October is Respect Life Month; it’s also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The two issues differ in their focus, but they’re connected by a common concern for human dignity. The right to life – humanity’s first and foundational right – includes the need to protect life from womb to natural death. It begins with, and can never exclude, the unborn child; but our obligations as Christians go well beyond the moment of birth.
Men and women have equal capacities for holiness. They also have equal capacities for harm. Virtue and cruelty are alien to neither sex. But precisely because men and women differ in their strengths and weaknesses, violence between the sexes overwhelmingly consists in males physically abusing females. Women bear the brunt of domestic violence. And when that happens, women’s lives are brutally damaged or lost, families collapse, children suffer, and the memory and habit of intimate violence are transmitted across generations. Men who abuse women are cowards. They bitterly wound others, and they humiliate and poison themselves. There’s no excuse for it – ever.
In their 1992 statement, When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women, reaffirmed in 2002, America’s bishops stressed that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. They reminded the Catholic faithful that “violence against another person in any form fails to treat that person as someone worthy of love.” But it’s especially vile within a relationship of trust like a marriage or family. All of us, therefore, should take some time this month, a month dedicated to respecting life, to remember and pray for those women and families enduring domestic violence.
The Church has a variety of resources that can help raise awareness on these issues.
Many helpful websites exist, among them:
• USCCB on domestic violence: http://www.usccb.org/domestic-violence/
• USCCB on married life and its issues: https://www.foryourmarriage.org/married-life/
• Catholics for Family Peace: http://www.catholicsforfamilypeace.org
• National Domestic Violence Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org
The Made for Love Podcast, a USCCB podcast on domestic violence, can be found here:
When I Call for Help, the bishops’ 2002 statement against domestic violence, can be ordered online: https://store.usccb.org/when-i-call-for-helpp/5-509p.htm
Life Matters: Domestic Violence, a brochure created by the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, can also be ordered online: http://store.usccb.org/life-matters-domestic-violencep/c1345.htm
Men and women are different and complementary in their gifts, but equal in dignity and equally precious in the eyes of God. Christian men are called to provide for and protect their families, and to respect and support the women in their lives. In fact, the quality of everyman consists, in large measure, in how he treats women; which is why educating and working to prevent domestic violence is a task for all of us.