABA). Being involved in special education services, the first thing I thought was this kid needs a behavior plan that would allow him to function acceptably in public. A picture schedule, break times, a reward system, identified triggers, and so on are all simple ways to help, but doesn’t sound like they were attempted. I wonder what kind of evaluations and services this family have sought or received? Based on what I’ve gleaned, it seems like there were none and if that’s the case, again, I count the family as being in the wrong.

    Mom seems to take the perspective that everyone should accept kids with disabilities as themselves. I agree, and that we should include them in everything that is reasonable. But that doesn’t mean we sit back and say “Oh he’s just acting out because he has autism and can’t help it”. It is our duty to help him become the best version of himself, just like any other kid. Allowances can and should be made for things he truly cannot help, such as reacting to sensory overload, but if the child is allowed to carry on any way he likes without consequence, it is worse off for the child in the future as his options for places to go, his future job options (yes they can work!), his ability to learn, etc. will all be compromised if he hasn’t learned to control himself.

    Sorry, I’ve strayed from answering your original question. If I were a leader in the church with no background in the special needs population, I might’ve tried to learn about autism, talked to the family about what they might’ve been told by Adam’s specialists about managing his behavior and tried to accommodate feasible recommendations… If that didn’t work, then maybe I’d dig up some experts in autism and suggest to the family that they seek help from them; if they refuse, then hire one anyway and have him/her observe Adam during a service and still get their advice.

    I guess that legal case I was involved in regarding that 15 year old kid with severe autism has left a bad taste in my mouth and I can’t help but respond emphatically to this topic and appropriate course of action.

