“I think the book” in your image? Children of God with Disabilities ”- writes Simona Lancioni – is also interesting for those who are not Catholics or do not have specific theological skills. Among other things, it leads us to wonder what everyone can do, believers and non-believers, disabled or not, to be accommodated to our subjectivities. I think the challenge is to treat each other and each other exactly as we would like to be treated. In fact, doing so will also improve the quality of community-wide relationships. “
After a first reflection published in these pages and fruit of the act of presentation of In your image? Children of God with disabilities (La Vita Felice, 2022), collective publication edited by Alberto Fontana I Giovanni Merlo investigating the relationship between disability and faithI re-express some considerations as a result of reading the work The volume is based on the requests contained in “We “don’t” them. ”Disability and Catholic Theology and Social Teaching “We,” not “They.” Disability, Theology, and Catholic Social Doctrine), a 2019 work in which the author, Justin GlynBlind Jesuit of Australian descent, lawyer and Professor of Canon Law at Catholic Theological College, General Counsel of the Australian District of the Society of Jesus, proposes a new theology of disability, able to go beyond the rhetoric of inclusion and reception of people with disabilities from reflection on the image of the “Wounded God” that Jesus concretized with his own incarnation. The volume In Your Image contains the complete Italian translation of Glyn’s work, p many other contributions of high thickness prepared by exponents of the Catholic sphere and the movement of people with disabilities.
I think this post is also interesting for those who, like the writer, are not Catholics and do not have specific theological skills, at least for two reasons. Because it raises questions about the relationship with people with disabilities that both people with disabilities themselves and those related to them are induced to ask themselves regardless of their beliefs. But also because for millennia the Vatican has had enormous political (it is a state), cultural, social and religious power capable of exerting a certain influence on the society and policies of our country.
I hope that in this sense are the suggestions offered by Glyn’s work attention to the Catholic world why the overcoming the dualism “We / They”that the Author researches and deconstructs to promote an approach in which people with disabilities are welcomed into the community of believers with equal dignity, is one of the highlights of the relationship with people with disabilities. Indeed, it is functional both in the emancipation of approaches – not yet surpassed in the Catholic world – that seek disability as a sign of guilt-sin, or as an instrument of redemption, and in the inauguration, within the Church. , of a season of prominence and participation of people with disabilities themselves to the definition of a theology of disability that knows how to listen, value and also include its point of view.
It is also important that, as specified several times in the volume, a definition of disability be adopted that highlights it. responsibility of the company – and so also of the Church – in the construction of a context that also allows people with disabilities to participate in all areas of life on equal terms with other citizens. This is in line with the paradigm focused on recognition and respect human rights sanctioned by UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities.
The questions I asked myself reading the volume are: Does overcoming the dualism “We / They” in the Church as in society necessarily translate into equal relationships? If we were to fully implement the above-mentioned UN Convention, would this lead to equal relations between people with disabilities and the different subjects of society? I believe that if these two hypotheses were to come true, it would be the condition of people with disabilities incredibly improvedbut I also think that to build relationships we need to ask ourselves about relational styles, and more precisely about position we want to give to other people in relationships.
To put it even more clearly: when we relate to others (abilities or disabilities, it doesn’t matter), are we willing to put ourselves on an equal footing? O pensem to be able to exercise power and to exercise control to get them to fit our expectations, needs, and interests?
Reflecting on these issues, I was convinced that disability, gender, sexual orientation other than heterosexuality, membership in a minority ethnic group compared to that of the host community, and all the other characteristics that are often exposed. to the risk of discrimination and violence. just pretexts he used to hide inability to maintain party relations of those who act in these discriminatory and violent behaviors.
Let me clarify what I mean by an example from the Bible.
More or less we all know the story Cain and Abel, the children of Adam and Eve. We also know that his older brother, Cain, killed his younger brother, Abel, because he was apparently jealous that God liked Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. In the volume the episode is also mentioned by the father Giuseppe Bettonifounder and president of the Arché Foundation, to develop a reflection on the concept of Brotherhood (pages 79-83); However, I do not want to dwell on the latter aspect, but I would like to focus on the fact that Cain and Abel did not have any personal characteristics that could serve as a pretext to act on the violence that took place and went on. cause Abel’s death.
