The NFL and Domestic Violence

Most people have seen and been shocked by the video of NFL star player, Ray Rice, punching and dragging his fiancé out of an elevator. Others have remarked that they are not surprised; this is what domestic violence looks like. What did you expect?

While Ray Rice has been suspended, other players who have abused their wives or children are not receiving proper disciplinary action for their abuse. One example is Adrian Peterson who was restored to active playing despite having beaten his son. Public outrage is building. Commercial sponsors are withdrawing their support or threatening to do so. These are healthy signs that we as a people do not tolerate abuse in the home.

Although we can find a report in the news every week about domestic violence, it remains a rather unseen and underestimated crime. It happens behind closed doors and in secret and victims are extremely reticent to come forward.

But the facts belie this blindness. The FBI estimates that every 10 to 15 seconds a woman is battered or sexually assaulted in the U.S. The Center for Disease Control reports that one out of every four women is either hit or sexually assaulted by her partner during her life time.

That’s incredible: one out of four.

We might think that domestic violence happens elsewhere but not in our community. But all studies confirm that the incidence of domestic violence is practically the same in all communities; it makes no difference if you are Black or Hispanic, Caucasian or Asian, rich or poor, whether you live in the suburbs or city. Domestic violence exists at practically the same rate in every community
But how do we Catholics respond to this heinous crime and grave sin? Our U.S. bishops have written a beautiful pastoral letter, titled, When I Call for Help. Sadly, it is a well-kept secret.

In the first paragraph they write: “We must state as strongly and clearly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified.” And then in the final paragraph they state: “We must emphasize that no one is expected to stay in an abusive marriage.”

Unfortunately, most priests have not been prepared to deal with domestic violence. They see it as too controversial or difficult to preach about. They may even think it is inappropriate to talk about in church or that it rarely happens because victims have not approached them. In reality, if they don’t speak about it, victims will be reluctant to come to them. Some priests even tell victims they must return to their abusers and work it out. They tell victims they must accept their cross.

In fact, few dioceses have any services for victims of domestic violence. In St. Pius V and the Archdiocese of Chicago, we are fortunate to have services for victims and their children and even for perpetrators. St. Pius V also offers courses in parenting to help parents raise their children in a healthy environment.

Domestic violence has risen to a new level of awareness and outrage, thanks to abuse by some NFL players. May our Catholic Church authorities also recognize their failure to adequately respond to victims and perpetrators and begin to provide the necessary services to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus to those who suffer so terribly in their own homes.

Why motherhood?

Motherhood is the most lasting accomplishment in life. Being a mother involves hard work, sometimes suffering and difficult decisions as well as much happiness and satisfaction.  The relation between mothers and their children passes through stages, but once a mother, always a mother.

The role of motherhood

To love: Love is not simply a warm sentimentality. In the daily routine of caring for children, love is hard work. The strength of motherly love sustains children in time of doubt and confusion. Thanks to the love of our mothers we recognize our value as persons, our sense of being, the ability to do our job well, to love and feel worthy of love.

To educate: A mother tries to take advantage of the opportunities to show her children how to be lovable persons. Her concern for others, her words, her attitude and values and her judgments are powerful examples.  Education in the faith is one of her most powerful and lasting lessons.

To educate is also to listen, and this requires an open mind and heart. For example, children express themselves with words and gestures. The attentive and listening mother can discover in these signs hidden problems. Silence in her children may hide despair; rebellion in young people may be a cry for help. The mother who listens to her children can educate them more successfully.

To accept: Mothers do not choose their children. They are given to them by God to care for them with all their peculiarities, gifts and weaknesses. The children are not angels, nor are any of them the same. To accept children without making comparisons among them or with others, is an essential task of mothers. Only with an understanding and loving  mother can a child grow to become what God intended him or her to be, namely, a mature adult capable of choosing one’s own path in life.

To pardon: One must pardon children for both their small irritations as well as big offenses. Nevertheless, pardon does not exclude a just discipline. With discipline mothers teach their children responsibility and self-respect. Some mothers, in order to keep the peace, are too permissive and consequently fail to help their children mature and may even lose their respect. To pardon is not to be permissive without limits.

To teach about God: Mothers by means of their example reveal the face of God. By their lives centered in God, by their faith in prayer, their participation in community and in their religious traditions, they give their children an opportunity to enter into a personal relationship with God.

Mothers are not perfect: Often we idealize a mother’s love, and forget that this love is not free from error, doubt or fear. Mothers are human, with all their faults, sentiments and needs. The myth of the perfect mother is harmful and not founded in reality. It may create a feeling of failure in the woman who realizes that she cannot live up to the ideal. Women who try to be super-mothers frequently end up tired and overbearing. True love does not demand self-destruction of the person. Every mother needs support; for that reason the help of the father and other family members is so important for the welfare of the mother and children.

A deserved reward: Finally, together with the sacrifices of motherhood come marvelous rewards. To see their children grow up and develop their individuality and character a great satisfaction. To experience their love is priceless. There are also daily joys and unforgettable moments full of accomplishments and high hopes. Joy and thankfulness to God are the most valuable inheritance that a mother’s love can leave to us.