  41. Carol Race says:

    I’ve read through all of the comments and I absolutely can’t believe how much misinformation there is concerning our family.  I realize those posting to this blog who are supposedly “from” our parish would not know that they have been badly lied to by Fr. Dan Walz as has been the diocese.  Fr. Dan has done a dog and pony show for some months claiming to have “worked” with our family.  In actual fact, other than coming to our home one time in June of last year there has been no contact with him in person.  There have been exactly 3 letters that either my husband or I have sent to Fr. Dan and 2 letters that he has sent to us.  Fr. Dan publicly called my husband a coward at the July 1st Mass of last year.  At that same mass, he publicly stated that we need “outside help” (as if we were a family with a drug addiction or the like)  When Fr. Dan came to our home he made a host of personal condemnations of me, He insisted on exactly one option, that of TV mass, without ever looking at other options. We tried to get him to look at the possibility of other accomodations, but he refused to hear of it. We know that he asked the diocesan disability office as well as Catholic charities for suggestions for accomodations, because this was verified to me by the diocesan disability office. However, she told me he would sum up the accomodations that they had suggested in a letter to me. This letter never did arrive. Instead, Fr. Dan told the parish and the diocese that we refused these many accomodations. To this day, I don’t even know for a fact what those suggestions were. Fr. Dan said in writing that he refused to talk to me in person except in the presence of a third person. therefore, he should have either a witness or a letter from me stating that I refused accomodations. He has neither. He framed me in the eyes of the parish, the diocese, and now the world wide community. As to mediation, it was he who refused mediation. His intent in mediation in his own words was “to voluntarily get the Race’s to not bring Adam to Mass”. This is not what mediation is about. Mediation is to put forth ideas on both sides in order to come to a mutual agreement. It is clear in his statement he was not open to anything I had to say.
    On July 1 I had asked for another priest, any other priest to mediate this situation. Fr. Dan refused this also. On July 17 I begged the Bishop to send in another priest to discuss with us the situation of Adam at Mass. This went unanswered. The Bishop was very ill that month, so this is understandable. The ball got dropped on the diocesan level.
    On Dec 6th I sent a 6 page letter asking Fr. Dan for peace and mutual understanding. This letter was finally answered on Dec 18 stating several unrelated generalities, then finally saying “the necessity of a mediator and a third party will have to remain a constant.” Again, if he offered accomodations, there should be proof that I refused them. he has none. Furthermore, I hired a professional behavioral consultant who works for many group homes as well as schools and families to observe Adam and make recommendations. His opinion was that Adam’s behavior was certainly not unworkable and he wrote a 3 page report for the parish. He also offered to work with the parish in implementing these recommendations or to listen to their ideas. I gave this report to a then trustee who passed it on to Fr. Dan. Fr. Dan would not share this report with anyone. He did admit that it existed, however, the new trustees I spoke with said that someone had told them that this consultant was unreputable so they didn’t need to look at that report. The county social services recommended this man as did a nearby group home. His business is called “behavior wizards” and they have an internet website.
    Regarding those people who claim they have been to our parish, one person is identified as “beenthere”. well, if what this person says is true, why not sign your real name? there were so many outright lies in this I was totally shocked. No wonder that person won’t be identified. My son has not struck multiple parishioners, has never hit anyone in the pew ahead of us, on the rare occasions he has run from the church in the middle of Mass, there would not be anyone to run into since we are already in the last pew and the entry way and door are only a few short steps away, and he has certainly never hit anyone in my family knocking them over! AG I’m guessing you are Rolland Gilbert’s daughter. So let’s get into the discussion of social pruning. Yup you guys think you are more important than us new people in town. Gilbert won’t even return business calls that I have made asking for help in his line of work. This has nothing to do with Adam, this has to do with being stuck up and not treating certain people with the dignity of returning business calls. Well, he’s not the only one, in fact, I didn’t even realize until now that this family engages in socially pruning this little town of Bertha. The parish secretary has multiple times left my children’s names off the server’s schedule, for up to a half year at a time. She makes the claim “oh it was just a mistake, I didn’t intend to do it.” Well, it only happens to certain families, the families that are being pruned from our community. And what about the fact that another boy in our parish actually peed on my oldest boy (not Adam) in the shower room at school. this is a long, proud tradition in the little town of Bertha. Heck, even the pastoral council President was aware of this long tradition in Bertha and didn’t find it important to put a stop to even long after he graduated school. I know this because his mother told me that he was aware it was going on when he was in school. His mother, a nurse, told me that urine is completely harmless. It doesn’t spread any diseases. These behaviors help the adults prune the families out of Bertha that they don’t want there. that’s why this little town never gets above 500 families. We are not the only family in Bertha that has fallen victim to social pruning, but we are the only family that has stood up to it to this degree.
    So, yes, Adam has had occasional incontinence issues. So do many toddlers in the process of toilet training and some elderly. We take him to the toilet now every Sunday before Mass, and this helps a lot. However, occasionally his chelation therapy causes him to lose control of his bladder. we now avoid chelation therapy close to Sunday.
    Yes, Adam asked a girl to sit on his lap. This girl was his foreign exchange sister who did so willingly. She had lived in our home for 6 months at that time and resisted great efforts put forth by the social pruners to leave our family. She was very happy to live with us and cried and said “THIS IS HORRIBLE” when she was removed, not by child protection, but by the foreign exchange agency since they remove for simple allegation, whether it is true or not. the county ignored the report. When we brought this girl back to Church for Holy Thursday, she put her hands over her ears to avoid hearing the voice of Fr. Dan. she was truly scandalized by his behavior. This was lower than I could ever have imagined of Fr. Dan. Adam never touched her inappropriately. He placed his hands on her waist only since he cannot speak in order for her to understand what he was requesting. Furthermore, the only reason she was even sitting next to Adam was because she didn’t like the younger sisters fighting over who gets to sit between her and me. If Adam were so dangerous, do you think she would have preferred to sit next to him rather than two little girls?
    Finally, I want to say that we have worked with Adam’s behavior for years and have made progress. He is far better in church now than when he was 2 or 3 or even 7 or 8. The reason this whole thing hit the fan now is because I started teaching the confirmation class. By teaching this class, I was putting myself on the “upper” social level in Bertha, which the “elite” rejects. I know several people had asked my current student’s parents to complein to Fr. Dan that I was teaching this class. Never mind the fact that I am a professional theologian, they would rather have a completely uneducated, yet “socially acceptable” adult teaching this class. What really shocks me is that for the past 2 months Adam has been standing, sitting, and kneeling with the congregation, attempts to make the sign of the cross, folds his hands and has made almost no humming noises (which is what people mean by “loud noises”! At every Mass in the last two months, there have been babies or toddlers crying who have made considerably more noise than he has. We sit in the back pew so as not to be visually distracting. Our parish is equipped with an FM system and at least one pair of headphones are available if someone finds any noises too distracting. These headphones prevent anything audible from reaching the ear except what is said at the microphone in front. there is a $500 fund to purchase more headphones if people want to use these from money received when I received the “opening doors award” from the diocese for making the ministry office aware of the special needs families as well as speaking at the priest’s conference on how to accomodate special needs children. this talk was well received by about a half dozen preists who had served our parish over the years. Fr. Dan had shared with me (before he went on this rampage a year ago) that these preists regularly inquired about how Adam was doing. they truly didn’t see any issues with his being at Mass.
    So, you see, I’m not the irresponsible parent that Fr. Dan is pegging me as. I do think Fr; Dan would not have taken these actions were it not for incredible pressure put on him by the social pruners of our parish. we are not the only family that has been socially pruned, and it’s time these biggots stop this behavior. My kids tell me at school there are often prejudicial slurs and jokes made of blacks, amish, jews, etc. We need to do a lot of education in this little town.

