St Francis Q&A

Friday, March 17, 2006

A question about domestic violence

Recently, a SFA blogger described the tragic situation of her sister who has painfully stayed with her husband after years and years of domestic violence. Her sister, a devout Catholic, has heroically "raised four children with this man, after she knew he was abusive and she and her husband raised them in an atmosphere of degradation, violence and intimidation". She and the four kids still suffer tremendously, both physically and mentally, each day now as adults.

"She could have left this man at any time and saved herself and her children, one of whom is an emotional cripple, all that suffering. God did not send her that suffering, she brought it upon herself and her children because she believes her husband is her cross to bear on Earth. The Church says divorce is bad, but is divorce worse than inflicting a lifetime of suffering on innocent children?"
First of all, I am deeply sorry for this woman's sister and her children. Domestic violence is one scary thing, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in that kind of Hell. Not only do you have to endure physical suffering from someone with whom you live, it is inflicted on you by the one person you trusted more than anyone ... someone with whom you were in love. A terrible, terrible cross for any woman to bear. But, as one blogger correctly put it, it's not a cross that God asks her to bear, if she physically can get out of that awful situation.

And, that gets to the question. The Church doesn't expect this great woman of faith to stay in this dreadful and dangerous situation. In fact, the Church says she should get her and the children out. They are in grave danger; she has a responsibility to herself and to her children to protect their safety, first and foremost. She should contact her bishop, who will give her permission to separate, or if she feels it's necessary, should leave before receiving his permission.

The following is Canon 1153 of the Code of Canon Law (1983) that speaks to this question: "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".

Now, to the anonymous blogger who wrote that "the Church has turned their heads the other way when it comes to the needs of women". In what ways do you mean, and can you give specific examples? Until you do, this is an irresponsible, unsubstantiated statement. I will write it here, and then in one of my next posts, that the Catholic Church is the greatest defender of the dignity of women in the world.


  • Dear Deacon Greg,

    I believe the Church has turned their heads the other way when it comes to woman's issues. I have yet to hear a sermon from a priest about domestic violence and the way men should treat their wives( and the way wives should treat their husbands too). In all my life, I have only heard the word "woman" in a sermon three times and the phrase "violence against women" none. Usually priests speak too generally about the messages of the Bible and sometimes I do not even understand what they are talking about. I would pay to hear a priest say CLEARLY to the congregation the teachings of the Bible in a way that not only educates the congregation but also allows the congregation to apply those teachings to their every day life. Priests do not talk bluntly about rape, single pregnant women, sexual slavery, exploitation of a woman's body, subordination, and I only hear the word Mary once a year.

    Please, when you can read the following articles. I know the Church is not perfect and I know it is absolutely not God's fault. I applaud God for putting up with his imperfect Church. But, I think the Church has yet to change a lot and to begin and sustain some of these changes it needs to to recognize its failures.


    Thank you for all you do!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:44 AM  

  • Here are the websites again, they did not come out in the previous posting. (As you can see I could fit all the address in one line, hence, you need to put it together--Sorry!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:48 AM  

  • Where does the Church come up with the following thought....
    "When Jesus was on the cross He thought of You!"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:11 PM  

  • To respond to anonymous....nowadays in my mind there are 2 Churches and God. The first Church which I wish to follow is the one that Jesus gave love God and our neighbor. But the other Church people refer to is the one that over the centuries including today, "man" has created with rules and ideas that don't necessarily carry out what Jesus had in mind. True the world is a much more intricate place than when Jesus was alive but wow wouldn't it be wonderful if all we lived by were those 10 commandments....simple and to the point. We are so bogged down with so many rules that man thought would be soooooo great to worship our God. It would be great to clean house wouldn't it! I love my faith, I love my God, and I try my very best to love my neighbor.
    Thanks for reading!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:10 PM  

  • Anon, while I don't think we'd find the phrase "When Jesus was on the Cross, You were on His Mind" exactly in Scripture or Tradition, the faith and reason that underlies it is in each. The first place to which I go is Mass where I hear the words, "This is my body...given up for you (Greg)."

    The Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary; we are all there. We're not just on Christ's mind; he speaks to us. (he says these words at the Last Supper, I know, but John 6:51 that the flesh and blood on the altar at Mass is the same flesh and blood on the Cross).

    One thing Christ does literally say from the Cross is "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". Again, we are part of "them" because our sins have wounded other words, 'forgive Greg, for he knows not what he does (when he skips Mass on Sunday... lies... steals... cheats').

    Scripture makes it clear that sinners are guilty of wounding Christ - some examples would be Acts 9:4-5, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" and Heb 12:3, "he persevered against such opposition from sinners".

    From our Tradition, we can go to our patron saint: "Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins" (St Francis of Assisi; CCC #598).

    Also, from our annual Palm Sunday liturgy, we place ourselves at Christ's trial, and say three times as the crowd did, "Crucify him". It is a dramatic gesture that shows our faith - we were there, and Christ saw us in his Passion and from the Cross.

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 12:21 PM  

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