Debby Sanders (March 23) puts the cart before the horse when she suggests that unless Catholic organisations for the handicapped become militantly anti-abortion "our protestations of care will sound hollow to the 'handicapped' themselves", Nothing sounds more hollow to the mothers of the mentally handicapped (and I speak as one) than the constant reiteration of the value of life of a handicapped person as related to abortion and euthanasia, and not where full integration into life of the community — and above all the Church — is concerned.
If Ms Sanders is an active member of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, she should be well aware of the great need for improving the lot of the handicapped, particularly the adults. This society (to which belong) works extremely hard at the statutory improvement of conditions for its members.
The Catholic Handicapped Children's Fellowship (to which I also belong) works hard for the hadicapped and to provide a helping hand in various ways for the families of these people.
The Faith and Light organisation of mentally handicapped people their parents and friends (to which I also belong) has a deep respect for the value of the handicapped and works extremely hard to have him or her accepted as full members of society and of our Church.
It seems to me that the work of these organisations does a lot more to combat the evils of abortion and euthanasia by encouraging people to see the handicapped as ordinary human beings and not a sort of "catastrophic happening" which engenders a desire to be rid of them.
However, as long as there is one bishop or parish priest who is reluctant to give Holy Communion to a mentally handicapped person, or one priest or parishioner who feels the handicapped do not have a place at Sunday Mass, or one Catholic organisation which excludes handicapped people from its ministrations because of their handicap, can we present an authentic voice of care and respect when we talk of abortion and euthanasia for these people?
How many Catholic handicapped people are there in hospitals all over the country who never get to Mass at all, never see a Catholic, let alone a priest? How many Catholic schools for the handicapped are there, how many homes caring for those whose parents are dead or too old to cope with them?
How many Christian people are there who object to having handicapped people move into their locality? Despite the terrifying prospects of abortion and euthanasia the concerns of the handicapped were not even included in the list of priorities for the National Pastoral Congress.
Only yesterday I heard a sad Story of the mother of a five years old mongol child who visited the special school where her child will eventually be sent, and tragically I understand she came away feeling the school was full of "animals" because the children put out their hands in greeting and tried to touch her child.
It is sad in the extreme that the mother of a handicapped child should be so inexperienced of handicapped people, so full of preju'dice, that she should feel like this. It is only when our handicapped are so much part of our everyday life that they are taken absolutely for granted that the pressures on people to abort and commit euthanasia will be abated.
Let us see the handicapped as ordinary people who happen to have "handicaps", and let us not knock those organisations already working hard to bring this about.
Barbara Creedon (Mrs) Swanley, Kent.