  42. Carol Race says:

    I forgot to comment about one other thing.  I never said Adam should attend Mass so it will calm him.  In fact, he attends Mass for several reasons:  As a baptized child of God, he is entitled to be there.  As the Church is the sacramental union of God with his people, God would be deprived of his presence if he were not there, I promised at my wedding as well as his baptism to raise him in the Catholic faith.  Lumen Gentium, a Vatican II document, states that the Mass is the “source and summit of christian life”. To cut someone off from the Mass is to kill their soul, to stop coming to Mass is spiritual suicide. The Mass is a mystery. No person there can fully grasp everything that takes place within the Mass. We each understand to our own ability. I am never distracted by Adam’s behavior, and I continue to participate while I work with him. Distractions are primarily not the momentary noise or disruption, but the anger or hatred that this “disruption” evokes. If one truly has charity for one’s neighbor one is not going to be distracted. The atmosphere now in the parish is one of absolute intimidation by the social pruners. I assure you there are many who support our continued presence but wouldn’t dare say so for fear of the social pruners. I also want to point out that if you compare our parish with nearby churches you would see that we have the highest percent of participation and the largest number of young families. we have a strong congregation in terms of demographics and for all these 12 years our parish is full with people each Sunday. if Adam’s behavior was truly so detrimental, would this be the expected effect?

  43. M says:

    Carol, please know that some people understand EXACTLY what is going on here, and see right through this. God bless you.

    Behavior issues alone in your son do not justify bad behavior by self-righteous, false Christians.

    I have been praying for you, and I am working on my own blog article in support of you and hope to have it up very soon.

  44. eugenecho says:

    thanks for sharing your story [provided it is you].
    i emailed you using the info you gave but it bounced back.

    could you email me [via the contact form above].
    i had couple questions for you.


  45. Linda says:

    The comments from “Carol Race” are almost word-for-word also written in

  46. […]  Carol Race has a very different version of the events leading up to the filing of the restraining order.  The text of her public rebuttal may be found here. Recently, Carol responded with more detail about her personal experiences with Father Daniel Walz over the past 11 months and with certain members of the Church and community here. […]

  47. beenthere says:

    It is incredible to me that Carol can lie so absolutely. You are simply injuring yourself with the untruth of your statement, Carol Do you really think that the parishioners who have seen and experienced some of his behaviors will simply deny them now.
    You are not only calling Father a lier, but also several members of our church community.
    As for your social grooming – I’m not from an “A-list” family of Bertha either. I have been, dare I say, even socially persecuted . It is incredibly painful and has, at times, caused very real emotional damage. HOWEVER, this is not and never has been a “social” issue.
    I really wish that you would step back and try to allow reality and truth to prevail. Making personal attacks about Father Dan or anyone in the community (including Carol, for all you others), is not only counter-productive, it is needlessly (and often erroneously) harmful. It is hurtful to me, and I am not even involved so much… Although, if they call me into a court of law, I too will have to testify truthfully to what I have seen…

