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Marriage Enrichment & Other Resources

  Natural Family Planning

Updated January 2013:

The Diocesan Natural Family Fertility Teachers are Cordelia and Michael Mkpadi. Contact by email mcmkpadi@yahoo.co.uk.

Marriage Care also offers information and advice Tel: 0800 389 3801.

 

http://www.fpa.org.uk/media/uploads/helpandadvice/naturalfamilyplanningapril2010.pdf

Another resource is the fertilityuk website, from which very clear information and charts can be downloaded.

http://www.fertilityuk.org/

 

To train to teach NFP contact www.nfpta.org

 

Infertility: 'Facing infertility with care and hope' BXVI Feb 2012.doc

 

 





  Theology of the Body

Theology of the Body is the name given to a rich collection of writings by Blessed John Paul II on the sacramental nature of human sexuality expressed in marriage. This is how Pope Benedict XVI summed it up in May 2011 when he reminded us that family is where we discover our relationality and live our call to love in one body and one spirit.


In his address to participants at a gathering held by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, Pope Benedict emphasized that in the family, the 'gift of self in one single flesh is lived in the conjugal love that unites spouses.'


'Here the fruitfulness of love is experienced and life is joined with that of other generations,' he said. 'In the family, humans discover their relationality, not as autonomous individuals who are self-made but as child, spouse, and parent whose identity is based on being called to love, to receiving another's self and to giving oneself to others.'


'The body,' he explained, 'speaks to us of an origin that we haven't granted ourselves. It is only when recognizing the original love that has given them life that human beings can accept themselves, only then can they be reconciled with nature and with the world.'In light of this, he noted, the 'union in one flesh thus becomes a union of all of life, so that man and woman might become one spirit.'


'In this sense,' the Pope continued, 'the virtue of chastity takes on a new meaning.' 'It is not a 'no' to life's pleasures and joys but a great 'yes' to love as the profound communication between persons, which requires time and respect, as a path together toward fullness and as love that becomes capable of generating life and generously welcoming the new life that is born.'


However, 'the body also contains a negative language,' he said. 'It speaks to us of the oppression of the other, of the desire to possess and exploit. Nevertheless, we know that this language does not pertain to God's original plan, but is the fruit of sin.' 'Isn't this the drama of sexuality that today remains locked in the vicious circle of one's own body and emotion, but which in reality can only be fulfilled in the call to something greater?'


'God offers humans a path of redemption to the body, whose language is preserved in the family … where the theology of the body and the theology of love are intertwined,' he said. 'God offers humans a path of redemption to the body, whose language is preserved in the family...When separated from its filial meaning, from its connection with the Creator, the body rebels against humans, and loses its capacity to show communion, becoming a place where the other is appropriated.' 

However, he noted, 'God takes on the body and revealed himself in it.'

'As the Son, he received the filial body in gratitude, listening to the Father, and he offered his body for us, so that the new body of the Church might be generated.' [EWTN News]



  Smart Marriages USA

Here is a page with links to plenty of stuff on marriage from the profane to the profound passing through lots of fun on the way. Check it out for quotes, speeches, prayers and so much more: http://www.smartmarriages.com/marriage.quotes.html 



  How much does a wedding have to cost?

How much does it really cost to get married? 

From 'Getting wed on a weekday'

By Tom de Castella BBC News Magazine

4th August 2011

"...financially-straitened times means that many people on average earnings are looking to make savings on weddings.

Travelodge reports an increase in wedding guests staying at its hotels, which offer rooms for as little as £29 a night. "Weddings are so expensive nowadays that people are making cutbacks," says a spokeswoman.

In 2009, Budget hotel chain Holiday Inn offered couples a wedding package for £999 that included a civil ceremony, evening DJ , function rooms and finger buffet for up to 100 guests.

But the Reverend David Newton, a baptist minister in Leeds, has gone one further. He cites statistics showing that 75% of co-habiters want to get married. Many of them are being put off by the high figures quoted for the cost of a wedding, he worries.

So Newton recently set up the website hundredpoundwedding.com to show that it can be done on the cheap. The Baptist church charges £67 for the wedding licence and says that with just another £33, a decent wedding can be arranged.

"One couple saved up their clubcard points and bought their wedding ring at Tesco," Rev Newton says. Other people have borrowed dresses, got friends to do the catering, or asked people to pay for their own dinner instead of buying a present.

The Church of England is backing another costcutting trend. A small but growing number of couples are choosing to have their wedding reception at the back of the church after the marriage service. "It works brilliantly for couples who want it," says Gillian Oliver, manager of the Church of England's wedding project. "It can help make it more economical. Especially as couples who get married in a church may be missing out on 'all-in' offers from civil venues."

Go to www.hundredpoundwedding.com for more information.

Weddings in 2008:

Monday 3.9%

Tuesday 2.8%

Wednesday 3.5%

Thursday 5%

Friday 18.9%

Saturday 60.4%

Sunday 5.5%

Source: ONS

For traditional rhymes around wedding times see

http://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/flm/docs/Wedding rhymes.doc



  FUN item:

Is there a good time to marry?

Until the 17th century, Sunday used to be the most popular day
for weddings in Britain as it was the one day most people
were free from work. However, the Puritans put a stop to this,
believing it was improper to be festive on the Sabbath. 

Nowadays most weddings take place on a Saturday, despite the famous
wedding day rhyme advising that these bring ‘no luck at all’! 

Monday for wealth, 
Tuesday for health, 
Wednesday the best day of all, 
Thursday for losses, 
Friday for crosses, 
Saturday for no luck at all. 

As for the time of year, Lent was thought to be an
inappropriate time for a wedding as this was a time of abstinence.
Similarly, the saying ‘Marry in the month of May, and you’ll live
to rue the day’ dates back to Pagan times when May (Beltane -
the start of summer) was celebrated with outdoor orgies and was therefore
thought to be an unsuitable time to start married life! In Roman
times the Feast of the Dead and the festival of the goddess
of chastity also both occurred in May. 

The advice was taken more seriously in Victorian times than it is
today! Even Queen Victoria is said to have banned her children from
marrying in May. In most Churches the end of April was a
busy time for weddings as couples wanted to avoid being married in May. 

However, June was considered to be a lucky month to marry in
because it was named after Juno, the Roman goddess of women and
love, who was also seen as the protector of married life. The
Romans believed that she blessed marriages that took place in her month. 

The Summer as a whole was considered a good time to marry
and this is partly to do with the sun’s association with fertility.
In Scotland one popular custom was for the bride to “walk with
the sun” to bring her good luck. She would walk from east
to west on the south side of the church and then continue
walking around the church three times. 


Advice on which month to marry in is given by the following rhymes: 

Married when the year is new, he'll be loving, kind and true 
When February birds do mate, You wed nor dread your fate 
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you'll know 
Marry in April when you can, Joy for Maiden and for Man 
Marry in the month of May, and you'll live to rue the day 
Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you'll go 
Those who in July do wed, must labour for their daily bread 
Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see 
Marry in September's shine, your living will be rich and fine 
If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry 
If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember 
When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last 


Married in January's roar and rime,
Widowed you'll be before your prime 
Married in February's sleepy weather,
Life you'll tread in time together 
Married when March winds shrill and roar,
Your home will lie on a distant shore 
Married 'neath April's changeful skies,
A chequered path before you lies 
Married when bees o'er May blossoms flit,
Strangers around your board will sit 
Married in month of roses June,
Life will be one long honeymoon 
Married in July with flowers ablaze,
Bitter-sweet memories in after days 
Married in August's heat and drowse,
Lover and friend in your chosen spouse 
Married in September's golden glow,
Smooth and serene your life will go 
Married when leaves in October thin,
Toil and hardships for you begin 
Married in veils of November mist,
Fortune your wedding ring has kissed 
Married in days of December's cheer,
Love's star shines brighter from year to year. 

From: http://www.crewsnest.vispa.com/weddingdays.htm

Editor's Note: Whatever day, time, month or season you marry, it is most important to make sure you are well prepared for a lifetime of love: a love that thrives beyond the romance of the day, a love that survives when tragedy, poverty, sickness and age take their toll. It is easy to get married, quite another thing to stay married and another thing altogether to grow in love together during the lifetime of your marriage. So, whatever the circumstances of your wedding day you can look for and take opportunities to celebrate your marriage, take a marriage enrichment course and even re-affirm your vows at any time. (If you do not feel free and safe in your marriage there is help http://www.cedar.uk.net/)

 

 



  Scott Stanley 'Sliding or Deciding'
Here, straight from Scott Stanley’s blog is his intro to a YouTube film of his core talk on Sliding vs Deciding!! It’s 54 mins long, so fix yourself a coffee, sit back and enjoy!! “Last year, I gave one of my favourite talks to the teachers at the school where my sons attended High School. That school is Denver Academy, and they excel at working with young people for whom typical school strategies are less than optimal. My wife Nancy and I really believe in what they do and wish more children could have what our sons have had there. So, when they asked me if I would give a talk to the teachers on an in-service day, I was happy to say yes. The talk I gave is one of my core talks. It focuses on patterns and changes in how romantic relationships form these days, and what some patterns may mean for eventual success in relationships--especially marriage" If you are interested, you can see it at YouTube:


  Mass for Marriage

On Saturday 4th February 2012, just one week before National Marriage Week, Bishop Arthur celebrated a Mass for Marriage to which all married people and their families and friends were invited, especially those who will be celebrating an anniversary next year.

