Church denies boy with autism a chance to make his First Communion

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A Manalapan family is upset after their son who has autism was denied a chance to make his First Communion by their church.

The LaCugna family says that 8-year-old Anthony is full of love and energy.

“He’s a very happy little boy. Loves everybody,” says mother Nicole LaCugna.

Anthony has autism and is nonverbal. He is at the age to receive his Holy Communion in April. But before that, he must go through religious classes and confess his sins in what's called Reconciliation. This has been a struggle for him.

“They said there is no way he can make his Communion. He doesn’t understand what the Holy Communion is about,” Nicole says. “Nowhere in the Bible does it ever show discrimination of anybody.”

The LaCugna family goes to St. Aloysius Church in Jackson. A spokesperson for the parish said in a statement, "For First Communion…the child has to be able to distinguish ordinary bread from the body of Christ."

But the spokesperson also said, "The child should be presumed to have an inner spiritual relationship with God and this would be sufficient in these particular cases."

The parish said that the family was notified of this. But the LaCugnas say that their priest has not spoken with them since Tuesday.

“He directly has never once reached out to us outside of his statement, which was a broad statement to everybody in the community. Not us particularly,” says father Jimmy LaCugna.

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The family has received an outpouring of support on social media, with other churches offering to help Anthony possibly be able to receive his communion this year.

“People that we don't even know stepped up before our own church stepped up, so, to us, that's amazing,” says Nicole.

Anthony's parents say that they also plan on creating an autism awareness foundation called Through Anthony’s Eyes.

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