  48. Carol V. says:

    I may sound mean, but it seems that Carol and her family are very disgruntled with not only the church, but also the community. The family certainly has the “right” to be there, but sometimes we fight for our “rights” when that isn’t what God really wants. Sometimes, we have to turn the other cheek and move on. If what Carol says is true about the character of the pastor/priest, why would she want to stay and follow/submit to his direction? It seems very odd to me to fight for a place that she states is unhealthy, dishonest, and uncaring. Because what she is describing leads to that conclusion. Just a thought. Over all, this is a sad situation for everyone and yet one more news story that makes the body of Christ look “bad.” Unfortunately, sometimes the worst example of Christ are Christians.

  49. RK says:

    I agree with Redtown, if the reporting on the case is true. If the parents of Adam cannot keep him under control, to keep people safe, etc., then they ought to find an alternative to bringing him to Mass. It’s just basic parental responsibility. Obviously, the child has a condition. How can this family demand their own rights, while “spitting” on the basic rights of others. The family ought to demonstrate some sense of respect themselves rather than expecting the world to come to accomomdate their special situation.

  50. Carol Race says:

    If you are real, then don’t hide your name. If you claim to know about the social pruning, then you know how ruthless these people can be. Fortunately, the entire town of Bertha are not social pruners. No, there a lot of good town folk there, unfortunately, they are all kept “in their place” by the social pruners. I, on the other hand, won’t stay “in my place” according to their rules. I follow what God asks of me. The parish council as well as the diocese had foreknowledge of the media that would follow enforcement of a restraining order and yet they wouldn’t turn from their decision. Yes, Fr. Dan does tell falsehoods. Fr. Dan is delusional in the sense that he would stand in the front of Church and tell the congregation that he has the face of God. This is dangerous when anyone puffs themself up to that extent. I ask you to call me if you have any sense of charity and learn the truth. I am sure you do not actually know me, since almost nobody in Bertha actually pesonally knows me. That’s why it’s so easy to spread rumors and marginalize me and my family.

  51. elizabethofsaintjosephs says:

    I am going to have to agree with a statement that “beenthere” has made. I am from Bertha too – I’m not part of the socially elite. Although, I have to say that as I grow in my faith and learn who I am, I am glad that I am not in the “clicks.” Anyway, the point is, beenthere is right that this is not a social issue.
    I really hope that the people reading these blogs will include our community in their prayers. As I see it, we have all lost our focus – I am trying to back up and remember that I have to pray for the truth to stand and for Christ to be with us. We need to let God shed His grace on this situation and allow the Holy Spirit to transform the hurt into glory and praise to God.

  52. beenthere says:

    I don’t know what you mean about “if I am real”… I will continue to use my “screen name” for my own reasons. People can be ruthless – we are all flawed. I know about the incident with your son in school because that sort of news does travel fast. Of course I would not condone this behavior, that is horrid and disgusting! When I was that age, I was socially “murdered” by lies in school – completely outcast and went for MONTHS without a student in the school who would talk to me… It’s not the same, but it was amazingly hurtful. It was effective in keeping me “in my place” at the time…
    This still doesn’t change the facts. I am sorry for your situation, Carol, but if you keep pushing, this will end badly for you. Try to think what would happen if members of the church are called in as witnesses. Not Father Dan – just other random members – ushers, people who have sat in pews around you or the half pew behind you? I heard on the news that both sides are willing to negotiate. Please, for your own good, compromise!

  53. A.S. Daddy says:

    As a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, this is the kind of thing I absolutely dread. There are times when my son acts out and the harder we try to calm him or distract him, the more the situation escalates. Our church is not large either, so there’s nowhere we could sit that would make it any better. Could we avoid the service altogether? I suppose. But we want the opportunity to praise and worship just like the rest of you do. God blessed us with this son and his Asperger’s Syndrome for whatever reason suits His plan, and if I am to believe He has a reason, I am also to believe my son is an important part of God’s Church. If my son became a safety hazard to others, I would have to remove him from the situation. I cannot expect everyone to bear the burden of raising my son. Some people understand and can cope, some people cannot. I feel terrible for the Race family and for the priest. They are both in very difficult situations, whatever the reality of the facts are.

