To mark the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Msgr. John Enzler, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, celebrated a Mass for Family Peace at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Oct. 7.

Pointing out that October is also Respect Life Month, Msgr. Enzler said domestic violence is an issue that is not always discussed in the Church, and suggested that it should be elevated to the level of discourse that other life issues - such as abortion, capital punishment and assisted suicide - receive.

“This is an issue that involves all of us in the Church,” said Msgr. Enzler.

That Sunday’s Scripture from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians included the words, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

But for people who face domestic violence in their marriage, they don’t always find what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious in those relationships, Msgr. Enzler said.

“People not too far from us, even in these pews, deal with issues in the home, behind closed doors” that others often misunderstand or are unaware of, Msgr. Enzler added.

To paint a picture of the scope of the issue, Msgr. Enzler recounted some statistics about domestic violence as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, such as: Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten, and one out of four women are battered in their lifetime. Forty-three percent of dating college women experience abusive behavior during college, and one out of five college women are sexually assaulted in college. In the time that the roughly 57,000 soldiers were killed in Vietnam, about 54,000 women were murdered by a spouse or partner.

“This is not a minor problem…this is not something that happens occasionally,” said Msgr. Enzler. “This happens on this campus. This happens, frankly, to people in these pews.”

Msgr. Enzler also noted that domestic violence is an issue that affects people of all backgrounds, even though it is frequently perceived only to be an issue among people with a lower income level. At his parish in Bethesda, he said there is currently a family that is working through an issue of domestic violence.

In 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published a document addressing domestic violence, titled When I Call for Help. Quoting that document, Msgr. Enzler said, "The Catholic Church teaches that violence against another person in any form fails to treat that person as someone worthy of love. Instead, it treats the person as an object to be used.”

While many people think they need to stay in their abusive marriages in order to honor their wedding vows, Msgr. Enzler noted that the Church is clear that people in abusive situations do not need to remain with their spouse.

“The Church is clear now that no one has to be abused, violated, or treated poorly by someone else,” he said.

Msgr. Enzler asked the people at the Mass to pray for the issue of domestic violence just as they do for other life issues.

There is a group of about 40 priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who are trying to start up domestic violence ministries, said Msgr. Enzler, and he encouraged everyone at the Mass to get involved in helping people as well.

“You don’t have to counsel. You don’t have to change their life,” he said. “But can you listen? Can you love them? Can you help them know they are cared for?”

Finally, Msgr. Enzler addressed anyone in the pews who may have an angry temper or abusive tendencies, and asked them to call to mind the harm that their actions have caused and try to make a change in their lives.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington is holding several workshops at different parishes to teach people how to help family and friends who are suffering from domestic violence. The upcoming workshops are as follows:

Oct. 14, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. St. Nicolas Catholic Church, Laurel

Oct. 14, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. St. Camillus Catholic Church, Silver Spring (in Spanish)

Oct. 17, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. St. Patrick Catholic Church, Rockville

Oct. 21, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Nativity Catholic Church, Washington

Oct. 28 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. St. Hugh Catholic Church, Greenbelt

To attend, RSVP to [email protected].

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