MASS FOR MARRIAGE

Full text of Bishop Arthur's Homily is pasted below or click on this link

(To request a paper copy contact flm@flm.org.uk) 

http://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/d_news/fullstory.php?newsid=16

Celebrating Marriage



‘You are special people’ The Right Reverend Bishop Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds, said to all the married couples at the Vigil Mass for Marriage to Celebrate Anniversaries at Leeds Cathedral on the Saturday before national Marriage Week. 

They are special not because they had braved the snow to be there but because through marriage,'through the love of husband and wife, the love of parents and children, the love of siblings for one another, we are offered a foretaste of the boundless love that awaits us in the life to come’.

Bishop Arthur spoke movingly in his homily about the realities of married life and the pressures on families and parents. He highlighted the political failure to understand the full human and sacramental truth of marriage and he thanked the couples present for their faithful and permanent commitment to their marriage vows in good times and in bad.  

Quoting Pope Benedict, Bishop Arthur said 'All human beings are made for love' and, to the married couples, 'your message to the world is truly a message of joy, because God's gift to us of marriage and family life enables us to experience something of the infinite love that unites the three divine persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ 

'through the love of husband and wife, the love of parents and children, the love of siblings for one another, we are offered a foretaste of the boundless love that awaits us in the life to come. Marriage is an instrument of salvation, not only for married people but for the whole of society'

When the married couples were invited to stand to renew their commitment to their wedding vows it seemed as if the whole congregation stood up in one body. On one pew at the back of the crowded Cathedral sat three very different couples: one will celebrate their very first wedding anniversary this year, one their 30th and one 60 years of married life.



Before the final blessing Bishop Arthur handed each couple individually, and with warm words of congratulations, a specially made candle and prayer card to commemorate the occasion. Afterwards we all went into Wheeler Hall at the back of the Cathedral to a buffet of warm food prepared for us by Brio, one of Leeds' finest Italian restaurants.



There, couples of all ages and nationalities and from all parts of the Diocese of Leeds which covers much of Yorkshire, enjoyed meeting each other and sharing stories, as well as the warm food on a cold night, some celebratory bubbly and the wedding cake specially made for the occasion by Molly Fieldhouse, a pupil at St Mary's Menston (pictured here with Molly's cake are L-R Marjorie Parker, Angela Fieldhouse and me).

In the party atmosphere lots of photos were taken of couples with the bishop by photographer Patrick Sice. They are available on www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk follow the 'more links' to Catholic Post/photo gallery/February 2012 



'This is the most wonderful occasion' said Enid and Alan Davies, celebrating their diamond (60th) anniversary this year, 'We never expected such a lovely thing could happen to us!' They were brought through the snow all the way from their parish of St Joseph's Castleford by the Patrick Sice.



Many thanks to the Sisters at Wheeler Hall who provided a very warm welcome to the event and served hot tea and coffee to go with the cake; to Peter and Alex who contributed two massive gateaux for dessert; to Angela, for arranging prayer leaflets and prayer cards and Henry and Marjorie for setting up the room and decorating the tables with flowers to create a suitably festive occasion.



Finally, Family Life Ministry (FLM) at the Diocese of Leeds wishes to thank Bishop Arthur for providing such a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the good that is marriage and the people who work so hard to sustain it, often in the face of many, sometimes insurmountable, difficulties. We also wish the warmest congratulations to all married couples today, during National Marriage Week, 7th-14th February, and in all the days of your lives. Special wishes to those who were unable to attend the Mass for Marriage due to the snow which began to fall heavily four hours before the Mass was due to start, and settled, creating havoc on the roads. 

Loving marriages are a blessing, a blessing to the couple, to their children and families, to the church and to the whole of society so wherever you are, whatever your situation, you were thanked for your living witness of the love that originates in and sustains the Holy Trinity, and all of us, and you were remembered at the Mass for Marriage in Leeds as Bishop Arthur closed his homily with this blessing:   

'Church and State are enriched by your love and fidelity as well as by your families. You are special people...and all of us owe you a deep debt of gratitude for working at your marriage and showing to us something of the hidden beauty of the love of God for our worldMay your love continue to prosper and to flourish and may God bless you with many more years of happiness still to come. Amen'

Breda Theakston
FLM Coordinator
5th February 2012



  Domestic Violence - what is it? what are the risk factors?

http://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/flm/docs/Domestic Violence risk factors etc 2012.pdf

Sees also: file:///U:/Domestic%20Abuse/How-to-end-violence-in-Catholic-families-N-America-etc.pdf

See also: The impact of family violence -

 

Confronting Family Violence and its Spiritual Damage

 

by Nancy J. Ramsay

 

Harrison Ray Anderson Professor of Pastoral Theology, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

 

Fortunately, connecting images of family and violence is a jarring experience. The terms seem mutually exclusive. Sadly, they frequently arise together in the experience of families in this and every culture with potentially debilitating consequences for the emotional, spiritual, and relational well being of those affected.

 

While definitions of family vary, many presume that the concept of family includes the following characteristics: a group of persons connected by legal and relational commitments; a shared history; expectations of mutual care; temporary inequality in the mutuality of care due to developmental differences such as childhood and old age; affection and trust; possibly "blood" or kinship connection; relation over time or generations; a context of safe physical and emotional intimacy and vulnerability to each other; and varying structural forms of family.

Violence in the family refers to an abusive use of power or control to shame, humiliate, intimidate, injure, or destroy. It violates the integrity of another's person, well being, or rights. It is often in the form of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse that occurs across the lifespan most often to children, women, and the frail elderly. Often these forms of violence occur together. It is important to note that while some may tend to minimize the consequences of emotional or psychological violence, research suggests it may have more profound consequences than physical violence alone (Gelles 1997).

Violence in the family is a major public health crisis in the United States that has been allowed to flourish because of a remarkable silence on the part of civic and religious leaders (Leehan 1993). The statistical evidence is startling and sobering. For example, 38 percent of girls and 17.3 percent of boys experience sexual abuse prior to the age of eighteen (Russell, 1986; Urquiza & Keating, 1990). Violent attacks by men constitute the greatest health risk to women in this country where an estimated 3 to 4 million women are battered each year by their husbands or partners (Fortune, 1991). Adult Protective Services' files suggest that family members perpetrate two thirds of elder abuse (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 1997).

These statistics testify to the fact that our public health crisis is also a crisis for communities of faith. There is a compelling need for religious leaders to make informed responses to family violence in congregations, where victims, perpetrators of violence, and bystanders worship side by side (McClure & Ramsay, 1998; Nason-Clark, 1996,1999). For too long family violence in faith communities has been subject to what Nancy Nason-Clark aptly describes as the "holy hush" (1999). Yet, healing is especially assisted by rightly naming abuse in it various forms, compassionately assisting those who are victimized, confronting those who perpetrate violence in behalf of their repentance and renewal, and educating all in the community.

There are ample resources in Christian tradition and scripture to support informed and faithful responses to violence in families. Central to this effort is the biblical assertion that human life is created in the image of God for life in communities of mutual care and respect.

Womanist theologian Toinette Eugene describes violence in the family as "a sacrilege of God's Spirit in us" (1995). Liturgically, baptismal vows and marriage vows also uphold biblical themes of loving care, safekeeping, and mutual respect for family members. The fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12) addresses the importance of honoring parents (our elders). Two lynchpins of the destructiveness of family violence are [1] fear, terror, and helplessness and [2] the betrayal of bonds of care with the accompanying loss of trust and safety (Herman, 1992). Many find Psalm 55 an apt description of one who has experienced family violence: (4) My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. (5) Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me... (12) It is not enemies who taunt me�I could bear that: it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me�I could hide from them. (13) But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng. In these lines we hear well the themes of fear and terror as well as betrayal, the loss of trust, and the absence of safety that contemporary survivors of family violence in communities of faith would echo.

Experiences of violation, domination, and betrayal clearly contradict any Judeo-Christian vision for life in families. Researchers have documented well the far-reaching emotional, physical, and relational consequences of family violence (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 1997; Gelles, 1997). These consequences predictably include distortions in self-esteem, anxiety, eating disorders, distortions of body image, sexual dysfunction, disrupted relationships, dysfunction in school and work, increased risk of suicide, etc. (Russell, 1986). The spiritual consequences of family violence arise in relation to emotional, physical, and relational effects of intimate violence such as those noted above.