    May God bless this situation and may all involved find peace.

  54. Maddy says:

    I have two autistic boys. We have been ‘asked to leave’ from more classes, schools and stores than I can count.

    I understand that my children’s behaviour can be disruptive to others.

    People sometimes ask me why we keep trying when we are so obviously unwelcome? Are we gluttons for punishment? Are we so determined to ruin other people’s enjoyment and make a spectacle of ourselves?

    Well no.

    As it turns out we keep trying because it is only through continued practice and exposure that we can hope to learn to fit in with the social mores of the day.

    We’re not there yet, we never may be in the future, but there’s only one way to find out and burying our heads in the sand isn’t an option I care to choose for myself or my children.

    Best wishes

  55. riseabove4truth says:

    Beenthere, I’d be curious to know what the facts are here. There is no mention of specific incidents, dates or individual people who have actually been threatened or injured by Adam. The incidents described by the priest have been described in a different way by Carol. There’s quite a difference between losing bladder control and exposing oneself to urinate in church, isn’t there? That’s just one example of the factual confusion that seems to be going on here.

    I believe you that he may attract attention and be disruptive at times, but how much of that can be controlled by accommodations? Furthermore, what have you done to help this family? Why is the first instinct to judge and exclude rather than come together as a community to help?

  56. beenthere says:

    riseabove4truth – have you been to Saint Joseph’s in Bertha? It is not my place to name names of the individuals who have been assaulted by Adam. I can say that I, myself, have been bruised by Adam. He accidentally shoved me into a door jam in the back of church, and it was forceful enough to bruise my shoulder. This was approximately six months ago. I didn’t write down the incident. I didn’t report it to the priest or complain to the family… Adam didn’t mean to do it, and I can handle a little bruise. We have been trying to stand behind this family for many years. Carol has rejected offers of help.
    I will give you an example that a friend of mine went through with Carol this spring… Elizabethofsaintjosephs is a fellow parishioner and a friend of mine. She is a good woman and would not air all of her issues with Carol, but I will share one of them. She taught Carol’s daughter in 1st communion this year. Carol harrassed her for a week before the 1st communion mass about being able to see her daughter recieve communion. The children would be recieving in the front of the church and Carol and her family sit in the back pew. Liz wracked her brain to come up with a solution to this problem – she asked me for help to think of some way to allow Carol and John to see their daughter’s 1st communion. We decided that morning that we would have the girl stand in the center aisle just outside of Carol’s pew. The priest agreed to walk to the back of the church so that Carol could see this special moment. Liz told John before Mass that they had found a solution to allow the parents to see their daughter’s first communion. John was grateful for the chance to see this and grateful that we had made such an offer for them. Carol, despite her many calls requesting for some accommodation, rejected this. Why? She could still take Adam up as she had the past couple of months. She could then see the moment of reception in a way she claimed she wanted… why refuse this offer. When I asked liz why this didn’t happen in the Mass, she had no answer, even though she had spoken to Carol. She was hurt by the lack of gratitude and in fact she was yelled at for even suggesting such a thing. It really bothered her for the rest of the day.
    Now, I ask you, how would that inspire me to reach out and try to make extra effort when those who do are chastised and disrespected…

  57. Vicki says:

    I am so grateful to be a member of a large church that recognized many years ago the great blessing in going the extra mile to help people with disabilities be active, visible members of our congregation. I serve both on the advisory team for the ministry and as the mother of a woman with autism.

    It is our hope this discussion will not further disenfranchise families of kids with disabilities from organized religion (nearly all of us have stories to tell of isolation or outright cruelty in churches of many denominations), but will encourage loving church members and church staff to seek ways to serve people with disabilities and their families in a way that honors all of God’s children.

    It has not been a straight path to where we are today, but disabilities ministries in our congregation has always been an enriching experience for the league of volunteers who work with children and adults, for the adults and kids with disabilities (who by their examples have taught us about unconditional love themselves) and the families or staff who care for them, and for our congregation, who have been welcoming and patient and above all, loving.

