A few weeks ago, I read in a local magazine about a Novus Ordo-sponsored program called SPRED (Special Religious Education Development), a program based in the Archdiocese of Chicago that deals with children and adults with developmental disabilities. In the New England area there are locations in the Portland, ME, Worcester, MA (3) and Providence, RI dioceses. (More info is on their website.)
Well, you make think it's clear cut and dry that this program teaches these special ed children the Catholic Faith. It does not. No Lives of the Saints, no Canterbury Tales, no Imitation of Christ, no Illustrated Catechism for Little Children, and certainly no The Mass Explained to Children by Maria Montessori and her movement when it was truely Catholic way back when. Not even a Bible is in the syllabus.
Instead, these kids are learning basic "life skills"; ones that are done in government-run instiutions. If a child were in special ed in a public school, and if he does not receive his high school diploma before his 22nd birthday, he is sent to a residential program for adults to learn basic life skills such as cooking, cleaning, personal hygine, and personal managment. If he graduates from high school, he is off any special ed services for the rest of his life.
Now, when I'm talking about "developmental disabilities", I mean, kids who are really severely handicapped. Not the ones who are smart and on crutches, but the ones who often stay back in school and don't have any intellect.
These kids, when in these SPRED classes, are not learning anything about Catholicism, other than the "What Would Jesus Do" slogan. They play with play-do all day. They are not being taught anything about Jesus Christ and the Church he founded on the Rock of Peter. They have no clue what the Mass really is; for them it is just a gathering in a room with sing-alongs.
Does all this mean that we can't teach special ed kids the True Faith? The answer is no. We can. Montessori did it for years at the turn of the 20th century. But who will do it the 21st century?
Besides, learning disabilites and juvenile illnesses can be prevented provided that your newborn child is baptized within 3 days of birth (based on a hospital recovery of 3 days). A newborn is always at danger of death, because he is born with Original Sin. Baptizing immediately after birth has been the practice of the Roman Catholic Church since day one, and the "as soon as possible after birth" policy was dogmatically defined at the Council of Florence:
"As regards children this Holy Synod admonishes people that owing to the danger of death, as may often happen, then, since children can be helped by no other remedy that Baptism whereby they are delievered from the power of the devil, and made adopted children of God, their Baptism is not to be deferred for forty or eighty days as is done by some, but ought to be conferred as soon as can conveniently be done; and when there is imminent danger of death they should be baptized at once without any delay and, in the absence of a priest, even lay people, by men or by women, in the form of the Church (Father, Son, & Holy Ghost)." (Decree for the Jacobites, Feb. 4, 1442; G354)Enough said. Every time a parents of a newborn delay Baptism, the child is at risk of childhood disorders that I wish not to mention here.
We must pray for these poor souls, including the ones who do not have developmental disabilities, that they get to know the True Faith and at least are able to read The Baltimore Catehcism.