EXCLUSIVE: Family says boy with autism facing discrimination at Oakland Diocese

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A Catholic family from Hayward is upset with the Oakland Diocese, claiming its discriminating against a special needs boy in his efforts to receive First Communion. (KGO-TV)

A Catholic family from Hayward is upset with the Oakland Diocese, claiming its discriminating against a special needs boy in his efforts to receive First Communion.

The Oakland Diocese told ABC7 News that in the past 35 years, they have prepared over 500 special needs children for First Communion, but the family is saying what their child is being asked to do is too much.

Anthony Leon, 8, has autism and is mostly non-verbal. For the past three years, he's been going to catechism, preparing to receive First Communion from the Catholic Church.

However, according to Anthony's great-grandmother and legal guardian, the Oakland Diocese is throwing up a major roadblock. "We don't know if he's going to take the Eucharist, and if he doesn't take the Eucharist and I said, 'you've known about this for three years,'" Beatrice Shaw saod.

As part of his autism, Anthony is picky about what he eats, so the Diocese wanted him to practice taking the wafer, the Eucharist.

He did, but according to Shaw, the Diocese told her Anthony's effort wasn't good enough. "He took the Eucharist, but now it's the piece has to be bigger. Well, what's going to be after that? " Shaw said. "Even the pope has said we need to make special exceptions for children with special needs."

The Oakland Diocese wouldn't address Anthony's specific situation, but released a statement to ABC7 News saying when it comes to people with disabilities "It's not discrimination. What we're trying to do is understand that person's particular situation and provide them with the necessary resources so they can fully receive the sacrament.

Anthony's family still doesn't know if he'll be able to participate in the First Communion service at his local parish on May 7.
Related Topics:
religionautismcatholic churchfamilydiscriminationOakland
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