Augustine on Disability

St. Augustine wrote that disability is within God's plan. In so doing, he viewed disability as punishment for man's sin (Stiker, 1997).

On St Augustine's view of disability and original sin, Stiker writes:

What then will the disabled person be? Someone to stimulate charity since he is part of creation and is no longer intrinsically associated with sin, fault, culpability, or with the anger of the gods, or with non-integrable difference. This will be the constantly reiterated message of the church fathers, often the founders of charitable works, and hospices. (Stiker, 1997, p. 77)

But this view of the disabled still leaves them in the margins of society. Its real contribution was to cast them as recipients of charity and people to pity, rather than to accept them as productive and worthy members. Again, from Stiker:

On the practical level this new view would for centuries result in nothing more than alms, either individually give or in the form of institutionalized works of charity (Stiker, 1997, p. 77).

For Augustine's own words on monstrosities and monstrous races, see:

City of God: Book 16, section 8, pp. 116-118, Retrieved March 3, 2010.

For more on Augustine and disability see:

Stainton, T. (2008). Reason grace and charity: Augustine and the impact of church doctrine on the construction of intellectual disability. Disability and Society, 23, 4, 485-496.

Stiker, Henri-Jacques (1997) A history of disability. Tr, William Sayers. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.