Cain and Abel were “equal,” but the oppression of one over the other was the same. What does it mean? I think that means achieving parity does not automatically give us the warranty be received in ways that respect our subjectivity (and our vulnerability). This is because the will to welcome the other is more linked relational stylesthat is to say that in the relations we are arranged not to act any power and control on the other even in the hypothesis – mostly in the hypothesis – that to be able to act a power and a control is in the our availability. It doesn’t take long, just instill a little fear or dread (“if you do that, our relationship – or our friendship – will never be the same”).
It often happens that people are in a subordinate position, for example assuming a complacent attitude (“I don’t like the way Tizio treats me, but I don’t tell him out of fear of conflict or loneliness”).
These asymmetric relational dynamics they are widely practiced (or even prevalent) and obviously also affect people with disabilities, not only in the sense that they are also immersed in it, but also in the sense that sometimes they are willing to propose to counteract discrimination. again.
This is also an aspect present in In your image?in particular in the contribution of Matteo Schianchi, historian and researcher at the University of Milan-Bicocca. In fact, Schianchi points out, for example, how Glyn himself self-represents himself as a person with a disability, “he continues to express himself in terms of ‘we the disabled'” (page 97), and therefore dealing with people without disabilities. as “others” (Or “They”, if we want to recall the dichotomy examined in the work of the Australian author).
Especially in recent years, also by virtue of the opportunities offered by the web, even here in Italy peer counseling groups for people with disabilities. These are very important realities for awareness, for creating and strengthening self-esteem, and for the personal evolution of the people involved. The problem arises when some of them leave these groups, without being able to abandon a defensive attitude towards those who are not disabled. That the person with a disability learns to recognize discriminations (even the most subtle ones) and is willing to react and defend themselves instead of suffering them, is fundamental, God forbid. But treating others indiscriminately from others (or them) means suggesting to these people the same opposition that one would like to overcome. My impression, therefore, is that in trying to reduce or eliminate distance from others, some people with disabilities do not seek an egalitarian relationship, but, having assimilated an asymmetrical relationship style, rather try reverse rolesthus moving from the position of subjects subject to power and control, to subjects who exercise them.
As I want to avoid any misunderstanding in this regard, I clarify and emphasize that I do not attribute responsibility for the discrimination suffered by people with disabilities – it is and remains the responsibility of the individual and collective subjects who apply them – I am just pointing out that some people with disabilities, reacting to discrimination, they do not always manage to emancipate themselves from the logic that produced them.
To better understand what I’m talking about just read on The county of revolvers (Il Prato, 1999), a novel in which the journalist and writer with a disability Franco Bomprezzi (1952-2014), with the irony and wit that characterized him, imagines a dystopian reality, a consequence of the “Great Revolution of the Disabled”, inhabited only by people in wheelchairs and closed to “walkers”.
But will the Church be able to relinquish power and control over people with disabilities in order to open up to equal relations? Will ordinary individuals learn to relate equally to someone? We will discover in the near future where the path of reflection on disability that has opened up within the Church in the framework of the Synod on Synodality (in this sense, read Marco Guerra, The Synod listens to people with disabilitiesin the Vatican News, May 18, 2022).
As for the other individuals, I think it’s a subjective matter. Those who in their individual journey have had the opportunity to reflect on the dynamics of relationships and have experienced how satisfying real relationships can be, has more tools to relate respectfully to anyone. Others risk, albeit unconsciously, reproducing asymmetrical relational dynamics, with all that follows.
What can we all do, believers and non-believers, disabled or not, to be accommodated to our subjectivities? Treat others and the others exactly how we would like to be treated. If we want openness, we must be the first to show openness. If we want attention and listening, we start practicing them. If we want equality, we treat others and others as equals. If each and every one has this in mind, it will also improve the quality of the relations of an entire community.