This Catholic mom of a child with Down syndrome is riled up. I already diverge from many of the Catholic Church’s opinions, but when a bishop insults gay parents, people with Down syndrome and people with spina bifida in one interview, enough is enough. This man does not represent my god.
Monday, Elphin Bishop Kevin Doran gave an interview that offended the masses. If you’d like, read for yourself the bishop’s proclamation that God never intended to create gay people or people with Down syndrome or spina bifida.
My response: Your heartless dismissal of beautiful human beings is grounds for termination. May Pope Francis hear our dismay and move to dismiss you.
Now, full disclosure: I’m not exactly a poster child for Catholicism. While I was raised Catholic and was even one of the first female altar servers in my hometown, as often happens, I got older and more self-aware. I realized I didn’t always agree with the Church. Today, I’m not a regular churchgoer.
Nonetheless, I was introduced to God in the church, and my faith persists, even when circumstances tempt me to turn my back. Isn’t that when faith can strengthen most?
I struggled mightily after receiving my son’s Down syndrome diagnosis prenatally. I felt guilt and tremendous sorrow for the loss of a child I had envisioned, not understanding God’s vision could be so much more.
To clarify, I’m not a fan of the whole “children with Down syndrome are God’s angels” and “God only gives special children to special people.” My son has a stubborn streak longer than any line of angels waiting to get their wings. My husband and I are not special. We have debt and high cholesterol and a snow shovel still sitting on our porch despite 65-degree temperatures. We’re regular people, working hard to give our children opportunities and probably too many chicken nuggets.
God may not have intended for us to make so many mistakes. But He absolutely intended for us to have each of our beautiful children, including that one with the lusciously thick blond locks and an extra chromosome.
What is faith if not a source of comfort amid confusion? Yet this bishop’s words damage that faith and the more open-minded, accepting church Pope Francis has shown glimpses of wanting to create.
Having children is a struggle, regardless of how many chromosomes each cherub sports, and it’s hard to feed a Catholic faith that bites back often. As parents, we learn selflessness, the abandonment of all dignity (see: toddlers asking questions in public) and the reward of and addiction to chest-clenching, heart-squeezing unconditional love.
As mom to a child with Down syndrome, I’ve also learned extraordinary patience — not always, but certainly a level I never expected to experience. My eyes have been opened to the callous, judgmental perspectives of the few and the unexpected, unwavering support of the many.
I believe my god absolutely intended for all of these emotions and experiences. My god is watching this heartless bishop with great sorrow, despite knowing sometimes it’s necessary for someone of such stature and influence to speak out so blindly and coldly.
After all, look at the result: I’m reconnecting with my faith that God intended for my son with Down syndrome to exist. For those who give birth through their hearts and adopt to be as much a parent as those who give birth through their bodies. For someone who is gay to be oh-so-very-much a parent.
I also believe God intended for us to speak up against the cold dismissal of another human being. Our chorus of voices must overcome the weak voice of the hurtful, every day of the week. May Pope Francis hear us and give that guy the holy boot.