A Union County mom says her son who has autism was kicked out of church by the priest during her daughter's baptism.
Nicky, 7, was playing with a ball during his sister Sofia's baptism at Christ the King Church Saturday in Hillside, Julia Vicidomini said on Facebook.
The service was private, for family only, which Vicidomini said made her feel more comfortable as Nicky -- who is non-verbal -- doesn't do well during long mass services.
"Yes, he was playing with a toy where he should not have been, however, the way the priest kicked him out of the church was completely rude and disrespectful," the mom said. "I tried to explain that Nicky has autism and doesn’t understand."
Once the service ended, Vicidomini's husband went back inside to talk to the priest, and explained that Nicky doesn't understand that he can't play in church.
That's when the unnamed priest raised his voice, the mom said, saying that Nicky's playing was a distraction.
"My husband told him that he thought a priest, of all people, would be more sympathetic to a child with special needs, that he was completely unprofessional and ruined our celebration," Vicidomini said.
"He told him our family deserved an apology. The priest came outside to speak to our family but instead of apologizing he began to try to justify the reason he kicked our child out, again saying he was distracting him."
Vicidmoni has been a member of the church since she was a child and attended school across the street for Kindergarten through 8th grade, she said.
"I have never had a negative experience and thought nothing of having my third child baptized in this church like the others," she said. "I’m just so upset still, and I will be reporting this priest to the archdiocese."
The Archdiocese of Newark released the following statement:
"On behalf of the parish and the Archdiocese of Newark, we offer our heartfelt apologies for the abrupt behavior demonstrated by one of our pastors on Saturday during a private family ceremony.
"The pastor was unaware that the sibling playing in a nearby candle room during the ceremony has autism. The pastor did not understand the child's behavior, he felt unprepared to respond appropriately, and his reaction to the situation was not pastoral.
"He acknowledges and is regretful for the mistake. Our Archdiocesan Office for Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities is in touch with the family to support healing and moving forward together, and we are working with all to come to a pastoral resolution and to ensure that there is greater awareness in working with individuals with disabilities and their families."
Vicidomini feels the pastor should be educated on tolerance and acceptance.
"The Bible speaks of welcoming all God’s children," she said. "Where is the compassion and plain human decency? He needs to be more sensitive and respectful in addressing a child, especially one with special needs."
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