Sat 25th Oct 2014 | Last updated: Fri 24th Oct 2014 at 18:39pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Latest News

Down’s Syndrome boy denied Communion, says mother

By on Thursday, 19 January 2012

The mother of a boy with Down’s Syndrome has accused the Church of letting her down after her diocese declined to allow her son to make his first Holy Communion.

Clare Ellarby, from the St Mary of the Angels church in Batley, West Yorkshire, said: “I believe it is because of his disability that they won’t accept him. I feel very upset my son is being discriminated against and I feel really let down by the Catholic faith.”

The catechetical classes for First Holy Communion began in September but Mrs Ellarby explained that she was unable to attend the first meeting with Denum because he was unwell.

When she approached her parish priest, Fr Patrick Mungovin, he explained that the classes were now full and that Denum would have to wait.

When she took her case to Mgr Michael McQuinn of Leeds diocese, Mrs Ellerby claims that he raised questions concerning Denum’s understanding of the sacrament but agreed to discuss this with Denum’s headteacher at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Batley.

After several attempts to contact Mgr McQuinn, Mrs Ellarby eventually received a letter from him this month. The letter raised concerns about Denum’s ability to concentrate for long periods of time and his understanding based on what Denum’s head teacher had told Mgr McQuinn.

He wrote: “While he [Denum] is unable to make preparations this year to the first sacrament he may be able to do in the future when his understanding is better placed.”

But Mrs Ellarby said that she feared her son was being discriminated against due to his disability and that “it was his right to make his First Holy Communion”.

Mrs Ellarby does not attend Mass every week but she said: “I am from a strong Catholic background and I went to Mass every Sunday as a child. I do go often but not as often as I could because I have Denum and a younger child too.”

In a statement, a diocese spokesman said: “Often Baptism is celebrated for babies in order to bring them into the life of the Church but they only proceed to the Sacrament of First Communion when they take part in the Church’s life and understand the Church’s faith in regard to these Sacraments. Denum’s family has not participated in the regular life of the Church or in the preparation preceding First Communion.

“We hope that this will change as Denum grows and we are working with him and his family to help him achieve this.”

  • Tiddles The Cat

    There are two mentally disabled parishoners at my parish who receive Holy Communion with more grace than anyone who considers themselves ‘normal’.

  • Tiddles The Cat


  • Tiddles The Cat

    It is entirely contrary to the Ten Commandments (not The Ten Suggestions) and the promises made at Baptism to not Keep the Sabbath Holy (i.e. attend Holy Mass) or keep your baptised children in the practise of their faith through your example and encouragement.

    It is not like joining a doggone gym where you tell people you are a member of the gym but you don’t darken its door!

    As in life, we need to meet certain criteria in all kinds of things.

    For the sake of argument, I would like to play rugby for Ireland in the Six Nations. In order to meet the criteria, I have to be Irish, a young man, be match fit, know the rules of the game and be exceptionally skilled in scoring tries, penalties and weaving past the opponents with the skills of a Border Collie on an assault course at Crufts.

    However, I only match one of the above. I’m Irish.

    But I don’t go banging on the door of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin demanding Declan Kidney put me on the team because I have a ‘right’ to be in the line-up. Mr Kidney would have good reason to laugh his socks off to think I stood a chance at all!

    If a man wanted to be an Orthodox Jewish convert, he’d have to learn hebrew and get circumcised and attend synagogue; if you want to convert to Islam, you learn Arabic and the Qu’ran back to front and attend mosque;
    f you want to become a member of the Roman Catholic Church, you are told what is involved – the next step is to be instructed by catechists and then you are formally received into the Church with Baptism, Holy Communion (and Confirmation) on Holy Saturday evening. There, Baptismal vows are taken for the first time by the new member and renewed by the parish.

    Are we understood?

