Parents say Catholic church refused First Communion to child with autism
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A New Jersey couple says a Catholic church refused to give First Communion to an 8-year-old child with autism.

Jimmy and Nicole LaCugna, the parents of the child, who is nonverbal, allege that leaders at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson, N.J., said their child couldn’t receive communion because he “is not up to the ‘benchmark required to make his communion.’”

“This is very hard and upsetting to comprehend when we all are created by God and now our son is being shunned from the Catholic faith due to his inability to communicate,” Jimmy LaCugna wrote in a Facebook post last week that has since gone viral. 

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The church published a statement from the Rev. John Bambrick saying there was “an unfortunate breakdown in communication that led to a misunderstanding,” adding that a delay for the communion was discussed. 

"It is extremely unfortunate that, as a result of this controversy, there are families with special needs children who may now doubt the Church’s commitment to welcome all children into their religious education programs," his statement said. "Nothing could be further from the truth; special needs children and adults are welcomed and ministered to in parishes across this Diocese, and throughout the Church, including this Parish."

Bambrick’s statement said the family was “made aware” that the church was rethinking its policies, specifically for children with cognitive disabilities, but the parents say they have not heard from the church or its leaders.

The parents say the church denied the child’s communion for this year but said he would be “potentially given the opportunity in upcoming years,” according to another Facebook post from Jimmy LaCugna. He wrote they were “horrified” at “how this story has been twisted.”

“To add to our devastation we are being painted not as the special needs parents advocating for our child, but instead as liars,” he posted last week.

The Facebook page of the church was unavailable on Monday.