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October 5, 2006 Edition

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Respect life: Full inclusion of people with disabilities

Our Catholic faith calls for respect for all human life at all stages, from the tiny embryo to the dying person and all those in between.

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In a society which celebrates beauty and athleticism, disabled persons are among those often forgotten or neglected. People often try to push them aside and hide them from their sight. Or even worse, they may actively hasten their departure from this life through euthanasia.

Greater understanding. In recent decades, the Catholic Church has come to a greater understanding of the needs of our brothers and sisters with disabilities. In 1978, the U.S. bishops issued a Pastoral Statement on People with Disabilities. The bishops called upon all people of good will to work with people with disabilities to improve their living conditions and ensure that each individual is able to achieve the fullest measure of personal development.

Our faith calls us to work for the full inclusion of all persons with disabilities in society and in the church. This is rooted in the ministry of Jesus, who showed his deep concern for the sick and for the people with disabilities he encountered. The Catholic Church has followed his example through a ministry of healing in many Catholic health care facilities, clinics, and Catholic Charities' agencies that serve millions of people today. Our Catholic parishes and institutions have made strides in making our facilities accessible.

Helping the disabled. In September, leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States showed a very specific way they are working to help the disabled in our country. The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) joined with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) to support the Medicaid Community-Based Attendant Services and Supports Act of 2005 (MiCASSA), S. 401/H.R. 910.

In a letter to the bill's sponsors, Catholic leaders said, "With the services that MiCASSA would make available, more people with disabilities will be able to move from institutional care to lives of independence in their communities. The legislation will give them the choices and control over their lives they deserve. It will also increase the ability of people with disabilities to fulfill the duty we all share, to contribute to the common good through work, service, and participation in the community." (See letter on NCPD's Web site: www.ncpd.org/MiCASSA.htm)

I would encourage interested citizens to contact their senators and representatives to support this bill - and to work in other ways for full inclusion of the disabled in the church and society.

Mary C. Uhler

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Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
Phone: 608-821-3070     Fax: 608-821-3071     E-Mail: info@madisoncatholicherald.org