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By Sister Guadalupe Flores | Photo By Getty Images/jeffbergen | October 2022

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Recognize the Signs and Respect Human Dignity

The Church teaches us that the dignity of the human person is the heart and center of all its social teaching. In the Word of God, we learn that he created man and woman in his image and likeness (Gen 1:26). Problems arise when human rights are violated by those who exercise control over the weakest and most vulnerable among us. We can observe different attacks on the dignity of the human person in varied forms — abortion, euthanasia, poverty and acts of violence.

According to a study carried out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2021, more than 30% of women and 10% of men “have suffered or experienced some type of domestic violence, and the mental health problem has increased with the pandemic to more than 15%.”

Talking about domestic violence is a sensitive issue, but as the percentages have shown us, it is real and happens to people in our parish communities. I will present the views and teachings of the Catholic Church on domestic violence and the actions that can be taken in our parish communities to foster the culture of the dignity of the human person.

The statistics from the HHS study show us that a large percentage of families in our diocese experience domestic violence. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have spoken out on domestic violence in a pastoral letter called When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women. 

“Violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form — physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal — is a sin; often, it is also a crime” (USCCB 2002). Many times, victims of this personal abuse think that the Catholic Church forces them to remain in an abusive marriage. The bishops’ statement clarified that “no person is expected to remain in an abusive marriage” (USCCB). 

When there is assault and violence in a marriage, the abuser breaks the marriage covenant with his or her actions. Code of Canon Law 1153 addresses the situation and tells us that if one of the spouses places the other or any children in serious spiritual or bodily danger, they provide the other with a legitimate reason to separate with the authorization of the local ordinary.

At the same time, the Church recognizes that some abusive people may mention or quote from Scripture to justify their actions — for example, citing “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” from Ephesians 5:22. The bishops condemned the misuse or misinterpretation of sacred Scripture to justify any type of abuse to either men or women. Both are made in the image and likeness of God. The two must be treated with respect and dignity.

Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love), recognizes that domestic violence exists and is real in our families, churches and communities. He invites us “to care for family life with love” (no. 7).

We must educate parents in all parish programs about respecting life in the family. Parents must correct their children for any violent act in their behavior; we must learn about and look for the signs of domestic violence in those around us, reaching out to help in any way we are able. Then will we have stable families that are faithful to God and cultivate the real Domestic Church. 


If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org. There are assistance centers available around the state. Please know that you are loved and cherished by God. You are not alone!


Sister Guadalupe Flores, OLVM, is the Adult Faith Formation coordinator for the Office of Hispanic Ministry. Email her at gflores@charlestondiocese.org.