Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 69(4) November 2019

Book Review

Because I am.
Christian accompaniment through the experience of a
pre-birth diagnosis of a possible disability
by Cristina Gangemi (Redemptorist publications).

Reviewed by  Dr Pravin  Thevasathan

Because I am coverBecause I Am is a "programme of reflection and spiritual accompaniment for parents whose child receives a pre-birth diagnosis of a medical condition or possible experience of disability." As such, it is a vital resource for our age. I have spoken to too many parents who were put under pressure to consider abortion as an alternative to having a disabled child. I have also encountered too many parents whose relationships have broken down due, in part, with having to deal with a disabled child. 

There is a great quote at the start from Dr Pia Matthews, whose daughter has Rett Syndrome: people with disabilities are not only those "to whom we give. He or she must also be helped to become one who gives to the best of his or her ability."

The child with a disability should be recognized as an individual person, not as a diagnosis. The author looks at various paths that are open to parents who have been told that the child has a disability. What if they opt for termination? I prefer the term abortion. We are called to accompany the parents in a non-judgmental way. We certainly should not cast judgment on the parents.  But the followers of Carl Rogers ask too much of us when they tell us not to judge the moral act. I believe the author is calling us to judge the act but not the person as she writes: Christian teaching can "never advocate termination." In some circles, being judgmental and rigid describes those who simply want to adhere to the natural law. 

Accompaniment means being with the parents as they travel through the teachings and insights of their faith traditions and supporting them. Do we tell them to accept their sufferings and unite them to the sufferings of Our Lord? This requires a considerable amount of discernment. I agree with the author that it is best for us to simply be there, to listen, to support. There are other occasions when we can be more direct. What if they believe that they are being punished by God? They need to be helped out of such a mistaken idea. 

I was particularly moved by the stories given by parents. How important it is for them to have their child baptized or to simply kiss them goodbye: "thanks to the spiritual and practical support we received in the hard times we are still together and trying to find God's love in all of this...trying to see there is space in the Church for us." It is a helpful resource for families and parishes.

Because  I am  is published by  Redemptorist  publications.