If I am this horrified, I can only imagine how horrified the Ontario mother of a 13-year-old autistic child was when she received an anonymous letter from one of her neighbors urging her to euthanize her autistic child.
The neighbor ended her letter, “Do the right thing and move or euthanize him!!! Either way, we are ALL better off!!!”
She also mentioned that the mother should take “whatever non retarded [sic] body parts” the child owns and donate them to science. She concluded the letter by signing it from the stance of an angry mother. Since it included a curse word, I won’t repeat it here.
Apparently, the child can get pretty noisy when he’s outside and this disturbs the neighbor and frightens her “normal” children.
What a shameful lesson lost! So much for taking advantage of a prime teaching moment. The Catholic Church teaches us that parents are the primary educators of their children. What we do and say to and around them molds who they become when they reach adulthood.
The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World tells us, “Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. The right and duty of parents to give education is essential …”
The neighbor may not be Catholic, but what the Church teaches holds true for parents of all denominations. It’s even true for parents of no denomination.
The neighbor fails to understand this. At least I pray so, because if she does understand it, then she is consciously teaching her children to judge and disdain anyone who is different from themselves – judgement and disdain to the point of feeling we have the right (obligation, as the neighbor states) to wipe out anyone with a disability.
I wonder how changed the situation would have been if the neighbor had gotten to know the family with the autistic child, if she had used the opportunity to teach her children how to handle difficult circumstances, if she had taught them about the beauty of bearing cross and suffering in holiness, if she had chosen to teach her children that every single person – regardless of their abilities or disabilities – is a cherished child of God with a heart and soul that is worthy of awe, if she had taught her children to more fully appreciate and utilize their own abilities rather than hate and fear others for their disabilities.
This sad, sad, case prods me to work harder on practicing respect and regard in my own life. Hate, fear, judgment, and disdain begin with the little things and slowly build over time until they become impenetrable walls between individuals, families, religions, and nations. At the core of it is the failure to understand and value the other for who he/she is in totality, with all the gifts and shortcomings God has bestowed on that person, and the failure to recognize that God’s plan is perfect even when we can’t comprehend it. From, “I can’t stand the way you chew your gum!” to “I’m cutting you out of my life!” to “You don’t deserve to live!”, it’s all passing judgment in some form.
God can help us, but we must first want to be helped. We must pray, do penance, and implore God’s grace and mercy to temper our hearts. Allowing God to first change our own hearts will give example and encourage others to change theirs.
In case you’d like to read the full account, here’s the link to the LifeSiteNews.com article: