By Vatican News staff reporter
Australia’s bishops are shining the spotlight on the scourge of domestic violence and abuse.
In their annual social justice statement, they say relationships must be “marked by respect and freedom rather than coercion and control.”
Entitled Respect: Confronting Violence and Abuse, the document looks at data regarding family and domestic violence.
Women and children most vulnerable
The statement, citing the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, highlights that family and domestic violence “affects people of all ages and from all backgrounds”, but notes it “predominantly affects women and children”.
It also says that younger women, women with disabilities, people in regional areas, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and members of the LGBTQI+ community were particularly vulnerable to violence.
Following the teachings of Jesus
Speaking about the findings, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, SDB, said in a forward to the statement: “The teaching of Christ urges us to promote relationships marked by respect and freedom rather than coercion and control.”
“The message of the Gospel is not a message of domination of one person over another but a message of mutual esteem and kindness.”
Another area covered in the document is the reality of family and domestic violence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The statement also drives home the importance of listening to women and children, supporting respectful relationships and the importance of respect, dignity and justice, as well as transformation and hope.
The document acknowledges that in some contexts, Scripture has been used to explain or even justify instances of violence against women or children.
These distortions are to be rejected, it says, adding that “the respect due to each member of a family, household or community should reflect the respect and care shown for others by Christ.”
The statement draws attention to programmes and agencies that support those who suffer various forms of violence, but also highlights the importance of support for those who perpetrate such violence.
The Catholic Church in Australia celebrates Social Justice Sunday on the last Sunday of August.
Safety at the heart of mission
Meanwhile, Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference this week released the first draft of the Church’s new code of safety, titled Our Common Mission.
The draft document lays out the Catholic Church in Australia’s commitment to put safety at the centre of mission.
According to the Australian Bishops’ Conference, “it is a document intended to be adopted by all Church entities to inform ongoing formation in ministry and service for both people in religious ministry and lay people.”
Speaking about the document, ACSL CEO and Advisory Group Member, Ursula Stephens said, “it outlines foundational principles based on culture, relationships and formation that can guide each entity to develop their own organisational code of conducts that respond to their unique contexts, while still reflecting a cohesive national commitment to putting safety squarely at the centre of mission.”
ACSL says it is now inviting all Church entities to look at how they would include Our Common Mission in their organisation and provide ACSL with feedback on the draft.
A Conversation Guide has been drawn up by ACSL to accompany Our Common Mission.
A final version of the document is due for approval in November.