Our experience of who God is and of God�s presence in our lives and world is especially vulnerable to early family experiences. Fewer researchers have ventured to explore the related spiritual consequences of victimization in the family, precisely that context where love, safety, trust, and respectful care are presumed (Cooper-White, 1995; Fortune, 1991; Pellauer, Chester, & Boyajian, 1987). The havoc wreaked by fear and betrayal in emotional, relational, and embodied spheres of life is at least as serious for spiritual experience. The following discussion will briefly explore predictable theological issues and distortions that arise in families and faith communities because of intimate violence and distortions in church and culture that contribute to difficulties in healing from such violence.

Theological Themes Distorted by Family Violence

Creation in the Image of God A primary distortion caused by family violence lies in its conflict with the central affirmation of Christian faith that all persons are created in the image of God for life in communities of mutual respect and care. Mutual love is the ethical context God intends for human experience. Closely related is the affirmation that we are created as embodied persons whose embodiment deserves tender care that always respects the integrity and inviolability of each person.

God�s choice to dwell with us as a human being further emphasizes that bodies matter to God, and they need to matter to us. God�s incarnation in Jesus highlights the centrality of embodiment in Christian tradition and rejects any dualism that would deny or trivialize the inextricable relation of embodiment and human experience. We bear witness to God�s image in us and others through our practice of love for one another that is life enhancing, healing, and encouraging.

Family violence, whether witnessed or actually experienced, repudiates these central affirmations. It demonstrates a betrayal of the bonds of care in marital vows, parental obligation, or familial ties. Violence that evokes experiences of terror, fear, and helplessness, or colluding in such violence by tolerating it, defies God's intention for life in communities of loving care. Family violence is dehumanizing violence. It rejects God�s intention for the integrity of embodied life and relational commitments. Experiences of betrayal and terror at the hands of those from whom persons expect care, safety, and love have far reaching spiritual as well as emotional and relational consequences. As psychologists have reminded us, the human capacity to trust and imagine God as trustworthy is born of early experiences of familial care (Erikson, 1963; Pruyser, 1974) . The ability to imagine oneself as worthy of care and love also arises from experiencing reliably loving care, especially in primary relationships.

Certainly family violence that distorts God's intention for loving relationships does not preclude persons from trusting God's love for them, but it surely makes that a far more difficult possibility. Fear and betrayal in the context of primary relationships damage the very intrapsychic and interpersonal structures that allow us as human beings to respond freely and lovingly toward God and others as well as ourselves (E. Farley, 1990; Ramsay, 1998b).

Fear and betrayal set in motion various defensive, debilitating responses such as alienation, isolation, distrust, self protectiveness, shame, and guilt that once in place may become self perpetuating. Children who experience family violence often take responsibility for this abuse in order to sustain the illusion that the security of their world and the adults entrusted with safekeeping it are trustworthy. But the emotional and spiritual cost is high, for these children then define themselves as bad, dirty, unworthy of love or care and often assume that their abuse was justified in God�s eyes.

When abuse includes the violation of a child physically and or sexually, such fearful alienation and shame in relation to God and others may be even more profound. They experience adult power exercised in cruel and arbitrary ways that disregard the integrity of their persons and wills. When home is not a safe place for a child, the world itself is hostile rather than a gift that discloses the abundance of God�s creative love. Often family violence scars the abused child�s still developing religious imagination so that it becomes difficult to trust that God�s power is exercised differently from their experience of supposedly trustworthy adults. Even more seriously, many presume God�s love does not include them. Children who are victims of sexual abuse often experience yet another level of alienation and shame that may best be described as defilement (Williams, 1993b). Tragically, the locus of embodiment God intends precisely for our most profound experiences of intimate communion becomes a source of isolating shame and fear spiritually and relationally for many survivors of child sexual abuse.

Adults who experience domestic violence or elder abuse are differently vulnerable than children. A child�s capacities for interpreting intimate violence are still evolving. Adults affected by intimate violence are rendered more vulnerable spiritually when their previous life experience leads them to imagine themselves as less valuable or worthy than others, such as those who have been victimized by sexism and classism. Vulnerability is intensified when their understanding of the relation of God�s power and love allows them to imagine that God is the source of their suffering and causing the abuse either to punish or prepare them vocationally. When any of these distortions is in place, family violence has more isolating and dehumanizing consequences.

Suffering

Popularized interpretations of suffering in contemporary culture that do not differentiate suffering that arises as a consequence of sin from suffering that is undeserved undermine the capacities of survivors to resist the damaging effects of abuse and begin to heal from it. It is a form of revictimization for victims of family violence who find this explanation of suffering only deepens their pain, for it leads them to imagine God is the cause of their suffering that is somehow deserved or instructive (W. Farley, 1990).

On the other hand, confronting perpetrators of violence and bystanders who collude in such violence with the connection between suffering and sin as a corruption of human freedom may encourage their repentance and begin their healing. The failure to differentiate the source of suffering that arises from family violence deepens the consequences of such violence for victims, perpetrators, and the larger community that too often colludes with the violence through its silence.

When religious communities fail to name family violence rightly as an offense to God�s vision for human life and fail to insist on justice, their silence contributes to the perpetuation of violence. It also only worsens the burden of guilt and shame children who are victims and some adults wrongly bear. It intensifies the isolation and alienation from God that victims of family violence often experience. Tragically, it also prevents many survivors of abuse from drawing on the vast resources in scripture that bear witness to the power of God�s love actively to resist violence and seek justice for the vulnerable who are abused. Differentiating suffering allows survivors and the religious community better to recognize that God�s power is used in the service of God�s love and is inextricably related to justice.

In fact there is a fiercely tender quality to God�s compassion (Ramsay, 1998a). God�s compassion is a tender power that offers survivors of family violence a resounding validation of their worth and the integrity of their bodies and tender mercy in response to their suffering. As Psalm 23 suggests, God�s compassion is not mere consolation. It offers both spiritual and physical sustenance. It also fiercely resists those who would deform or destroy human life. It offers redemptive empowerment and courage to those who have experienced the dehumanizing effects of intimate violence. Just as God�s compassion encourages survivors of violence to resist the dehumanizing effects of abuse, it invites those in the religious community to respond with compassionate resistance rather than silence (W. Farley, 1990; Ramsay, 1998a).

When we in the religious community are able to incarnate for abused children and adults responses that offer tender yet empowering validation of their worth and insistence that such violence against them is offensive to God�s justice and love, they are better able to resist the dehumanizing effects of the fear and betrayal perpetrated against them. When we choose to incarnate God�s resistance to abuse, we bear witness to the healing power of God�s loving compassion. With children, whose religious imaginations are most vulnerable, bearing witness to God�s compassion and resistance is particularly important for the process of constructing a more life-giving image of God in their lives. For perpetrators of family violence, rightly naming the connection between suffering and sin creates the possibility for repentance and accountability that will allow them to seek God�s forgiveness and the renewal of their lives. Clearly there is deep spiritual alienation in the lives of those who choose to abuse children or other adults. The journey toward healing is arduous. Healing, whether for perpetrators, victims, or bystanders, cannot begin until the power of God�s love and commitment to justice are named rightly.

Hope

Suffering that arises from victimization or the sin of perpetrating such violence seriously inhibits the quality of hope and often the possibility of hope in the lives of victims and perpetrators. Hope rests on the capacity to imagine a future that is life enhancing and available. It presumes the narratival character of human life and especially the importance of the future tense to enliven the present and relativize the power of the past (Lester, 1995). Hope implies a sense of agency that allows persons to believe they can act in ways that will allow such positive change for their lives and trust that such change is possible. Christian hope transcends ordinary dreams for the future by placing particular human stories within the larger future story of the loving power and faithful promises of God.

Victims of family violence know intimately the terror of helplessness and the betrayal and violation of their bodies by persons whose love and care they believed they could trust. Such experiences of domination seriously undermine any adequate sense of agency. Often these experiences of domination include no intervention by others to offer help or protection. Fear, a pervasive sense of vulnerability to danger, and defensive efforts to exercise vigilant control often shape a subsequent life posture. In such a context the compassionate resistance that characterizes God�s love for the vulnerable offers survivors of violence a way to reimagine the possibility of hope for their futures.

