The Catholic women told to forgive domestic violence Pope Francis has denounced domestic abuse as "craven acts of cowardice". But will the Australian Catholic Church have the courage to answer his call and root out the "shameful ill-treatment" of women in its midst? And is its all-male hierarchy, still reeling from revelations of child sexual abuse, capable of leading the charge?
"Over the past three decades spent working for the Catholic Church, Maria George has been exposed to dozens of women who have survived intimate partner violence. The work of a pastoral associate often involves caring for vulnerable or distressed parishioners.
But the story of one particular woman's abuse by her husband, a controlling man who raped his wife repeatedly over the decades of their marriage, has stayed with her.
"She endured something like 16 pregnancies, quite a few miscarriages, and the stillbirth of a baby," Ms George, a senior pastoral associate at Melbourne's St Kilda-Elwood parish, told ABC News.
She knew that being forced to have sex was wrong, and she often thought about leaving, Ms George said.
But, "her response to that [abuse] was, 'this is my duty as a wife, for better or worse', and 'I said in marriage vows that I will stick with this'." And she did."...."Barely a week after the commission's report was presented to state parliament, Pope Francis released Amoris Laetitia, an apostolic exhortation in which he reflected on, among other issues, the "challenge" of family violence and the "shameful ill-treatment" of women.
"The verbal, physical, and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages," he said, "contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union".
The Pope acknowledged leaders in his Church were often ill-equipped, saying it was "clear that ordained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems currently facing families" and that good pastoral training was important, "especially in light of particular emergency situations arising from cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse".
For many Catholic groups in the United States — where bishops and counsellors had been working since the early 1990s to address family violence in the Church — Pope Francis's explicit "naming and shaming" of domestic abuse was rocket fuel."
Bridget Mary's Response: This is yet another area that women priests in the Catholic Church would make a difference. While it is important that Pope Francis has a more enlightened attitude and names domestic violence and sexual abuse as serious issues, we need a new theology of marriage as an equal partnership. The church also should reflect a living model of equality in its treatment of women as equals, including women priests, to foster mutual partnership and equality. Until then words will not be enough to move away from patriarchy, male domination and privilege which are major root causes of violence and abuse against women.