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Domestic Violence And Growing A Culture Of Human Dignity

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The Church teaches that the dignity of the human person is at the heart of all Catholic social teaching. Sacred scripture teaches us that God created all human beings in His likeness and image. “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Social justice issues happen in our society by violation of peoples’ human rights by those who exact power and control over weaker members of society. In our world today we see examples of human dignity under attack in the form of abortion, euthanasia, poverty, and acts of violence. In our parish today we address some of these issues head on. For example, in our parish we have a ministry of Respect Life, which is responsible for human dignity issues related to abortion and euthanasia. The Respect Life ministry works to make St. Gilbert parish a center of life, a place where parishioners understand the issues and how meeting the needs of those who are most vulnerable is important, such as mothers and their unborn children, the elderly, and those who are seriously ill or dying. For those who are in need and struggling to make ends meet, St. Gilbert offers support through the St. Vincent de Paul ministry and the St. Gilbert Food Pantry. But what does our parish do for the human dignity of our parishioners who have succumb to acts of violence, particularly, domestic violence. In a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 25% of women in the US has experienced some form of domestic violence from their spouse. Today, St. Gilbert has no ministry or outreach programs for those men or women whose human dignity has been violated due to domestic violence. Discussing domestic violence can be difficult, but as the numbers show it is real and happens to our loved ones in our parish today. In this article I will discuss the Catholic Church views and teachings on domestic violence and the actions our parish can do to further foster a culture of human dignity in our community.

St. Gilbert parish has approximately 2,400 registered families. Given the statistics from the CDC 2015 study, we can say that about 600 of our families in the parish deal with a form of domestic violence. According to the same study, 85% of women are victims of domestic violence, as well, it crosses all socioeconomic statuses. The US Catholic Bishops have made clear that “violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form- physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal is sinful; often it is a crime as well.” (When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women, 2002). Often the victims of domestic violence believe that the teaching of the Catholic Church requires them to stay in an abusive marriage. The US Catholic bishops emphasize that “no person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage” (WICFH, 2002). The marriage covenant is broken by the abuser through his or her actions. Canon Law 1153 addresses this situation, “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.” The Church also acknowledges that some abusive men may quote scripture to justify the abuse. For example, in Ephesians 5:22 we read, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” The US Bishops condemn any use of the Bible to justify any form of abuse as both men and woman are made in the likeness and image of God. As such, they are to treat each other with mutual respect.

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Domestic violence violates the human dignity of all who are abused. In Pope Francis 2016 reflection on the “The Joy of Love.” he acknowledges that domestic violence exists in our parishes, and as a Catholic community it is something we cannot ignore. At St. Gilbert there are ways in which we can grow our commitment to human dignity by addressing the need for more openness and awareness about domestic violence in our faith community. For example, the Archdiocese of Chicago has many resources such as the Domestic Violence Outreach (ACDVO) website,, that St. Gilbert could use to start its own Domestic Violence ministry. Knowing that domestic violence exists in our St. Gilbert family, we could bring the ACDVO mission of Awareness-Services-Prevention to our parish. Awareness shines a light and gives hope to the abused and gives a voice to the victim’s silence. We could have trained lay ministers who would be available to provide support, recommendations and perhaps find shelter to those in crisis. As well, they could be a resource to the abusers to help educate and get them the help they need to stop the violence. We could provide resource, support hotlines phone numbers, and other information in the parish bulletin, as well as, promote and have educational activities for October Violence Awareness Month. Another option would be to provide information in our bathrooms so that parishioners could learn about the ministries discreetly. Finally, we could promote awareness and support from our pastor during the liturgy. The US Bishops encourage, “Just a simple and pastorally sound reference to domestic violence in a homily lets people know that it is okay to approach you about the matter for help.” The Universal Prayers could be used to pray for all those affected and hurt by domestic violence.

“The Catholic Church teaches that violence against another person in any form fails to treat that person as someone worthy of love. Instead, it treats the person as an object to be used” (USCCB) and is a violation of one’s human dignity. Coming to the aid of those in our St. Gilbert family who are affected by domestic violence will not only help stop and prevent acts of violence but also foster a culture of human dignity throughout our community.

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Domestic Violence And Growing A Culture Of Human Dignity. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from
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