Updated: Nov 21
Religious teachings can undoubtedly be a hindrance in stopping domestic violence. Religious communities have treated domestic violence as a non-issue or a private matter. However, religious individuals are trying to get help from religious leaders. Although the religious leaders report feeling underprepared to respond to victims, they utilize local services to deal with the cases. For instance, pastors within the Catholic Church are coming out strongly condemning violence against women inside and outside the Church.
The Catholic Church teaches that violence directed at another individual fails to consider others worthy of love. In 1992, the catholic bishops condemned domestic violence calling out the Christian community to work vigorously against it. Many dioceses, organizations, and parishes have placed the issue among their priorities. Many women facing domestic violence seek help from the Church as they consider it a safe place. Thus, the Church is positioned to break the cycle of domestic violence.
Realizing the critical role the Church can play, the Church condemns the use of biblical language and sacred texts to back abusive behavior. An accurate reading of the Bible allows individuals to understand the like dignity of women and men and relationships founded on love and mutuality. Pope John Paul II reminded us that "Christ's way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women." The bishops stress that no individual should stay in an abusive relationship or marriage. Many church leaders may want to help the victims, but they fear that they are not professionals on the matter.
In such a case, the church leaders and pastors may hesitate to preach about domestic violence as they are unsure how to respond or what to do if a victim comes for help. There are three key goals to bear in mind regarding church leadership's responsibility for domestic violence. They are to safeguard the safety of the victim and children, ensure the abusers are held accountable for their actions, and, if possible, restore the relationship or mourn its loss in unrepairable cases. Furthermore, church leaders are first responders to abuse cases as people seek help first in the Church. Therefore, church leaders should listen to the victims, help them assess the danger imposed on them and their children, and refer them to counseling and other necessary services.
The Anglican Church has been at the forefront of the fight against domestic violence. The Church holds confessions where individuals go to confess their sins against man and God. However, forgiveness or absolution are only said to those willing to admit and are ready to be held accountable for their actions. If a repentant commits a crime, the clergy must encourage them to take the necessary steps to be held responsible for the crimes committed. It's important to note that hurt cannot be removed simply by confessions.
The Anglican missions in the Americas (AMIA) require that clergy promptly respond when there is a rational reason to believe that domestic abuse or violence affects a congregation member. Church leaders in the AMIA must quickly report the abuse cases to the authorities. In addition, the governance of the Church is to be notified immediately of such claims. All leaders must adhere to this prerequisite due to the possible liabilities that may affect the Church, mainly if allegations are made concerning elders, clergy, or other ministerial leaders. The primary role that the Church must take is the protection of the victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a complex experience that women in the Church undergo; therefore, church leaders must understand the effects of the abuse. Church leaders should resist forces that contribute to the oppression of victims by challenging patriarchal doctrine. While some churches are making strides in fighting domestic violence, the gap between church leadership and the fight against violence is evident. This gap can be bridged by church leaders involving their congregations to combat abuse, support crisis, and foster recovery.