The parents of a seven-year-old boy with Down Syndrome are accusing the Catholic Church of “discrimination” for denying their son the sacrament of Holy Communion.
The church said that their son, Denum Ellarby, would not sufficiently ‘understand the preparation’ or be able to ‘enjoy participation in Mass’, according to Daily Mail reports.
Clare, Denum’s mother, has complained to the diocese chiefs, who have backed her parish priest, Father Patrick Mungovin’s views.
The Leeds diocese Vicar General said in a letter, that Father Mungovin was not “unreasonable in sharing the view that Denum should proceed to First Sacraments when he will be better placed to understand the preparation and to enjoy participation in Mass”.
A diocese spokesman said, “Christians come to share fully in the life of the Christian Church through the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation.
“Often Baptism is celebrated for babies in order to bring them into the life of the Church but they only proceed to the sacrament of First Communion when they take part in the Church’s life and understand the Church’s faith in regard to these sacraments.”
In the past two weeks the couple, in West Yorkshire, England, have gathered over 400 signatures in support of Denum. Clare and her husband Darren, who have two other children, said they expected to be allowed to teach Denum about the Catholic faith at home. She had thought the authorities would be “flexible” about it, as is customary for children with learning disabilities.
She said “I believe it is because of his disability that they won’t accept him. I feel very upset my son is being discriminated against and I feel really let down by the Catholic faith.
“They need to have more compassion. What they are doing is so cruel. As a child with Down’s Syndrome he may never have a full understanding of what it is about.”
Denum does not read or write and strangers have difficulty understanding him. However, Clare says, “I think he is very bright. He is doing everything that a child with Down’s Syndrome would normally do.”
The Ellarby family has worshipped at St. Mary of the Angels Church for four generations. Denum was baptized there and it was his parents’ wish that he make his First Holy Communion there with his school, St. Mary’s Primary.
Clare told the BBC “I have been in that Catholic church all my life, as a child I went there every Sunday.
“I can't get there every Sunday now, it's difficult with Denum and I have got a younger child.
“But generations of my family have been baptised, made our Holy Communion, we had our marriage blessing there and we feel really let down.”