Hope as resistance to the dehumanizing effects of violence is rooted in God�s fierce �no� to violence against the vulnerable that is recorded again and again in scripture. Such hope depends, of course, on the willingness of others to bear witness to this dimension of God�s love and embody that resistance in their presence with survivors. Hope as resistance is not experienced as a simple progression toward liberation from the fearful and guarded postures of survivors. Rather it is well described in the fugue-like relation of survival and liberation that is imaged in Psalm 23 (Ramsay, 1998a; Williams, 1993a). Here the first three verses describe an idyllic safety, but the next verses describe the continuing reality of danger; however, resistance emerges as redemptive hope when the Psalm pictures God as not only powerfully present but setting a table in the presence of our enemies. This image of hope provides both a sense of freedom and peace and sustains and protects when survival is all that is possible. It helpfully describes the way in which God�s compassionate resistance defies the finality of evil and restores a life giving future story (Lester, 1995) to survivors of family violence.

Love

Family violence not only reflects a distortion in understanding the redemptive power of God�s love. It also perpetuates corresponding distortions about love as it is experienced in human life. Christianity is guided by a three-fold love command recorded in the gospels: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind: and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27-28) Interpretation of this passage has been shaped by the importance that is also given to sacrificial love through interpretations of Jesus� death, especially in Paul�s letters. The norm of mutuality found in the love command was eclipsed by the ideal of sacrificial love and the valorization of suffering rooted in these interpretations of Jesus� crucifixion.

Until recent years interpreters of the love command have emphasized the importance of love of God and neighbor as if love of self were to be assumed and needed to be overcome as prideful or at least restrained in order to assure adequate love for God and others. Women who have been battered frequently describe the way these two interpretations together complicated their ability to believe their safety could justify leaving an abusive context. �Did I love him enough? Good Christians are willing to suffer in behalf of love. Shouldn�t I go back?� Given the history of interpretation in Christian tradition, such women have few resources for considering how too little regard for self may be as serious as pride or too much concern for self. Similarly, they have little assistance in discerning the importance of discriminating between Jesus� voluntary suffering and their oppression, or the value of temporary sacrificial suffering as a means toward mutuality in relationships.

If we turn to the earlier affirmation of humanity�s creation in the image of God and use this doctrine as the interpretive lens about love, we recover the importance of each person�s identity and the norm of mutuality because God�s creative love is the source of each and all life equally (Ramsay, 1998b). Adequate self regard is not equated with self-gratification at the expense of others. Recovering clarity about mutuality of care and respect as the norm for life in community allows survivors of abuse to hear rightly God�s value for their well being and confronts perpetrators who would abuse their power in relationships with the sin inherent in their disregard for the other. As Daniel Day Williams wrote, �Love is that expression of Spirit that has communion in freedom as its goal� (1968).

When Jesus� crucifixion is interpreted within the broader context of the breadth of God�s creative love for each and all, it becomes more apparent that Jesus� choice to die on the cross does not idealize enduring suffering for its own sake. Rather, it reminds us that this death came because the whole course of Jesus� ministry demonstrated a commitment to mutuality in love that retrieved God�s vision for the inextricable relation of love and justice. Jesus particularly modeled mutual regard with the marginalized of his time, seeking to empower them and restore to them a sense of their value in God�s sight. He chose the sacrificial love of the cross rather than deny this radically mutual image of God�s love for each and all. Particularly problematic for survivors of domestic violence is the way the image of Jesus� death on the cross has been misinterpreted to idealize suffering without differentiating suffering temporarily chosen from suffering that is oppressively imposed.

This distortion, joined with the false subordination sexism imposes, renders women particularly vulnerable to accepting violence in their relationships. As theologian Elizabeth Johnson suggests: Structurally subordinated within patriarchy, women are maintained in this position, not liberated, by the image of a God who suffers in utter powerlessness because of love. The ideal of the helpless divine victim serves only to strengthen women�s dependency and potential for victimization, and to subvert initiatives for freedom, when what is needed is growth in relational autonomy and self-affirmation. The image of a powerless, suffering God is dangerous to women�s genuine humanity, and must be resisted. (Johnson, 1993.) If we attend to the violence that was done to Jesus, we realize this is �a story that teaches its readers how to work to struggle against suffering, not to glorify it� (Placher, 1994).

Marriage and Divorce

Another prominent distortion in popular interpretations of Christian theology that significantly jeopardizes those who find their spouses are violent is their certainty that divorce is a sin, and that leaving a violent marriage under any circumstances would alienate them from God�s love. This misconception presumes that maintaining the form of the family is more important than protecting the well being of individuals within it. It is true that Jesus spoke against divorce, but he also condemned the men who were calculating how to break their promises of care for their wives, who would have been without any resources as divorced women. (Matthew 5:27-32; 19:3-9)

In Christian and Jewish traditions marriages are understood as covenants rather than simply contractual arrangements. The distinction lies in the expectation of trust and care that profoundly deepens the quid pro quo character of a contract�s more limited reciprocity. As marriage vows in Jewish and Christian services suggest, the covenant of marriage describes a context of love and honor or cherishing of the other. These vows speak of the expectation of care that is not limited to careful calculation but is guided by generosity. Yet, these vows also situate marriage in a normative context of mutual care so that the equality of both partners is assumed. In Jewish and Christian scriptures, covenants between persons are reciprocal arrangements of care presuming mutually trustworthy commitments to particular obligations and responsibilities. There are consequences for not keeping faith with a covenant, and repentance is necessary to restore the integrity of such agreements. Such vows make it clear that the spouse who abuses their partner is the one who breaks the covenant, not the one who leaves to assure self-protection and the protection of children (Eilts, 1991). It is also significant that these vows are made publicly which underscores that the role of the community lies in helping to assure the integrity of the marriage vows. In some Christian communions marriage is a sacrament which elevates the significance of maintaining the marriage, but the witness of Jewish and Christian scriptures leaves no doubt that God�s love always intends protection of the vulnerable so that divorce is preferable to continuing life threatening and dehumanizing suffering for family members.

Forgiveness and Repentance

Issues of forgiveness and repentance are particularly complicated for survivors of family violence, for subsequent family relationships, and for congregations affected by such violence. Confusion around popular misunderstandings of the nature and dynamics of forgiveness often deepen further the painful isolation and alienation of abuse. Forgiveness is popularly understood by many Christians and the culture at large as an obligation of an injured party that immediately restores the integrity of the relationship and avoids any necessity for attending to accountability for change on the part of those who have caused harm.

In many families and religious communities one may hear the question, �Why can�t you just forgive and forget so the family can move on?� Such questions disclose several important misconceptions about the biblical injunction to forgive that can increase the pain of survivors of violence and inhibit not only their healing but also that of perpetrators and others who may be affected (Fortune, 1991). First, it presumes that forgiveness is an isolated, singular act rather than part of a larger process of accountability and justice. Second, it makes the victim of violence responsible for healing the family rather than addressing the perpetrator�s and community�s accountability. Third, it avoids any attention to the imbalance of power that violence discloses, again allowing the perpetrator and community to avoid accountability. Fourth, it suggests forgiveness is a quick if not immediate event rather like an eraser that �wipes the slate of memory (and obligation for repentance) clean.�

Biblically, forgiveness is located within a process of reconciliation that begins with the perpetrator�s admission of wrongdoing and willingness to engage in the work of repentance or fundamental change (Fortune, 1991). It begins with calling the perpetrator to account and only moves to forgiveness if, in fact, repentance occurs. When forgiveness is forced as the first and perhaps only step in a process of reconciliation, the only result is a form of �cheap grace� that in fact revictimizes survivors who may now feel guilt that they don�t want to forgive or who feel inauthentic for saying what they do not truly feel. Premature forgiveness also robs perpetrators of the opportunity truly to heal through the process of accountability justice requires.

Forgiveness is not the first or the only act needed for reconciliation. It is inextricably tied to the restoration of justice in the relationship that depends first on the one who violated the trust of the victim and the family. This initial responsibility of the perpetrator of violence to tell the truth and initiate a process of repentance reflects the need to rebalance the relationship by acknowledging how violence robs the victim of her or his rightful dignity. Indeed, New Testament language for forgiveness draws from a financial context in which forgiveness by the debtor would be impossible (Keene, 1995). It must begin by the wealthy one yielding his or her power. This financial imagery makes it obvious that the �poorer� victim of violence cannot be responsible for the �wealthy� perpetrator�s process of change.

Scripture also gives more attention to the importance of the community�s participation in seeking justice for the injured party. In Matthew�s gospel for example, members of the congregation and then the congregation as a whole may be expected to join with the injured party to seek justice (Matthew 18: 15-20). In the context of family violence it is in fact a source of great support when survivors of violence feel the congregation�s support not only as compassion that validates their loss and pain as wrong, but as encouragement to resist the dehumanizing effects of such violence, and as support to seek healing and justice. When congregations incarnate in this way God�s fierce tenderness, survivors of violence will suffer far less spiritual and emotional damage, for they will benefit from the redemptive witness of the faith community. The congregation also will benefit from taking responsibility clearly to embody God�s compassionate resistance to the dehumanizing effects of intimate violence. When congregations maintain a �holy hush,� (Nason-Clark, 1999) the spiritual consequences of abuse for them and the victims of violence are heightened by their failure to witness faithfully.

