As Catholics in the Diocese of Orange, we are committed to the protection of the life and dignity of every human person, not only during this Respect Life Month, but in our pastoral outreach and ministry as priests of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Life, so well-articulated by Pope Saint John Paul II, exhorts us to live this commitment in practical ways. Domestic violence is a hidden threat to our families and communities that demands more of us. As the U.S. Bishops wrote in When I Call for Help: “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.” As parish priests we have all encountered our share of the spiritual and physical damage that ensues from this reality.
Domestic violence is far too common, affecting women and men, teenage dating relationships, children, and the elderly. Within Orange County, domestic violence is occurring even in our parishes and centers, across all ethnic and economic backgrounds. Domestic violence often occurs concurrently with other pro-life concerns. Here are just a few startling statistics:
- 1 in 4 women will be physically assaulted by a jealous boyfriend or husband during her lifetime
- 1 in 5 teenage girls will experience dating violence
- Children who grow up in homes with domestic violence are more likely to become abusers or be abused
- 90% of elder abuse is committed by family members
- In Orange County, 26.3% of women surveyed said they have experienced domestic violence; the state average is 20.5%.
As pastors, parishes, and people of God, we are all called to be bearers of hope to those struggling with domestic violence. I am thankful to all of those who for years have been involved in this ministry, in our time we can respond to these challenges with God-given insights and resources we have now that were not perhaps accessible or understood in years past. We do so in order to make our parishes safe, healthy, healing, and hopeful places for those whose lives are touched by domestic violence, both the victims and the perpetrators. The Gospel offers hope to all and we are well-equipped to be communities that encourage all to find safety and shelter in the loving arms of our God, healing under the care of the Great Physician, and hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Strengthened by God’s grace, our call is certainly one of prayer, education, and being of assistance where we can and where the Lord calls us to be. We can help break the cycle of violence by making our parishes places that can direct people affected by domestic violence to timely help and provide spiritual support along the way.
Thank you for all that you do to live and teach by the Gospel of Life by word and example.
Bishop Vann has designated the last Sunday of Respect Life Month, October 26th, as Domestic Violence Awareness Sunday. Find out more about our Domestic Violence Awareness Initiative, community partners, and more resources: http://www.lifejusticepeace.org/programs-initiatives/domesticviolence/