Church Access for Persons with Disabilities


Catholic Teachings, Practical Suggestions and Resources

Text Box: #Go to text

HomeWho We AreChurch TeachingsPractical SuggestionsInspirationsResources

Attitudes & CausesSocial Justice

Accessible Churches


Contact Us


Miscellaneous Resources with Commentary

Click on one of the following:

Pastoral Statements
Video Resources

Suggested by a visitor:

Marion Wright Eldeman  "I can make a difference"

"Gr. 2-4. Edelman takes that sturdy statement and breaks it down into 12 components, easily understandable by kids, and then decorates each with meaningful poems, stories, and memorable art.  A strong package that will lead to fruitful discussions between adults and children." --- Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Pastoral Statements

Bernardin, J. Cardinal.  Access to the Sacraments of Initiation and Reconciliation for Developmentally Disabled Persons.  Chicago:  Liturgy Training Publications, 1985.

This was accepted as the statement of access… for the Diocese of Cleveland in 1987.  Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s pastoral statement for the Archdiocese of Chicago is a beautiful work on the theological rationale for the access to the Sacraments of Initiation and Reconciliation for people with cognitive disabilities.  It gives pastoral suggestions and reflections.  It is based strongly on “Relationship Theology.”

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.  All People Together. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales,  1981.

An early pastoral statement, All People Together gives practical advice on integrating persons with disabilities into Church life.  This one is singled out because it is referred to in numerous books and essays as a model of a pastoral statement for a Diocese.  In addition, this has been the basis for many pastoral statements that exist today.

John Paul II, Pope  The International Year of Disabled Persons. Washington: National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, 1981. 

Since the 1970’s the Vatican has released many statements on the place of persons with disabilities in the Church.  This statement is selected because it offers a brief theological basis for the integration of persons with disabilities.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Guidelines for Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities. Washington DC:  National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, 1995.

These are the most recent American guidelines to sacramental celebrations with persons with disabilities.  Very general, they still offer a basis for an attitude of sacramental welcoming. 

________.  Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities. Washington DC: National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, 1978 updated 1989 and 1999.

This pastoral is the landmark statement of the Bishops of the United States on persons with disabilities.  It is the foundation of the Catholic inclusion movement that continues today. Because of it the USCCB created the National Catholic Office on Disabilities to assist diocese.   This pastoral was updated in language in 1989.  The 1999 update boiled the original statement down to a two-page bullet point format.  The original is still the richest inspirationally and theologically.

________.  Principles, Prophecy, and Pastoral Response, “An overview of Modern Catholic Social Teaching.” Washington DC: National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, 2001.

In this short work, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops gives a thoughtful description of the social teachings of the church and how modern day Catholics might respond.

________.  Welcome and Justice for Persons with Disabilities: A Framework for Access and Inclusion.  Washington DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1999.

A good resource on principals that call the Church to integrate persons with disabilities, this work provides the foundation of social justice principals as the intrinsic rationale of providing access to Church for persons with disabilities.

|Back to Top|

Video Resources

Barron, R., and D. Senior.  Open Hearts, Minds and Doors:    Embodying  the Inclusive and Vulnerable Love of God. Chicago: 
Pathways Awareness Foundation, Video. 1999.

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago and Henri Nouwen explain ways that inclusion is possible and desirable in church community.  The video highlights the importance of including persons with mental, physical and emotional differences into Liturgy and church life.  The theme is to encourage all to bring their gifts to God’s altar.  This can be used as an introduction to a parish committee interested in welcoming people with disabilities into the parish community. 

Benton, L. Janice, and Mary Jane Owen.  Opening Doors to Persons with Disabilities vol. I: Pastoral Manual.  Washington, DC: National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, 1995. 

________.  Opening Doors to Persons with Disabilities vol. II: The Resource File.  Washington, DC: National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, 1995. 

This two volume work is the closet thing to an encyclopedia on disability facts and pastoral considerations.  Volume one begins with the Church’s call to inclusion.  It presents useful models for Diocesan disability ministries as well as parish programs to welcome people with disabilities.  Volume two presents pastoral issues with in ministry and moves from the church to our role as advocates in society.   This work comes in binders to easily remove or add sections.  It may be 10 years old but it is still a must for any disability reference library. 

Harding, G. T.  We Grow in Faith Together: The Catechist Manual of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Program to Improve Catholic Religious Education for Children and Adults with Mental Retardation.  Pittsburgh, PA:  The Diocese of Pittsburgh, 1996. 

This curriculum is intended for people with cognitive disabilities, ages 5 to 18 years.  It can be adapted for people with other disabilities and typical people as well.  It is divided into levels which present themes of catechesis.  Easy to follow. Very logical.  The only negative is the teaching seems to rely too much on verbal expression (words) and does not employ enough symbols, pictures and other non intellectual means to share our faith.  In the end, every curriculum must be adapted to the needs of the individual. 

Huber, Nancy.  A Deaf Child’s Spiritual Journey. Chicago, 1982.  

The video was made in 1982 in Cleveland, Ohio by the Office for the Deaf, Archdiocese of Chicago at a workshop sponsored by National Catholic Office of the Deaf.  The four boys were from Holy Trinity Day Classes for the Deaf in Chicago, Ill.  The video is a thought provoking interview of four deaf children and their experience of religion development.  How do concepts, such as “God,” form in a Deaf world?   

Macken, Fr. Patrick.  The Inclusive Catholic Community.  Dayton, OH: Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, University of Dayton.  45 minute video. 

This light theological video invites the observer to consider the Church as an inclusive Church called to serve all.  It is practical and could be used for parish discussion groups, a social action committee or any community considering the place of persons with disabilities in their community.

|Back to Top|

Books - Under Construction

|Back to Top|






 Click here for information on Services and Ministries for Persons with Disabilities in the Diocese of Cleveland


If you would like to receive occasional notifications of updates to this website, click here.


If you no longer wish to receive occasional notifications of updates to this website, click here.



Last Update to this page was March 02, 2009

Copyright © 2006 Dennis C. McNulty