Finally, it is also important to note that while scripture clearly enjoins persons to forgive those who truly repent, it does not suggest that forgiveness is easy or quick. True repentance is itself an arduous process that unfolds, often haltingly, over time. Similarly, forgiveness often also requires a long process that is equally challenging. Even when it does occur, it does not presume restoration of the relationship as it once was intended to be. In many situations of family violence that would be unwise or impossible. The trust that was betrayed may not be reparable. Forgiveness does not mean that a survivor forgets what occurred. It simply means the survivor finds release from the immediacy of the traumatic memories, and the perpetrator receives the gracious opportunity to experience release from guilt.

Conclusion

We have explored some of the terrible consequences of intimate violence for the spiritual well being of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders who collude with the violence in silence or denial. Even this brief review quickly discloses the insidious effects of violence in homes that undermine those very possibilities God intends for human and spiritual fulfillment such as love, joyful embodiment, hope, and trust. Instead persons struggle with guarded isolation, physical, emotional, and spiritual alienation, and fear that often blocks their ability to feel the empowering tenderness of God�s compassion or the redemptive hope of God�s fierce resistance to the violence they experienced. Perpetrators are rarely held accountable for their sin against their children, spouses, or elders so that their bondage only grows more complete. Congregations often unwittingly collude in perpetuating intimate violence when they choose not to work proactively as well as responsively regarding abuse that affects conservatively 50 percent of the members either through past violence or current abuse.

Fortunately the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence in Seattle and many denominational offices offer educational resources that can help congregations begin to witness far more effectively and faithfully against intimate violence. Resources for preaching truthfully and skillfully about family violence are also beginning to emerge (McClure & Ramsay, 1998). The �holy hush� that has plagued religious leaders and congregations must give way to a resounding holy �no� to the dehumanizing effects of sexual and domestic violence. Only then will our witness incarnate the life giving power of God�s compassionate resistance to all that deforms and destroys human life.

Nancy J. Ramsay is Harrison Ray Anderson Professor of Pastoral Theology,

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary,

1044 Alta Vista Rd., Louisville, KY 40205.

Phone: (502) 895-3411.

Email: nramsay@lpts.edu.

References

Barnett, O., Miller-Perrin, C, & Perrin, R (1997). Family violence across the lifespan. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Cooper-White, P. (1995). The cry of Tamar: Violence against women and the church�s response. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Eilts, M. (1991). Saving the family: when is the covenant broken? In M. Fortune, Violence in the family (pp. 235-242). Cleveland: Pilgrim.

Erikson, Erik. (1963). Childhood and society, 2nd ed., revised and enlarged. New York: W.W. Norton.

Eugene, T. (1995). �If you get there before I do�: A womanist ethical response to sexual violence and abuse. In Grant, J. (Ed.), Perspectives on womanist theology (p. 10). Atlanta: ITC Press.

Farley, E. (1990). Good and evil. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Farley, W. (1990). Tragic vision and divine compassion. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Fortune, M. (1991). Violence in the family. Cleveland: Pilgrim.

Gelles, R.J. (1997). Intimate violence in families (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books.

Johnson, E.A (1993). She who is: The mystery of God in feminist theological discourse. New York: Crossroad.

Keene, F. (1955). Structures of forgiveness in the New Testament. In Adams, C. & Fortune, M. Violence against women and children. New York: Continuum.

Leehan, J. (1993). Defiant hope: Spirituality for survivors of family abuse. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Leehan, J. (1989). Pastoral care for survivors of family abuse. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Lester, A. (1995). Hope in pastoral care and counseling. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

McClure, J., & Ramsay, N. (1998). Telling the truth: Preaching about sexual and domestic violence. Cleveland: United Church Press.

Nason-Clark, Nancy. (1997). The battered wife: How Christians confront family violence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Nason-Clark, Nancy. (1999). Shattered silence or holy hush: Emerging definitions of violence against women in sacred and secular contexts. Family Ministry, 13(1), 39-56.

Pellauer, M., Chester, B., &Boyajian, J. (1987). Sexual assault and abuse. San Francisco: Harper Row.

Placher, W.C. (1994). Narratives of a vulnerable God: Christ, theology, and scripture. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Pruyser, P.W. (1974). Between belief and unbelief. New York: Harper & Row.

Ramsay, N. (1998a). Compassionate resistance: An ethic for pastoral care and counseling. Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, 52, 217-226.

Ramsay, N. (1998b). Pastoral diagnosis: A resource for ministries of care and counseling. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Russell, D. (1986). The secret trauma: Incest in the lives of girls and women. New York: Basic Books.

Urquiza, A., & Keating, L. (1990). The prevalence of sexual victimization in males. In Hunter, M. (Ed.) The sexually abused male. Vol. 1.: The prevalence, impact, and treatment. (p. 90). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Williams, D. (1993a). Sisters in the wilderness. Mary Knoll, New York: Orbis. Williams, D. (1968). The spirit and the forms of love. New York: Harper and Row.

Williams, D. (1993b). A womanist perspective on sin. In Townes, E. (Ed.), A troubling in my soul: Womanist perspectives on evil and suffering (pp. 146-147). Mary Knoll, NY: Orbis.



  Marriage Unlocked - Open the door to a Stronger Relationship

Event: Marriage Unlocked (this event now past, but Care for the Family offer other relationship support and resources)

Contact: Care for the Family

Phone: 029 2081 0800

Discover the keys to a healthy relationship. A special evening event for every couple who want an even better marriage. Whether your marriage is in good shape or things are tough right now; whether you’ve been married a few months or many years, you can discover the keys to unlock the potential of your relationship at this great new event. Learn more about:

• Talking honestly

• Satisfying sex

• Growing deeper in love

• Making decisions without arguing

Tickets £12 per couple (order tickets for a second couple for just £8)

No Group-work or embarrassing questions.

To reserve your place telephone - 029 2081 0800.



  Homily on Marriage Bp Arthur Roche 4th February 2012

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) 

Leeds Cathedral Rt Rev Arthur Roche STB STL 

Bishop of Leeds 

4 February 2012 ___________________________________________________________ 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Quite recently our Holy Father, addressing a group of married people rather like you this evening, said: "Remember, your message to the world is truly a message of joy, because God's gift to us of marriage and family life enables us to experience something of the infinite love that unites the three divine persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit." All human beings, he said, "are made for love. Indeed at the core of our being, we long to love and to be loved in return." Of course, it is "only God's love [which] can fully satisfy our deepest needs, and yet through the love of husband and wife, the love of parents and children, the love of siblings for one another, we are offered a foretaste of the boundless love that awaits us in the life to come. Marriage is an instrument of salvation, not only for married people but for the whole of society. And like any "worthwhile goal," he said, "it places demands upon us, it challenges us, it calls us to be prepared to sacrifice our own interests for the good of the other. It requires us to exercise tolerance and to offer forgiveness. It invites us to nurture and protect the gift of new life."

What a magnificent description: married couples reflect in a unique way God's love for the world. That is a remarkable calling, a wonderful vocation from the Lord to which you have generously responded in your married lives.

The institution of marriage, as we all know, is under threat today and it is true that married couples face enormous challenges because of some government policies, financial worries, work demands, pressure of time, and a culture that separates sexual activity from commitment, to name but a few.

We recognise, of course, that some relationships can break down totally for unavoidable reasons. As a consequence there are many parents who single-handedly have the heroic task of preparing their children in love for life. Single they may be, but that does not mean that among them there won't be excellent parents and that among their children there won't be some of the finest. Therefore I wish you to know that I am not being judgemental in anything I say.

But as I grow older, I am becoming more convinced that people, including a good number of politicians, have no real understanding of the fundamental importance of marriage, not only for the married couple, but for their children and ultimately for society as a whole.

Recent research has demonstrated convincingly that the family rooted in a loving marriage provides the best possible environment for parents, children and society. Children who grow up in a loving home become mature, secure, self-confident and happy citizens. Children who grow up in homes where there is no love or no security can, in all too many cases, become dysfunctional adults costing the tax payer vast amounts of money every year through delinquency, drugs and crime.

I was interested to read recently something that Ian Duncan Smith, as Secretary of State for work and pensions, had to say in the House of Commons to mark the start of Marriage Week. He said: "We do a disservice to society if we ignore the evidence that shows the importance of stable families for children. The financial costs of marital breakdown are incredibly high with estimates ranging from £20 billion to £40 billion annually. The human cost [however] is infinitely greater. The centre for social justice has found that those who do not grow up in a two parent family are 75% more likely to fail at school, 70% more likely to become addicted to drugs and 50% more likely to have an alcohol problem. There are few more powerful tools for promoting stability than the Institute of Marriage." This is something that the Church has instinctively known.

