I’m a Roman Catholic priest ordained sometime in the ’00s, working as a parish priest in an English-speaking country. I’m not going to identify myself more precisely because of the reason I am writing this blog: I have Asperger’s Syndrome. This was identified when I was in seminary, and I was ordained because the staff recognised that I was doing my utmost to understand what made me tick, what made other people tick, and how I could be an effective pastoral professional despite my different way of relating to the world.
Now, after some years in ministry, I feel ready to share some reflections on my experience with the world at large. But to do this, I have to speak about some very personal situations, and to protect the identity of my friends and parishioners, I am disguising my identity, and theirs. If I identify any recurring individual, it will be by a code-name. Maybe I will need to amalgamate some different episodes to make a ‘this-is-what-it’s-like’ narrative which is not true, but could easily have been. If I do that, I will let you know.
I’m writing this blog for three kinds of people.
First, for other autistic readers, especially those who may be in Christian ministry. With you, I share the burden of trying to understand the behaviour and motives of other human beings. By pooling your experience and mine, we might be able to write ‘Typical Humans 101‘ – a guide to what makes the typical human being tick, consisting of all those things which don’t get written down because most people already know them from the lived experience of being human.
Second, for anyone who has an autistic friend. If your friend is on the spectrum, then rejoice. You are likely to have one of the most loyal friends you will ever have in your life. But you may also find your friend hard to communicate with, emotionally, and be puzzled by their behaviour. Now be warned – no two autistic people are the same, and my experience of being autistic might be a very BAD guide to what your friend is experiencing. But even if my own experience doesn’t chime with what is going on in your friend’s head, it might help you ask your friend the right kind of questions to help you understand them better.
Third, for scholars whose work touches on human nature – theologians, philosophers and psychologists. As well as being a priest, I am a kindred spirit – I have a PhD in one of the physical sciences. I know that every branch of enquiry has its standard paradigms. If your field concerns human beings, then autistic human beings will be an outlier. If you are writing about what concerns ‘typical humans’, maybe you need an addendum dealing with the special case of those who are autistic. But if your field makes broad generalisations about the human condition per se, then what you learn about the autistic mind may challenge your assumptions.
Because, as a priest, I have been trained to a high degree of self-reflection and equipped with pastoral skills, I think it is worth blogging about this, in order to bring a trained eye to the inner workings of my own autistic mind, and the common behaviours of human beings at large.
Finally, a word about language. It has become quite common in some circles for those with Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism) to refer to themselves as ‘Aspies’ and to those human beings who lack autistic traits as ‘neurotypical’. In this blog I will tend to refer more colloquially to ‘typical human beings’ when I need to indicate what seems common to the majority of humanity.
I am a busy parish priest with little time to moderate blogs so for now I am going to risk leaving comments open and only moderate when some pruning is needed after posting. I take no responsibility for any user’s comments. If this facility is abused, I will review my moderation policy. But please do contribute, ESPECIALLY if you can help write the manual on neurotypical human beings!
If you are exploring my blog for the first time, it is best to do so in forward chronological order.