Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Bishop Kevin Doran Knows that Down Syndrome isn't "What God Intended"

I put this article up about Irish Catholic Bishop Kevin Doran on the Facebook page yesterday, and it's getting a lot of attention - enough that I thought it deserved some more.

Kevin Doran is getting attention from the disability community because of remarks he made during an interview about Ireland's upcoming referendum on gay marriage. There's an interview with Kevin Doran, rather hard-hitting, at the bottom of the article, which is quite interesting if you get the time, because it really shows how muddled and not-completely-formed the theology of at least Kevin Doran's school of Catholicism is on this issue.

(Full disclosure: I don't pretend to know what Kevin Doran's particular school is, as I don't know a whole about the Catholic Church, but I do know my Bible and I do have at least a working knowledge of and grudging respect for theology.)

I've heard his sorts of arguments before, and they made me sigh. But let's get to what really brings me here today.

Kevin Doran's Thoughts on Disability

I don't think that Kevin Doran saw himself as being offensive when he said, in response to the question of whether homosexuality was something God intended, that "That would be to suggest that if some people who are born with Down Syndrome or Spina Bifida, that that was what God intended either.”

But it was very offensive nonetheless. And extremely problematic, because Bishops have authority within the Catholic Church. People believe that what they say is right. If the Bishop says that people with Down Syndrome or Spina Bifida weren't what God intended, there are going to be people are that take that seriously, and that attitude is going to inform their actions.

Disabled people aren't fighting enough harmful rhetoric as it is (and in the UK in particular, where the government-generated and media-driven "scrounger" continues to fuel catastrophic cuts to benefits and services?)

I know a number of intellectually disabled people who attend church every Sunday, who take great comfort from it, and great pleasure from being part of a church community. They are welcomed as any non-disabled member would be. That a Bishop not only believes in his heart that disability and the diversity and opportunities for learning (for everyone) that come along with it are not what God intended, but would publicly state it and use it as justification to deprive another group of rights that others enjoy is despicable to me.

But then again, Kevin Doran did seem to be out to out to offend just about everyone that he could with this interview, including gay and lesbian parents, and women who have been raped that are considering abortion. Perhaps he thought he should fit disabled people in there somehow as well.

Won't you join me as I roll my eyes?


  1. Grrrrrr! I really couldn't listen to the interview. But this from the article: "“I’m just saying it would be wrong to suggest that everything that happens, happens because God intended it. If that were the case, we’d be talking about a very different kind of God.”" I guess that leaves room for things like the Big Bang and evolution and other things God didn't make happen. This guy seems to be implying that disabled people aren't God's children, and I find that detestable.

  2. I think it's pompous to suggest that anyone knows what God intended. I'm an old gay and live in Canada so I don't have many problems in that regard, but I appreciate the efforts of the young to change the laws.

  3. Certainly what he said was absolutely offensive, and I believe, incorrect. But please, give us Catholics some credit. Not every member of a religion chooses to believe every asinine thing one of its many (many, many, many) leaders says. I, and many of the Catholics I associate with, choose to use my God-given reasoning powers to examine what church leaders say and compare it to church teachings and my own personal knowledge of God before giving it any credence. This bishop's comments certainly are not very Christian, and any Catholic that supports him just because he's a bishop is probably quite comfortable having such prejudices whether or not they are sanctioned by an official religious figure.

  4. Hi NebraskaLiz...thanks for commenting.

    And thank you so much for being one of the people who uses those abilities that you cited to evaluate what you hear from Church leaders critically. Were it not for people like you, I imagine that I would still be living a life where religion caused me a great deal of fear and, quite frankly, distress. I know that you are out there, and it's not you that I'm worried about (and perhaps I should have made that clearer). I expect that you would have taken the teenage me who would have been very upset and confused about hearing these words coming from a Church authority's mouth and,like my mother would have, said "Listen. Just because he's a Bishop doesn't mean that he's always right,"

    I'm more concerned about more fundamentalist Catholics (and more fundamentalist Christians in general, for that matter) who would take a Church leader's words as inviolate, because I've had experience with them, too. Hell, I was one of them for a while. And while hearing what Doran said while I was in that time in my life would have just pushed me closer more quickly to asking the questions that made me eventually leave Christianity, not everyone goes that way.

    I do take your point, though - the people that aren't shocked by this and agree with it have probably had those thoughts themselves at some point.

    I'm also concerned for the disabled people who are part of the Church that hear about this. I only hope that any people with Down Syndrome in the Catholic Church who heard about his words have someone in their life that can say to them, "Of course you were intended by God. Just because he's the Bishop doesn't mean he's always right."

    Thank you again for reading and commenting.

  5. And I appreciate you, Margot. :)

    Thank you for reading and for commenting.

  6. Yes, that really is what makes it especially...well, it feels like a stab in the heart when I think about it, and I'm not even Christian. To think that a religious leader could say, on the basis of disability, "You're not of God", is just awful. And if he doesn't think we're God's children then what, theologically, are we? It really does seem to me the greatest way you could insult a religious person, and it makes me feel sad and angry.

  7. e-lifeinprogress.blogspot.com31 March 2015 at 11:20

    As a disabled woman who also fits under the LBGQ umbrella, I am subjected on a regular basis to rather astounding and downright stupid comments regarding God or Jesus. I've had total strangers begin praying (perhaps preying would be a better word) over me in public without any invitation to do so, or someone saying that perhaps I was this way because God wanted me to be a stronger person or my other favorite, that I perhaps was being punished for having done something...

    As a member of a small Reform congregation, I am presently engaged in the work of disability inclusion and LBGQ inclusion within my synagogue. This is a national effort across Reform Jewish congregations and the body co-ordinating nationally is the Union for Reform Judaism. Though the congregational leadership has been responsive and supportive, I've had to confront ignorance, fear and outmoded ideology and still find the will to continue. I think that same situation exists across churches and temples and mosques. It takes exposure and a willingness to speak up as well as the critical thinking skills mentioned here. I also think the Catholic church hierarchy needs to be aware how this Bishop's remarks are perceived...