Marriage, of course, is not simply an economic asset; it is something that brings the vital love of God into our world. When Pope Benedict wrote his first encyclical letter entitled, Deus Caritas Est (‘God is Love'), he said that amid the myriad meanings of love, one in particular stands out: the love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness. Marriage, as with every vocation, is rooted in God Who is love.

Twenty-five, forty, fifty or sixty years ago many of you stood in the presence of God, who was the first witness to your union. Before the Lord, his priest or deacon and the local community you pledged to give yourselves to each other forever. And you promised to honour that pledge "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death". As we gather with you tonight we give thanks to God that you have honoured that pledge to this day.

Nevertheless, I am certain that you have had to face many challenges in your relationships: times of disagreement; times of silence when you wondered if you would ever speak to each other again; moments of deep hurt and anxiety when you did not have recourse to a humble heart or expressions of sorrow and forgiveness - those humble gestures which are so powerfully healing. Yet it is through those challenges that you have survived and have grown in your love for God and for each other. As someone said, "Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love and they blossom when we love the ones we marry!"

I am reminded of the young man who felt that for the first time in his life that he was in love. He sent a text message to his girlfriend that read: "My dearest love, I would climb the highest mountain for you, I would swim the widest river, I would crawl through the narrowest pot-hole to be with you, and if it's not raining on Saturday I'll be over to see you"!

If there is no sacrificial love and commitment, relationships will not endure and this is particularly true, as you yourselves well know, in the case of marriage. It is that sacrificial love that draws you so close to the love of Christ for us all. So we have every reason to celebrate with you on this Saturday evening when, despite the cold and the snow, you have come together, partners joined by so many years, to give thanks to God and publicly to one another. Both Church and State are enriched by your love and fidelity as well as by your families. You are special people - precious to the Church and to the State - and all of us owe you a deep debt of gratitude for working at your marriage and showing to us something of the hidden beauty of the love of God for our world. May your love continue to prosper and to flourish and may God bless you with many more years of happiness still to come. Amen



  Infertility

Facing infertility with care and hope: Pope Benedict XVI Feb 2012

'The Church pays great attention to the suffering of couples with infertility, she cares for them and, precisely because of this, encourages medical research.', said Pope Benedict XVI, in his address Saturday to members of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Over the past week the Academy has gathered together experts from the world of medicine, scientific research, theology and philosophy to the Vatican to discuss infertility, how it is diagnosed, how it can be treated and how it impacts couples.

Pope Benedict said : 'The human and Christian dignity of procreation, consists not in a 'product', but in its connection with the conjugal act, an expression of love of the spouses, their union which is not only biological but also spiritual'.

He said: 'This approach is moved not only from the desire to gift the couple a child, but to restore fertility to couple and with it all the dignity of being responsible for their own reproductive choices, to be God's collaborators in the generation of a new human being. The search for a diagnosis and therapy is scientifically the correct approach to the issue of infertility, but it must also be respectful of the integral humanity of those involved. In fact, the union of man and woman in that community of love and life that is marriage, is the only 'place' worthy for the call into existence of a new human being, which is always a gift'.

But what happens when even science cannot provide the answer to a couples desire for parenthood? Here the Pope warned against what he described as 'the lure of the technology of artificial insemination' where 'scientism and the logic of profit seem to dominate the field of infertility and human procreation, to the point of limiting many other areas of research'.

The Holy Father noted that 'So I would like to remind the couples who are experiencing the condition of infertility, that their vocation to marriage is no less because of this. Spouses, for their own baptismal and marriage vocation, are called to cooperate with God in the creation of a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that no organic condition can prevent. There, where science has not yet found an answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ'.

Pope Benedict: 'I encourage all of you gathered here for these study days, and who sometimes work in a medical-scientific dimension where the truth is blurred: to continue on their journey of a science that is intellectually honest and fascinated by the constant research for the good of man', not forgetting in this intellectual journey, the dialogue with faith. Citing his appeal expressed in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope said that Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly. '(n. 28). On the other hand, precisely the cultural matrix created by Christianity - rooted in the affirmation of the existence of truth and intelligibility of reality in the light of Supreme Truth - has made the development of in modern scientific knowledge possible in medieval Europe, a knowledge that in earlier cultures had remained but a seed'.

'Distinguished scientists and all of you members of the Academy who undertake to promote the life and dignity of the human person, also keep in mind your important cultural role in society and carry out the influence you have in shaping public opinion…people trust in you, who serve life, they trust in your commitment to support those who need comfort and hope. Never succumb to the temptation to treat what's best for people by reducing it to a mere technical problem! The indifference of conscience to what is true and good, represents a dangerous threat to genuine scientific progress'. [Vatican Radio] 1807.1 Feb 2012



  Parish Family Groups

Parish Family Groups http://www.everybodyswelcome.org.uk/family_groups.html



  What the Church says about divorce

What the Church Says About Divorce

“If either spouse causes serious danger to body or spirit to the other spouse or the children, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for separating…” Code of Canon Law

“…for people who have undergone divorce…it is even more necessary for the Church to offer continual love and assistance, without there being any obstacle to admission to the sacraments.” Pope John Paul II, in Familiaris Consortio, 1981

“Any baptized person who is not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion.” Code of Canon Law

“The Church does not admit to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried.” Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, 1981

“The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble. He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church

From www.familyministries.org






  Whatever you say don't say 'whatever'

Laurie PuhnHarvard lawyer, couples mediator and bestselling author of Fight Less, Love More GET UPDATES FROM LAURIE PUHN Like 887 Whatever You Do, Don't Say 'Whatever' Posted: 08/29/2012 

If you think being an agreeable mate is always a positive, think again. Does this argument sound familiar? Your mate asks, "What do you want to do for your birthday?" You answer, "Honey, whatever you want." Then you end up eating at the Italian Restaurant you absolutely hate, with your extended family, who are not on the top of your friends list. Watch this clip for a short play-by-play enactment of the "whatever" fight.

Using the word "whatever" because it's convenient and lets you off the hook for a decision is setting yourself and your relationship up for a downfall.

In a healthy relationship, two people often have different opinions and preferences, and they should express them. When you don't take the time to reveal your true thoughts, whether it's about where to eat, where to honeymoon, or who to sit with at your wedding, it's only a matter of time before you begin to resent your mate for not knowing what you really want. In turn, your mate begins to resent you for placing the burden of decision-making entirely on his or her shoulders.

Whether you are engaged, newly married, or years along in wedded matrimony, it's never too late to re-think your words and upgrade your relationship, one conversation at a time.

Rather than continuing to allow energy-draining "whatever" arguments to stress us out and poke holes in our relationships, we can recognize and sidestep blunder. If you find yourself about to utter the "whatever" word, whether it's because you want to be nice to your mate or in-laws, or because you simply don't want to be bothered with the decision, stop yourself and say, "I better think about this." Then say what you really want, or ask for a few more minutes to think about your answer.

You might end up in a disagreement, but that is a good thing because the end result will better reflect both of your desires. Listen to your mate's perspective, then ask that he/she listen to yours. Finally, look for a compromise. That's how to set up your relationship for long-term success. Happy couples do fight, but they also know how to make-up.

On the other hand, if your mate says "whatever" to you one too many times, don't get enraged, just engage him/her. Say, "I value your opinion and I would like to hear it," or "I know that sometimes I pressure you to agree with me, but the truth is that I like it when you have a different point of view. It helps us come to a better solution." If your mate still gives you a blank stare, say "how about if you take some time to think about this and we talk about it after dinner?"

From now on, to avoid the ridiculous "whatever" argument, take charge, engage your brain, and talk. Most likely, you will have a good conversation instead of a pointless argument.

Laurie Puhn, J.D., is a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, syndicated columnist and premier conflict resolution expert. 



  Marriage and Family and new Evangelisation

From

Bishops See Families As Agents Of Evangelization

OCTOBER 19, 2012 

Many married couples and families in the church pursue their life together in loving, committed and even heroic ways that “illuminate and warm this world of ours,” serving it as an “extraordinary light of love,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said in brief remarks Oct. 15 to the world Synod of Bishops in Rome. He is president of the Pontifical Council for the Family. 

The theme of the three-week synod assembly, which began Oct. 7, is “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” 

The new evangelization encompasses efforts not only to reach those who perhaps never have heard the Gospel, but also to reach out to Catholics who have drifted away from the church and to revitalize faith within Catholic communities. Archbishop Paglia was one of numerous church leaders who pointed in the synod to the important place of married couples and families in the new evangelization. 

Another delegate who spoke about this was Bishop Rene Sandigo Jiron of Juigalpa, Nicaragua. “Practically speaking, if in the new evangelization there is an interest in transmitting the faith, which is now in crisis, there must also be an interest in the family,” he said. And Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo maintained that “the new evangelization will succeed if it manages to restore the sanctity of marriage” in such a way that the family “becomes a little church.” It has been his experience, the cardinal explained to the synod, that his “pastoral work is simply an addition to what the family has already built.” 

