The Pope’s stop was a pro-life gesture

In this photo provided by World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis kisses and blesses Michael Keating, 10, of Elverson, Pa after arriving in Philadelphia and exiting his car when he saw the boy, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Philadelphia International Airport. Keating has cerebral palsy and is the son of Chuck Keating, director of the Bishop Shanahan High School band that performed at Pope Francis' airport arrival. (Joseph Gidjunis/World Meeting of Families via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

In this photo provided by World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis kisses and blesses Michael Keating, 10, of Elverson, Pa after arriving in Philadelphia and exiting his car when he saw the boy, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Philadelphia International Airport. Keating has cerebral palsy and is the son of Chuck Keating, director of the Bishop Shanahan High School band that performed at Pope Francis’ airport arrival. (Joseph Gidjunis/World Meeting of Families via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

I’m not Catholic, but I’m a fan of the current Pope. I know I’m not alone in that. I’ve cheered as he’s proclaimed the gospel on the floor of Congress and before the United Nations in the past week.

And when he stopped to intentionally greet and bless a child with cerebral palsy and his family near an airport in Philadelphia? My heart cheered not only at his act but at the number of positive comments on each news post about the event.

(One language note, though: Some news outlets, unfortunately, chose to describe the child as “suffering from” cerebral palsy. My youngest child also has cerebral palsy. She doesn’t exist in a perpetual state of suffering from it, though it does create some limitations. Please, journalists, choose your words wisely. If you adhere to any of the style books regularly used by media outlets, you’ll find that the preferred wording is “child with cerebral palsy” or “child who has cerebral palsy” not “child suffering from cerebral palsy.)

Meanwhile, that same positivity does not extend to the comments section of any post about the Pope’s pro-life stances on abortion. When he spoke before the United Nations last week, he said, “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of development.” Previously he has spoken even more powerfully and explicitly against abortion (though he has also spoken with great compassion for those who have had abortions). The response to those remarks is almost always divisive.

As for me, I am pro-life. I’ll be writing more here in the coming weeks about why I am and how disability issues intersect with abortion. For now, I want to make the distinction that I am pro-life like the Pope is pro-life – every stage of development, from womb to the tomb.

What many of those cheering the Pope’s response to the boy with cerebral palsy missed is this: his stop was a pro-life action. Being pro-life, after all, isn’t (or shouldn’t be) simply about being anti-abortion. Yes, that’s part of it, but being pro-life extends after birth as well, both for the child and the mother and everyone else involved.

That’s why I consider special needs ministry to be a pro-life ministry, especially in a world that is surprised when a religious celebrity stops to engage with a child with a disability. May we all follow Christ so well that we and the world expect nothing less from Christians than not just taking note of those with disabilities but living in community with them as friends and fellow image bearers of God. Here’s to changed hearts!

Photo credit: Joseph Gidjunis / AP

In addition to serving as a Key Ministry Church Consultant, Shannon Dingle is a co-founder of the Access Ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.

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About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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2 Responses to The Pope’s stop was a pro-life gesture

  1. bfontaine74 says:

    I really liked this article. Well said disability ministry is pro-life ministry! Raising a son with multiple disabilities has made me more pro-life. Our son has really cultivated a depth of character into our home. God has gifted us with an opportunity to love deeply every day. I really feel blessed.

    Like

  2. jdwilson11 says:

    Great post. I wholeheartedly believe special needs ministry is a pro-life ministry for the church and Christians. I pray that we will see more churches invite and engage individuals with special needs.

    Like

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