Spousal Abuse

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

January 12, 2001



††††††††††† The traffic light was a long one, so I looked around while we were stopped.Glancing into the rear view mirror, I noticed that woman in the car behind me was crying.She was alone.She may have noticed that I was looking.She pulled down the sun visor and began to dry her tears and wiping away her smeared eye make up.

††††††††††† It was a sad moment. I said a little prayer for her.

As the light changed and we drove off, I wondered what could have caused her to cry.Maybe a problem at work or a death in the family.Or perhaps a fight with her husband or boyfriend.I hoped that it was not because she had been abused.

††††††††††† The image of marriage and family life that the Church preaches and holds up as the idea is one of total, self-giving love.This is what I tell people on their wedding day.A love that is patient and kind.A love that endures all things and hopes all things.We know that it is possible with Godís grace.I always plead with them to include God in their marriages in prayer.

††††††††††† The reality marriage and family life is often something else.

Any parish priest can tell you that there are a certain number of abusive marriages out there in every parish.It really doesnít matter if the community is rich or poor, black, white or Hispanic, educated or uneducated.It is a sad feature.Most often it is the woman who is physically or psychologically abused.

I believe, like the church, that people should make heroic efforts to be faithful to their vows.However, when it comes to physical abuse, I think there should be an immediate separation.Just get out.

Any man who hits a woman in anger is a coward.When a larger and stronger man hits a smaller and weaker woman, he not worthy of the title of husband and father.

About five years ago, I was presented with a real serious case of abuse.

A woman who had been helping as an aide in our CCD program came to see me.She had on a head scarf and heavy make up.She showed me that underneath were numerous bruises.She had come to the conclusion that to stay with her husband might mean danger or death for her and her child.Her husband had recently started carrying a loaded gun.

I suggested a restraining order.She was convinced it would do no good.He had violated them before.

I told her about the shelter in our community for battered women but she knew that was only a temporary fix and she was afraid to run into him on the street.

She asked me for help.She wanted to go to live with relatives in the Midwest somewhere. Would I rent a truck for her?She would pack up some clothes and personal items while he was at work and park the truck in a lot near the church.†† Then when he dropped her and the child at church for mass and CCD on Sunday morning, she would escape. He drove them to church to control her actions, but never came in with them.

I checked with a friend in the police department.There had been a number of domestic violence calls to that address.So, I agreed to help.I rented the van in my own name and parked it.She loaded it up and next Sunday she was gone.

I received a post card from the Midwest, thanking me and telling me she was filing for divorce.She felt safer living with family.She was working.

I donít know if I did the right thing, but I donít regret it.There are times when people become a danger to one another.A separation is better than violence or death.††