Saturday, January 30, 2010

Brave new world

posted Sun, 12 Jun 2005

Minor Clergy, a lawyer studying to be an Orthodox priest, is one of my favorites. I read his site daily. I didn’t know until I read his post about it that Jesus didn’t just give the blind man sight – he gave him eyes. See for yourself here.

We have a reader in my parish who is blind. I didn’t even realize it until I noticed that someone always guides him to the lectern – his white cane isn’t adequate for this situation. Instead of looking down, he looks out at the congregation as he reads. Someone must translate the reading into Braille for him.

A few Sundays ago, we had a diocese-wide mass for the handicapped. The altar servers, the ushers and the readers were all handicapped in one way or another. Most were mentally handicapped, although one man who used crutches looked as if he had had polio – he was the right age.

The first lector read the Old Testament passage with grim determination, sounding out every word, repeating the hard ones until he got them right. He had rehearsed, but reading in front of an audience is not the same as practicing at home. I could tell everyone wanted to clap when he was done, but applause after someone has read is really not appropriate in church, although I think most of us would have gladly made an exception.

For the Our Father, one of the altar boys, who had Down’s syndrome and who must have been deaf, too, signed the prayer. I couldn’t sing because I was too busy trying to hide my tears.

Another altar boy couldn’t stop smiling. He was so happy just to be included in something so ordinary – to be part of everyday life.

Where am I going with this? Not sure, except that for someone as against mainstreaming in public schools as I am, I am for mainstreaming in life. That is, there are all sorts of people in life. Not everyone is born with eyes – or with a mind or body that works the way it is supposed to. But that does not mean that person does not deserve to live.

I was horrified to read in the Guardian that a baby in Britain had been aborted at 24 weeks because it had a cleft palate!

My sister is a neo-natal nurse practitioner.

She takes care of babies born at 24 weeks.

Cleft palates can be fixed.

Babies are aborted in this country for being handicapped.

There is a difference between letting a severely handicapped baby be born and letting nature take its course (which does not include starvation) and killing it in the womb. There is also a difference between letting a Down’s syndrome or other mildly handicapped baby be born and letting it live and killing it.

I cannot begin to know what life must be like for the parents of such a child. But is imperfection a reason to kill? How perfect do you have to be to be allowed to live? My insurance company would probably like to see me go. My migraine drugs cost hundreds of dollars a month – way more than I pay in premiums. (I am so lucky to have a good health plan.) Who gets to make these decisions?

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