    There is no greater joy than watching a mother weep for what she says is the first time another person has affirmed her child as a loveable human being.

  58. Vicki says:

    Sorry, I thought my website would show up on my posting. Here is our URL, which could use some updating, but will give interested people a glimpse of programs that can serve those with disabilities:

    God’s blessings to all of you who love a person with a disability, especially those who choose to serve!

  59. Christie says:

    I feel for this family. My niece has severe autism, ane her parents stopped taking her to church when she was about nine because she had kicked an old lady. I know she slapped my daughter on the head, hard, when my daughter was a baby. My husband sent me to do something else, and I warned him about her, but she still managed to hurt my daughter again. On the other hand my son had some behavior challenges when he was younger too, and I remember how upset I was when we were told he wasn’t welcome in a child care situation at church.

    These kids aren’t like typical children and I don’t know if it serves their interests to try to manipulate things so we can try to treat them as if they were. The boy should be provided appropriate spiritual care by the church — some boys his age and older could come over, serve him Communion, and sing and worship with him. Or maybe there would be a different way to meet his needs. Including him in Sunday Mass is not the only way to minister to him.

  60. riseabove4truth says:


    Thank you for posting this. I can see the parish’s point of view. I really can.

    It is such a terrible thing to ban the family, though, I truly hope that the issue can be worked out in peace and that something good will come of this terrible conflict. I believe your priest said the same thing to the media.

    I do hope that Carol will accept help, and I hope that you all can come together in love and forgiveness and help Adam to be in the place that is best for him.

  61. Nic P says:

    I am a parishioner at a parish that the Race family has attended in the past. I have first hand experience of Mass with Adam in attendance. It’s a disruption, but the safety of the parishioners is what is really the issue here. Fr. Dan, as I know him would not and could not, get a restraining order unless there were clear and present dangers to others in a public place. I do know that numerous others in these small communities have had issues with the Race family. I do know that even John Race, who stays out of the public eye, smeared Fr. Dan publically to the congregation and on a Sunday when Fr. Dan was not even there. I also know of incidences at other schools, churches and public places with their other children. I never thought Carol, as such a ‘Catholic’ would do such a thing, as to lie about something so critical to her own christianity. Fr. Dan does have the face of God, as we all do. Whether we see the face of God in others, is a matter of believing. I have seen the face of God in numerous people, and Carol has obviously taken just one more statement out of context and used it to her benefit. If Adam’s behavior is not disruptive at the 8AM CTK Mass, then why are you going to Bertha without him at the 10:30 mass?

  62. Fitz says:

    I’ve actually been researching this and it is kind of interesting from the perspective of time. Adam now attends church in another town. Recently, as the Church year ended, we heard a reading from Matt 25.

    I can’t help but wonder, when the two congragations stand before the Son of Man and those criteria are applied, what will they each say?

    Adam is almost certainly one of the weakest members of that community. At the end of the day, is Catholicism about quite observance of specific rituals, or being a living example of the Word? If it is not ‘practical’ to include Adam in the worship, then aren’t Christ’s specific instructions on what we are to do to achieve salvation being ignored? If Christ’s instructions don’t fit with your worship, then you are, by definition, no longer Christian (at least in the Catholic understanding).

    I find it interesting that whenever the Pharisees focussed on the mechanics of observance over the underlying moral law, Jesus had the harshest of words for them.

    Most illuminating are the pointed questions in posts like Nic P’s. Why do you not know the need for pattern and predictability for autistics? Why do you not know how a trip and change might impact Adam’s behavior? How could Adam be in your parish since 1996 yet be surrounded with so much ignorance about his disability?

    The Catechism is big and daunting, so the Church provided a Compendium. If even that much reduced introduction is too much, there are simple formulas for Catholicism in the back: Love God with All your heart, and Love your Neighbor as yourself. Luke 10 makes it clear that Adam is, in the truest sense, just the sort of neighbor we are judged on.

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One Day’s Wages

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At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
May we keep working 
on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
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