Catholic Church’s Teachings about Domestic Violence
A Correct reading of Scripture leads to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and of a relationships based on mutuality and love.
Husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies, as Christ loves the Church.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting the abuse or pretending it did not happen. Forgiveness is not permission to repeat the abuse.
An abused women’s suffering is not punishment from God. This image of a harsh, cruel God runs contrary to the biblical image of a kind, merciful, loving God.
No person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage. We encourage abused persons who have divorced to investigate the possibility of seeking an annulment.
The Church teaches that domestic abuse is wrong and if married, the person seeking to end the abuse is not violating their marital covenant.
As Pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home is never justified. Violence in any form – physical, sexual, psychological, verbal – is sinful: often, it is a crime as well. We have called for a moral revolution to replace a culture of violence. We acknowledge that violence has many forms, many causes, and many victims – men as well as women.
Many abused women seek help first from the Church because they see it as a safe place. Even if their abusers isolate them from other social contacts, they may still allow them to go to church.
Religion can be either a resource or a roadblock for battered women. As a resource, it encourages women to resist mistreatment. As a roadblock, its misinterpretation can contribute to the victim’s self-blame and suffering and to the abuser’s rationalizations.
Abused women often say, “I can’t leave this relationship. The Bible says it would be wrong.” Abusive men often say, “The Bible says my wife should be submissive to me.” They take the biblical text and distort it to support their right to batter.
As bishops, we condemn the use of the Bible to support abusive behavior in any form. A correct reading of the Scripture leads people to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and to relationships based on mutuality of love. Beginning with Genesis, the Scripture teaches us that women and men are created in God’s image. Jesus himself always respected the human dignity of women. Pope John Paul II reminds us that “Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.
Men who batter also cite Scripture to insist that their victims forgive them…A victim then feels guilty if she cannot do so. Forgiveness, however, does not mean forgetting the abuse or pretending that it did not happen. Neither is possible. Forgiveness is not permission to repeat the abuse. Rather, forgiveness means that the victim decides to let go of the experience and move on with greater insight and conviction not to tolerate abuse of any kind again.
Finally, we emphasize that no person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage. Some abused women believe that church teaching on the permanence of marriage requires them to stay in an abusive relationship. They may hesitate to seek a separation or divorce. They may fear that they cannot re-marry in the Church. Violence and abuse, not divorce, break up a marriage. We encourage abused persons who have divorced to investigate the possibility of seeking an annulment. An annulment, which determines that the marriage bond is not valid, can frequently open the door to healing.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl reinforces this point in his Web Blog when he says, “If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay” (Code of Canon Law 1153). In other words, if a spouse is abusive to the other spouse and the children and staying means there is danger of harm, they are encouraged to leave and separate themselves.
—Excerpts from Women Healing the Wounds, NCCW responds to Domestic Violence Against Women.
Quotes from the Bible regarding Family, Love, Peace and Violence.
Jesus says…”You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”. God’s greatest commandment.
“The Church of the home can be a special sign that shows others how the three Persons of the Holy Trinity love one another. Your family is a sign of this love when you live together in faith, hope, and love”. Alive in Christ – 3rd Edition. Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
“The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence”. Psalm 11:5
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people…” 2 Timothy 3:1-8
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”. Galatians 5:19-21
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered”. 1 Peter 3:7
“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more”. Psalm 10:17-18
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged”. Colossians 3:18-22