Monday, October 19, 2009

The Value of Special Needs Children

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver seems to be everywhere these days. Most recently, Catholic News Agency reported on remarks made by Chaput to the Phoenix Catholic Physicians’ Guild, where he spoke at length about our societal attitudes towards those with physical and mental disabilities, especially those with Down syndrome.

“Parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities often have a hugely life-affirming perspective. Unlike prenatal caregivers, these professionals have direct knowledge of persons with special needs. They know their potential. They’ve seen their accomplishments. They can testify to the benefits – often miraculous – of parental love and faith. Expectant parents deserve to know that a child with Down syndrome can love, laugh, learn, work, feel hope and excitement, make friends, and create joy for others. These things are beautiful precisely because they transcend what we expect. They witness to the truth that every child with special needs has a value that matters eternally.”

The full text of his remarks can be found at the Archdiocese of Denver website, and they are well worth reading in toto. They will resonate with any parent of a special needs child.

This is not the first time Archbishop Chaput has made public comments about our need to welcome in life those with special needs. In August, he wrote a column for the Denver Catholic Register, Health Care and the Common Good. In it, he argued against any system that allows or funds the killing of unborn children or discrimination against the elderly and persons with special needs. He cites an email that he received from a young mother on the east coast whose second child was born with Down syndrome. She worries that the health care overhaul bill that eventually emerges from Congress will put bureaucrats in charge of making decisions regarding the care received by her daughter and she believes that they “don't know -- or don't care to know -- the value and blessedness of a child with special needs. And I don't trust them to mold policy that accounts for my daughter in all of her humanity or puts ‘value’ on her life.”

Archbishop Chaput understands and shares the concerns of parents who have special needs kids. He understands that the common good does not reduce to a return on investment calculation. And he shares our concern that the health care reform that we end up with will be the wrong sort of health care reform.

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