HILLSIDE, N.J. (WABC/CNN) - A New Jersey mother says she’s leaving the church she’s attended for most of her life after her 7-year-old son, who has autism, was kicked out of his baby sister’s baptism.
The Vicidomini family attended a private ceremony Saturday for their youngest child’s baptism at Christ the King Church in Hillside, New Jersey. Because there would be no crowd, mother Julia Vicidomini says she felt comfortable bringing her 7-year-old son, Nicky, who has autism and is nonverbal.
But the mother says the priest kicked Nicky out for playing with a ball and making noise during the ceremony. She says she tried to explain the situation, but the priest wouldn’t listen.
The family acknowledges they didn’t tell the priest ahead of time that Nicky has special needs. However, after the baptism, Nicky’s father, Marc Vicidomini, went to speak to the priest and eventually asked for an apology.
“My husband told him that he thought a priest, of all people, would be more sympathetic to a child with special needs, that he was completely unprofessional and ruined our celebration,” wrote Julia Vicidomini in a Facebook post.
The Vicidominis say the priest refused to apologize and instead attempted to justify his actions.
“He goes, ‘I didn’t kick him out’ and started getting loud with me. And my wife came over and said, ‘I thought he was coming out to apologize, not make excuses,’” Marc Vicidomini said.
Julia Vicidomini has attended the church and its school since her childhood, but she says following this incident, the family intends to find a new church that is more accommodating to children with special needs.
The Archdiocese of Newark released a statement Sunday in which they apologized for the pastor’s actions. They said he did not understand the boy’s behavior and felt unprepared to respond appropriately. He acknowledges and regrets the mistake.
The statement says the Archdiocesan Office for Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities is working to come to a “pastoral resolution” with the family and to ensure “greater awareness in working with individuals with disabilities and their families.”