On December 22nd, 2014 in a message to the “Curia”, the highest-ranking governmental body of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis warned his audience against “spiritual diseases”. In his message, the Pontiff use metaphors such “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and “existential Schizophrenia” to cautioned ecclesial leaders about the perils of spiritual conformity and lukewarmness.
In light of Pope Francis’ exhortation, we welcome the invitation to reevaluate our personal and collective commitment to the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is important to mention that Francis has been a champion for the poor and the destitute. Not too long ago, the Vatican held an unprecedented meeting with families of children with autism and began a much needed conversation about this important issues.
On the other hand, we are concerned about the implications of metaphorical connections between physical ailments and spiritual decay.
As parents, spouses, siblings, children, friends, and advocates of people with physical, intellectual and cognitive disabilities we are unsettled by the usage of the same conditions that affect our love ones to make reference to negative spiritual aspects.
In moments like this we would like to echo the words of the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians where he reminds us that God’s power “is made perfect in weakness”, (2 Cor. 12:9).
Conditions such as “Alzheimer’s” and “Schizophrenia” besides being part of the painful reality that many of our families have to undergo, they are also signs of our inherent “fragility” as vulnerable human beings.
Physical or intellectual impairments cannot accurately describe our moral deficiencies. On the contrary, the weaknesses experienced in the midst of disabling conditions can serve as divine conduits of God’s transforming power in the lives of individuals and the church.
Therefore, we believe it is extremely important to disrupt the historical and theological tendencies that have led so many people of faith to connect spiritual lukewarmness to physical, intellectual or cognitive impairments. They are truly not compatible categories.
Following the exhortation of Pope Francis, we continue asking God’s guidance and encouragement as we reevaluate our actions and our faith commitments throughout 2014. It is we a renewed sense of hope that we looked forward to 2015 as we continue to work toward the goal of a more inclusive Kingdom of God on earth, particularly for those members in the body of Christ dealing with disabilities and chronic health conditions.
In a spirit of reconciliation and goodwill,
Samuel L. Caraballo, MPH, MDiv
President & Founder of Toda Habilidad Inc.
*** Toda Habilidad Inc. is an interdenominational & multicultural ministry dedicated to promoting inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in faith communities and society at large.