Catholicism and autism are not diametrically opposed. Individuals within the Church may not completely understand that this difference in brain development exists, and even some try to argue that it is not a natural state of being. And books are written to give guidance to men considering the priestly orders, but using outdated understanding of the evidence.
Sadly, many people sitting in the pews next to autistic individuals, also, deny the existence of autism.
And still others who believe that morals do not apply to those who live in the outskirts in a world of neurodivergency.
But how much of this is fair to the person who lives day to day in light of their lack of full acceptance? And how much of this is able to live within the guardrails of the Natural Law?
The Natural Law has been debated recently in the midst of a modernistic idea that man can create his own moral code. “What is good for me and doesn’t affect you is my moral code.”
The problem with this concept is that we are social creatures. Regardless of what a person does in private or seemingly only affecting themselves, there is very little in our life that does not affect someone else. Either by our example, our words, or by our actions.
We do not live in isolation, as much as we would like to think we can.
So what is the “Natural Law”?
The Natural Law is considered the rule by which natural things behave and exist. It determines the end result of disobedience, as it were, to what is natural to a creation’s intended mode of behavior.
For a simplified example, if a person were to believe that they were a bird and try to fly off a cliff, the Natural Law would dictate that they will not fly. In fact, they may not even survive to discover that reality.
Natural Law has been followed since the times of the Greeks and Romans. It is not a divine command, but a law set in place which dictates what is good and bad by its very nature.
What has that to do with autism?
If the choice is made to do something harmful to another, it is intrinsically wrong. And if what is proposed or chosen is chosen to fulfill one’s passions or pleasures at the expense or usurpation of another, it is morally wrong.
The Natural Law doesn’t care whether or not you are neurodivergent or neurotypical. As long as you are human, it still applies.
You still won’t be able to launch yourself off a cliff to fly like a bird.
Why is the Natural Law in place?
The Natural Law is the guardrail that keeps us safe. It limits the harm we can do to ourselves and others if we abide by it.
They are necessary as the basic rules by which every human being must live. When we choose to violate those Laws, we cause harm to ourselves and others.
When each one of us chooses to obey our own created rules (subjective rules) and not an objective rule (one that is universally true), then society begins to break down. Each person will determine what is morally right and morally wrong. That which is intrinsically evil can then become good should the individual so choose for their personal life.
Thus, a person who has the proclivity toward pedophilia can justify their inclination and actions because, for them, the very act foisted upon one who is not a willing participant is acceptable, falling within their subjective viewpoint.
Everything we do affects someone else. Either by their observation of our actions, or by fallout of our inclinations toward another outside objectively established moral guidelines. And those guidelines are found universally within the context of the Natural Law.
Even the Stoics understood this.
Does it apply to the neurodivergent?
In a word, Yes.
Just because someone is neurodivergent does not justify disobedience to the Natural Moral Law.
The only thing that applies is that the neurodivergent individual approaches this immutable Law differently than a neurotypical person.
And that’s okay.
But in no way can either group violate that Law. As long as a person is fully capable of understanding the ramifications of disobedience, they are culpable for the end results.
Judge who you hang with…
Judgement of another is not the judgement of their soul. It is an acceptable judgement based on their actions against what is good or True.
“By their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:16-20
Just because a group of seemingly like-minded people appears open and welcoming doesn’t mean they will be accepting of a path toward righteousness. If your path does not conform to the words, moral or ideological norms of the group, they will, in the end, not accept you and you will not be embraced for very long.
Shunning occurs when the one who does not go along with the group refuses to change their code of convictions just to get along. At that point, human nature takes in a d refuses to tolerate behaviors or beliefs that do not agree with the conformists, or masses, in the group.
This is true even within the spectrum affirming groups.
Autism isn’t new. It isn’t a recently discovered anomaly. Many individuals throughout history showed classic signs of the autistic traits.
The most recent discovery is Saint Thorlak. In evaluating his traits, it is assumed that he was autistic. But that is an assumption.
Saint Thorlak certainly held characteristics that were autistic. He saw things as right or wrong, black or white. There were no shades of grey. He held an all-consuming love for God.
It is said that many autistic people are leaving Christianity. But in doing research, I am finding that this idea is skewed.
Like Saint Thorlak, that black and white way of thinking, the personalization characteristics of the autistic mind, actually has found a home within the culture and traits of the autistic. The concept of God is a deeply personal one. And who better than the neurodivergent to grasp that very concept?
Following in His footsteps…
It is not a hard leap, therefore, to understand that grasping the desire to please a best friend is deeply embedded in the mind and heart of the neurodivergent person.
It is equally not without understanding that those who have seen the non-inclusive side of Christians would shy far from the very idea of a loving God. Especially when those who are His followers do not act like Him.
Love. That is the key.
And our churches need to understand now more than ever the understanding of what it means to love another person. To reach out beyond their comfort zone and embrace those who think differently.
Autistic and other neurodivergent people do not need to endure the constant drone of rejection. Especially by those who claim God to be the Father and Creator of us all.
And Catholicism, at its very root, is not at all antithetical to that embrace.
Misdirection toward the world…
It is the people who publicly represent the Church who are misdirected in their approach to show seeming charitably toward those who are different. Embracing what was always considered immoral just to prove that She is not judgmental is, in itself, a form of judgement. Not on the world, but on God.
The Church should not change Her stance on morals and ethics. The Natural Moral Law has not changed, so there is no reason for such an approach.
Embracing deviancy and changing what has been an ontologically sound position for thousands of years will not draw the neurodivergent people into the pews. Instead, it will show how unreliable God’s Church and His laws are.
What will draw them is showing that the doctrines of God are unchanging. What is right really is and always has been right. And what is wrong is and always has been wrong.
The idea that God changes His mind is what will change the desire of an autistic person from wanting to embrace a religion that changes its views with the wind. For what is supposed to reflect God within the confines of the Church, must be honest and sincere. Unalterable, unchangeable.
The only thing that must change is how the Church reaches out to those who do not agree. And changing the very core of who She is will only prove that the Institution founded by Christ was, indeed, only founded by the ideals of man.
And that is not who She is.