Child with autism denied communion at church in New Jersey

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WABC) -- A New Jersey family is fighting for their church to see the light after they were told that their son with autism wouldn't be able to participate in communion.

Anthony Lacugna is like any other eight-year-old, but he has autism and non-verbal.

"I just want my son to be treated like everybody else," his mother Natalie Lacugna said. "Regardless if it's through church, through school, society. He needs the same rights that we all have."

The family says their Roman Catholic Church, St. Aloysius in Jackson Township, told them that Anthony Lacugna couldn't receive the sacraments of reconciliation -- what used to be called confession -- and holy communion.

"Our whole family has been brought up Catholic, both sides of our family," Natalie Lacugna said. "To us it is very important that we continue the faith in him. As you all know God says, 'We are all his children.'"

At the time Natalie Lacugna was told her son could not receive the sacraments, she'd been dealing with the school for almost two years and she says she was told that was not even a possibility. The family maintains that the priest who made the decision was not altogether clear with how he arrived at it.

"We've never had any communication with him, never, not once," Natalie Lacugna said. "He doesn't even know my son."

Anthony Lacugna's father Jimmy says the parish has yet to call them in the last two years when they started the CCD process.

After a social media firestorm, the church appeared to reconsider, and issued a statement that seemed to seek a way forward:

"Since Monday, we have been researching how we could best assist the most profoundly disabled in a better way."

The statement makes no promises about their son.

"It doesn't say Anthony can do his communion this year," Jimmy Lacugna said. "It doesn't say they will work with us."

Natalie Lacugna added that the situation is wrong.

"It's a disgrace to our religion," she said.

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