The synod assembly heard repeatedly that the new evangelization ought to pay attention to married couples and families not only as recipients of evangelization by others, but as evangelization agents. Matrimony Itself a Gospel It was anticipated that sacramental marriage and family life would prove of interest for this synod. Its working paper, released in June, observed that “the Christian message on marriage and family is considered a great gift which makes the family the model place for witnessing to faith because of its prophetic capacity in living the core values of the Christian experience.” 

But it seems that with his homily for the synod’s Oct. 7 opening Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict assured that marriage and family life would hold places of some importance in the synod. He pointedly stated: “Matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a good news for the world of today, especially the de-Christianized world.” For Pope Benedict, “the union of a man and a woman, their becoming ‘one flesh’ in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God” forcefully and eloquently. Its value as a sign even is greater today because “for various reasons” marriage “is going through a profound crisis.” Marriage, the pope emphasized, “is called not only to be an object but a subject of the new evangelization.” 

One church leader who spoke in the synod about married couples and families as objects or recipients of evangelization was Panama’s Archbishop Jose Ulloa Mendieta. In its pastoral care, the church needs to accompany couples and families, he said. “We must dedicate more time and better resources to preparation for the sacrament of marriage,” the archbishop said. He also stressed the need to devote attention to already-married couples through programs designed to strengthen and prepare them “for the fulfillment of their commitments within the family, church and society.” The Family and Personal Presence 

A number of delegates insisted in synod presentations that to be effective, the new evangelization must encounter people in a personal manner, as Jesus did. According to some who spoke, what equips spouses and family members in a special way to be agents of evangelization is their capacity to make themselves personally present to each other, as well as to friends, associates and others. Nicaragua’s Bishop Sandigo spoke about this. He said: “We must not disregard the fact that growth in the church’s numbers may, in fact, have led to a lack of the personal attention that Jesus [would have given to people]. That is at the root of a situation in which many baptized persons do not feel they are treated as individuals, and ‘many baptized are not evangelized.’” However, a “personalized approach to transmitting the faith” requires that many in the church dedicate time to a great many individuals. For this to happen, it is “necessary to have the support of a family,” Bishop Sandigo observed. 

For Cardinal Puljic, it is the manner in which families transmit faith with the “heart” that makes them effective evangelizers. More than words are needed for evangelization, he indicated. He put it this way: “Faith is communicated much more with that which it is than with that which it states.” 

Archbishop Paglia extended his thinking about the family as an agent of evangelization to the church at large by suggesting that to be effective, evangelization needs to present faith in a “familial” manner. “Experience tells us that the church attracts if it is truly lived in a familial way,” he commented. “The church,” he proposed, “must become more the family of families, even the wounded ones.” Archbishop Paglia asked, “If we find pastoral infertility in so many corners of the world, isn’t it because we have become more of an institution than a family?” He added that “living the church in a familial way and the family as a small church is the challenge of a church of communion.”



  Between two faiths

When Two Faiths Meet 

Marriage, Family and Pastoral Care 

Ethical Principles 

When Two Faiths Meet Marriage, Family and Pastoral Care Ethical Principles for Ministers, Imams and other faith leaders Produced by the Christian Muslim Forum: 

1. Compassionate mediation of crises: in a sensitive safe space, use loving language without blame or adding to conflict 2. Work with external agencies: to ensure support and care is given to couples and families 

3. No violence: oppose all forms of violence and abuse including sexual, physical and psychological harm 

4. UK law: take into account UK law and advise legal registration of faithbased marriages 

5. Ethical pastoral support: keep the full ethical context of both partners in mind when dealing with an inter faith couple 

6. No forced conversion: ensure individuals are not forced or pressurised to convert in order to marry 

7. Non-judgemental care: support good psychological and mental wellbeing through reflection and preparation 

8. Prioritise welfare of children and encourage family relationships: across both faiths, nurturing, caring for families 

9. Promote good practice: lead by example, embodying shared values and offering guidance 

10. Be welcoming: ensure people of the other faith are welcomed 

The Christian Muslim Forum was founded in 2006, bringing together diverse Christians and Muslims from the spectrum of both traditions. We have built up a body of experience in dialogue and shared reflection on a range of issues including matters of ethical concern for both faiths in our plural society, especially our Ethical Witness Guidelines (2009). 

These new guidelines on inter faith marriage are offered for reflection to faith leaders, ministers and imams who work pastorally with couples of different religious identities or backgrounds and with their families and children. Muslims and Christians who work actively within their communities will also find these guidelines useful in navigating how best to support couples and families embarking upon inter faith marriage and relationships. 

These guidelines are produced in partnership with the Inter Faith Marriage Network and the Muslim-Christian Marriage Support Group. ‘Pastoral’ and ‘pastoral care’ are expressions which belong to the Christian tradition, though many imams will be familiar with them through working in chaplaincy. ‘Pastoral’ relates to ‘caring for the flock’, looking after the emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing of those who come to religious leaders at times of need, or even crisis. The word ‘nurturing’ covers much of these aspects and may be more familiar within the Islamic tradition. 

RECOMMENDATIONS Through our work and research, we have the following recommendations: 

1. We encourage Christian and Muslim scholars to revisit their theology and contextualise how each faith deals with spouses or children of other faiths. 

2. We ask both faith communities to create safe spaces in their congregations, share common values, and invite other faiths to observe, or share, in religious ceremonies, as appropriate 

3. Statutory and voluntary organisations providing services, e.g. relationship counselling or family therapy, need to provide faith sensitive support for Christians and Muslims. 

We are able and willing to support organisations and individuals in addressing these issues and plan to offer pastoral training for religious leaders and family workers in early 2012. 

Christian Muslim Forum 

Second Floor 

305 Cambridge Heath Road 

London E2 9LH 

Telephone 0207 729 6830 

www.christianmuslimforum.org info@christianmuslimforum.org www.facebook.com/groups/christianmuslimforum @chrismusforum Company Regn 5461960, Charity Regn 1114793 Inter Faith Marriage Network rosalind.birtwistle@yahoo.co.uk Muslim-Christian Marriage Support Group heather.alyousuf@hotmail.com

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  Healing Memories
http://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/flm/docs/DOC090413healing-09042013151207.pdf


  Confronting violence in family life

The impact of family violence:

Confronting Family Violence and its Spiritual Damage

by Nancy J. Ramsay

Harrison Ray Anderson Professor of Pastoral Theology, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary,

Fortunately, connecting images of family and violence is a jarring experience. The terms seem mutually exclusive. Sadly, they frequently arise together in the experience of families in this and every culture with potentially debilitating consequences for the emotional, spiritual, and relational well being of those affected.

While definitions of family vary, many presume that the concept of family includes the following characteristics: a group of persons connected by legal and relational commitments; a shared history; expectations of mutual care; temporary inequality in the mutuality of care due to developmental differences such as childhood and old age; affection and trust; possibly "blood" or kinship connection; relation over time or generations; a context of safe physical and emotional intimacy and vulnerability to each other; and varying structural forms of family.

Violence in the family refers to an abusive use of power or control to shame, humiliate, intimidate, injure, or destroy. It violates the integrity of another's person, well being, or rights. It is often in the form of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse that occurs across the lifespan most often to children, women, and the frail elderly. Often these forms of violence occur together. It is important to note that while some may tend to minimize the consequences of emotional or psychological violence, research suggests it may have more profound consequences than physical violence alone (Gelles 1997).

Violence in the family is a major public health crisis in the United States that has been allowed to flourish because of a remarkable silence on the part of civic and religious leaders (Leehan 1993). The statistical evidence is startling and sobering. For example, 38 percent of girls and 17.3 percent of boys experience sexual abuse prior to the age of eighteen (Russell, 1986; Urquiza & Keating, 1990). Violent attacks by men constitute the greatest health risk to women in this country where an estimated 3 to 4 million women are battered each year by their husbands or partners (Fortune, 1991). Adult Protective Services' files suggest that family members perpetrate two thirds of elder abuse (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 1997).

These statistics testify to the fact that our public health crisis is also a crisis for communities of faith. There is a compelling need for religious leaders to make informed responses to family violence in congregations, where victims, perpetrators of violence, and bystanders worship side by side (McClure & Ramsay, 1998; Nason-Clark, 1996,1999). For too long family violence in faith communities has been subject to what Nancy Nason-Clark aptly describes as the "holy hush" (1999). Yet, healing is especially assisted by rightly naming abuse in it various forms, compassionately assisting those who are victimized, confronting those who perpetrate violence in behalf of their repentance and renewal, and educating all in the community.