  • John Of Framwellgate

    If the legalists of the Roman Church insist that the bread of the communion wafer contains gluten then perhaps, Rey, you could adopt the Orthodox solution and just have the Blood of Christ,  This is the way for babes in arms, who couldn’t chew bread or swallow it so why not fo adults who cannot chew or swallow wheat bread.  Maybe rye bread should be substituted, wheat does not grow everywhere, but bread is eaten in most parts

  • Rey Jacobs

    Rye has lower gluten content but it still has it.  Anyway, I think you fail to see the bigger point here.  Sure you could go back to the medieval days of only having the cup…but in calling the cup “the blood of Christ” you highlight the real issue…the fact that the bread still has gluten after consecration proves it hasn’t become the body of Christ and therefore your calling the cup “the blood of Christ” is nothing but illusion…why should we be held in thrall to this superstition anymore now that we know its a lie?

  • Xxxx

    I’m ashamed to be Catholic after reading this story. 

    How cutting and how hurtful this must be to little Denum- knowing he is excluded and alienated from a sacrament of faith because of his disability. This sort of discrimination was outlawed under the 2005 Disability Discrimination Act. The church could probably be sued under the DDA / Equality 2010 act and I for one would be backing Denum, not his diocese. 
    Hasn’t McQuinn heard the phrase ‘suffer the little children to come unto me?’

    What a disgrace. What a terrible message for the Catholic church to send out. I am so proud of Denum’s parents for going public and making the world aware of just how awful their diocese is.

  • Bob Hayes

    Your posting has portrayed Denum – a little boy created by God and son of Mr and Mrs Ellarby – as a ‘consumer’ with a purely legalistic and claimed contractual relationship with the Church. Is that really all you see in this little boy and your Catholic faith? Is Denum merely to be an appellant in a courtroom? Is there no place for parental responsibility in relation to the upbringing of a child within the faith? 

  • Cookscottage


  • Cookscottage

    correct…  well said

  • Cookscottage

    The boy was never refused.. Media has blown this all out of preportion as they do with so many things. We should all be dead now with swine flu, birds flu salmonella etc…His mum needs to get a grip and attend church and the parish will do whatever is required to ensure the child goes to the lessons…. as my child is doing this year, we attend mass every week (with exeption to illness). Its a promise we made at my childrens baptism which all too often is taken for another party and not taken seriously. Why have a child make there first holy communion if they will never again be taken to church…….  The parish priest the lady aproached is a very nice parish priest and I know him well. He never refused the boy and these hastened untrue alagations has hurt him. Make the effort and the church will do the same. GET OFF THE COMPENSATION BAND WAGON>>>>

  • SHOWTIME_38m

    That’s so sad and my heart goes out to D and his family!
    My son is black/Mexican , the only black boy in the whole perish
    And the leader for the last days of him being there
    Trying to do his first communion , she is determined to
    Keep him from succeeding! God willing! He will finish!

  • yvocarlo

    I am the PROUD mother of a 15 yr old with Down Syndrome, I am NOT proud of may things in my life and will not go into detail but just needed to comment.  My daughter’s Daddy is a church going member of the Holy Name Society who being married (not to me) has fathered  4 or 5 kids with different women.  He has NEVER, ONCE ever taken our daughter to church because he is ashamed of hter, he has NEVER EVER told anyoone in the church about her.  I was raised a Catholic but do not go to church because I would feel like a total hipocrite but have been thinking about going and taking my child because she should not pay for the sins I have commited  I take very good care of my daughter, despite having some very serious health issues of my own. I would like for her to get into some sort of religious teaching but if she is going to  be rejected then I will not take her to Church.  I live in the South Bronx . 

  • Guest0123

     Unfortunately, in this world of education,communication, information
    superhighway and knowledge at our fingertips, there are people like
    “Tiddles The Cat” who fail to see the REALISTIC picture which includes the

  • Guest0123

    There are special circumstances for the population who suffer from Down’s Syndrome.

    Your lack of knowledge on the population invalidates your “understanding” of the situation.

  • Guest0123

    Please stop nitpicking about the Consecration and focus at the real issue at hand.

    There is a need for communal effort in order to properly prepare this child.