An abused wife with a large family realized for the first time that Catholics cared when she saw a resource card about Domestic Violence in her church’s restroom. It was the first time she had an inkling that she was not the only Catholic woman to experience domestic abuse. The card explained that the Church teaches that no one is expected to stay in an abusive relationship and gave information about how to get help and find safety.
I have heard this story, and many others like it, too many times to count. Abuse can happen to anyone, at any age. Domestic violence is a reality that faces all of our communities—even communities of faith.
Faith leaders are often called upon to be first responders in domestic violence situations. When someone knows you are a praying person, they often turn to you for help. Teaching about compassion, nonviolence, self-control, respect and equality in its seminary education, lay ministry formation, marriage preparation, youth ministry and children’s catechetical programs are essential to preventing domestic violence.
Several Catholic organizations provide excellent resources to help. The National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers offered a workshop on responding to domestic violence at their recent national convention, and the Christian Family Movement produced small group study resources to promote action. Catholics for Family Peace, a clearinghouse for Catholic resources to respond to domestic violence that grew out of a USCCB Task Force, offers training for parish staffs and parishioners, as well as guidance for preachers and faith formation leaders and restroom signs and informational brochures from a Catholic perspective for free download, on their website.
Another resource for a Catholic response is a 100-page booklet, How Can We Help to End Violence in Catholic Families: A Guide for Clergy, Religious and Laity, which was distributed to all participants at this month’s Synod on the Family in Rome. Written by Catholic psychologist Dr. Christauria Welland, it discusses ways all Catholics can respond to and prevent domestic violence, and how to educate Catholic youth and couples for peace. The booklet is available for free download in six languages from www.paxinfamilia.org.
Catholics for Family Peace President, Dr. Sharon O’Brien, outlines some positive steps that Catholics in ministry can take to make a difference in this serious problem affecting families:
- In collaboration with community agencies, educate all Catholics and people of good will to prevent marital abuse, intimate partner abuse, and teen dating abuse.
- Using Catholic teachings and evidence-based research, address the safety and healing of the victim survivor and any children, as well as the healing and recovery of the abuser.
- Ensure that pastoral leadership of Catholic parishes and organizations, as well as family and friends, know the best steps to respond effectively to situations of domestic abuse.
- Equip pastors and staffs to recognize and assist abuse victims by directing them to appropriate support agencies and how to connect abuse victims to safe, immediate assistance.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides crisis intervention and referrals to local service providers. Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY). E-mail assistance is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abuse can happen to anyone, at any age. All Catholics need to be prepared to recognize abuse, respond appropriately, and refer to professionals equipped to help.
Together, we can promote family peace and end violence in Catholic families.
Dr. Lauri Przybysz, D.Min., is a Co-founder of Catholics for Family Peace. She also serves president-elect of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers and past-president Christian Family Movement-USA. She blogs about family ministry at www.familyministryresources.com.
For more information on the stance of the Catholic Bishops of the United States on domestic violence and resources to support victims of domestic violence, including their statement When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women visit the USCCB Domestic Violence webpage.