INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly approved revisions to the guidelines governing the celebration of sacraments for people with disabilities that take into account medical and technological developments.

Approved 180-1 during the bishops’ spring general assembly June 14, the revisions in the “Guidelines for the Celebration of Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities” updates a document that was adopted in 1995.

The guidelines were developed as a tool to improve access to the sacraments by persons with disabilities and reduce inconsistencies in pastoral practice. The document followed the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities in 1978 and a 1989 revision.


The 1995 document was the first issued by the bishops on the topic at a national level. Bishop leaders at the time said the document would allow the church to better minister to and be ministered to by people with disabilities.

Among the issues the document addresses is physical access to worship to give people with disabilities “full, active and conscious participation, according to their capacity.”

It also promotes a welcoming attitude in parishes and the inclusion of qualified people with disabilities in liturgical and pastoral ministries; catechetical and sacramental preparation programs to prepare people with mental disabilities for those sacraments, to which they have a right; and consultation with those with disabilities to help determine their needs regarding parish facilities, programs, policies and ministries.

The guidelines cover each of the sacraments individually.

In other votes, the bishops voted to approve a new translation of the “Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism,” 178-3. The ritual is used each year at diocesan chrism Masses.

It will be sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for its “recognitio,” or final approval.

However, the bishops’ approval of a collection of blessings in Spanish for use in the United States that complement English texts included in the “Book of Blessings” fell one vote short of reaching the threshold necessary to send it to the Vatican congregation for the recognitio.

The vote on the “Bendicional: Sexta Parte” (Part VI) was 171-2, with two abstentions. Voting will be completed by mail ballot with the Latin-rite bishops who did not attending the assembly.