There are ample resources in Christian tradition and scripture to support informed and faithful responses to violence in families. Central to this effort is the biblical assertion that human life is created in the image of God for life in communities of mutual care and respect.

Womanist theologian Toinette Eugene describes violence in the family as "a sacrilege of God's Spirit in us" (1995). Liturgically, baptismal vows and marriage vows also uphold biblical themes of loving care, safekeeping, and mutual respect for family members. The fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12) addresses the importance of honoring parents (our elders). Two lynchpins of the destructiveness of family violence are [1] fear, terror, and helplessness and [2] the betrayal of bonds of care with the accompanying loss of trust and safety (Herman, 1992). Many find Psalm 55 an apt description of one who has experienced family violence: (4) My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. (5) Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me... (12) It is not enemies who taunt me–I could bear that: it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me–I could hide from them. (13) But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng. In these lines we hear well the themes of fear and terror as well as betrayal, the loss of trust, and the absence of safety that contemporary survivors of family violence in communities of faith would echo.

Experiences of violation, domination, and betrayal clearly contradict any Judeo-Christian vision for life in families. Researchers have documented well the far-reaching emotional, physical, and relational consequences of family violence (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 1997; Gelles, 1997). These consequences predictably include distortions in self-esteem, anxiety, eating disorders, distortions of body image, sexual dysfunction, disrupted relationships, dysfunction in school and work, increased risk of suicide, etc. (Russell, 1986). The spiritual consequences of family violence arise in relation to emotional, physical, and relational effects of intimate violence such as those noted above.

Our experience of who God is and of God’s presence in our lives and world is especially vulnerable to early family experiences. Fewer researchers have ventured to explore the related spiritual consequences of victimization in the family, precisely that context where love, safety, trust, and respectful care are presumed (Cooper-White, 1995; Fortune, 1991; Pellauer, Chester, & Boyajian, 1987). The havoc wreaked by fear and betrayal in emotional, relational, and embodied spheres of life is at least as serious for spiritual experience. The following discussion will briefly explore predictable theological issues and distortions that arise in families and faith communities because of intimate violence and distortions in church and culture that contribute to difficulties in healing from such violence.

Theological Themes Distorted by Family Violence

Creation in the Image of God A primary distortion caused by family violence lies in its conflict with the central affirmation of Christian faith that all persons are created in the image of God for life in communities of mutual respect and care. Mutual love is the ethical context God intends for human experience. Closely related is the affirmation that we are created as embodied persons whose embodiment deserves tender care that always respects the integrity and inviolability of each person.

God’s choice to dwell with us as a human being further emphasizes that bodies matter to God, and they need to matter to us. God’s incarnation in Jesus highlights the centrality of embodiment in Christian tradition and rejects any dualism that would deny or trivialize the inextricable relation of embodiment and human experience. We bear witness to God’s image in us and others through our practice of love for one another that is life enhancing, healing, and encouraging.

Family violence, whether witnessed or actually experienced, repudiates these central affirmations. It demonstrates a betrayal of the bonds of care in marital vows, parental obligation, or familial ties. Violence that evokes experiences of terror, fear, and helplessness, or colluding in such violence by tolerating it, defies God's intention for life in communities of loving care. Family violence is dehumanizing violence. It rejects God’s intention for the integrity of embodied life and relational commitments. Experiences of betrayal and terror at the hands of those from whom persons expect care, safety, and love have far reaching spiritual as well as emotional and relational consequences. As psychologists have reminded us, the human capacity to trust and imagine God as trustworthy is born of early experiences of familial care (Erikson, 1963; Pruyser, 1974) . The ability to imagine oneself as worthy of care and love also arises from experiencing reliably loving care, especially in primary relationships.

Certainly family violence that distorts God's intention for loving relationships does not preclude persons from trusting God's love for them, but it surely makes that a far more difficult possibility. Fear and betrayal in the context of primary relationships damage the very intrapsychic and interpersonal structures that allow us as human beings to respond freely and lovingly toward God and others as well as ourselves (E. Farley, 1990; Ramsay, 1998b).

Fear and betrayal set in motion various defensive, debilitating responses such as alienation, isolation, distrust, self protectiveness, shame, and guilt that once in place may become self perpetuating. Children who experience family violence often take responsibility for this abuse in order to sustain the illusion that the security of their world and the adults entrusted with safekeeping it are trustworthy. But the emotional and spiritual cost is high, for these children then define themselves as bad, dirty, unworthy of love or care and often assume that their abuse was justified in God’s eyes.

When abuse includes the violation of a child physically and or sexually, such fearful alienation and shame in relation to God and others may be even more profound. They experience adult power exercised in cruel and arbitrary ways that disregard the integrity of their persons and wills. When home is not a safe place for a child, the world itself is hostile rather than a gift that discloses the abundance of God’s creative love. Often family violence scars the abused child’s still developing religious imagination so that it becomes difficult to trust that God’s power is exercised differently from their experience of supposedly trustworthy adults. Even more seriously, many presume God’s love does not include them. Children who are victims of sexual abuse often experience yet another level of alienation and shame that may best be described as defilement (Williams, 1993b). Tragically, the locus of embodiment God intends precisely for our most profound experiences of intimate communion becomes a source of isolating shame and fear spiritually and relationally for many survivors of child sexual abuse.

Adults who experience domestic violence or elder abuse are differently vulnerable than children. A child’s capacities for interpreting intimate violence are still evolving. Adults affected by intimate violence are rendered more vulnerable spiritually when their previous life experience leads them to imagine themselves as less valuable or worthy than others, such as those who have been victimized by sexism and classism. Vulnerability is intensified when their understanding of the relation of God’s power and love allows them to imagine that God is the source of their suffering and causing the abuse either to punish or prepare them vocationally. When any of these distortions is in place, family violence has more isolating and dehumanizing consequences.

Suffering

Popularized interpretations of suffering in contemporary culture that do not differentiate suffering that arises as a consequence of sin from suffering that is undeserved undermine the capacities of survivors to resist the damaging effects of abuse and begin to heal from it. It is a form of revictimization for victims of family violence who find this explanation of suffering only deepens their pain, for it leads them to imagine God is the cause of their suffering that is somehow deserved or instructive (W. Farley, 1990).

On the other hand, confronting perpetrators of violence and bystanders who collude in such violence with the connection between suffering and sin as a corruption of human freedom may encourage their repentance and begin their healing. The failure to differentiate the source of suffering that arises from family violence deepens the consequences of such violence for victims, perpetrators, and the larger community that too often colludes with the violence through its silence.

When religious communities fail to name family violence rightly as an offense to God’s vision for human life and fail to insist on justice, their silence contributes to the perpetuation of violence. It also only worsens the burden of guilt and shame children who are victims and some adults wrongly bear. It intensifies the isolation and alienation from God that victims of family violence often experience. Tragically, it also prevents many survivors of abuse from drawing on the vast resources in scripture that bear witness to the power of God’s love actively to resist violence and seek justice for the vulnerable who are abused. Differentiating suffering allows survivors and the religious community better to recognize that God’s power is used in the service of God’s love and is inextricably related to justice.

In fact there is a fiercely tender quality to God’s compassion (Ramsay, 1998a). God’s compassion is a tender power that offers survivors of family violence a resounding validation of their worth and the integrity of their bodies and tender mercy in response to their suffering. As Psalm 23 suggests, God’s compassion is not mere consolation. It offers both spiritual and physical sustenance. It also fiercely resists those who would deform or destroy human life. It offers redemptive empowerment and courage to those who have experienced the dehumanizing effects of intimate violence. Just as God’s compassion encourages survivors of violence to resist the dehumanizing effects of abuse, it invites those in the religious community to respond with compassionate resistance rather than silence (W. Farley, 1990; Ramsay, 1998a).

When we in the religious community are able to incarnate for abused children and adults responses that offer tender yet empowering validation of their worth and insistence that such violence against them is offensive to God’s justice and love, they are better able to resist the dehumanizing effects of the fear and betrayal perpetrated against them. When we choose to incarnate God’s resistance to abuse, we bear witness to the healing power of God’s loving compassion. With children, whose religious imaginations are most vulnerable, bearing witness to God’s compassion and resistance is particularly important for the process of constructing a more life-giving image of God in their lives. For perpetrators of family violence, rightly naming the connection between suffering and sin creates the possibility for repentance and accountability that will allow them to seek God’s forgiveness and the renewal of their lives. Clearly there is deep spiritual alienation in the lives of those who choose to abuse children or other adults. The journey toward healing is arduous. Healing, whether for perpetrators, victims, or bystanders, cannot begin until the power of God’s love and commitment to justice are named rightly.

Hope

Suffering that arises from victimization or the sin of perpetrating such violence seriously inhibits the quality of hope and often the possibility of hope in the lives of victims and perpetrators. Hope rests on the capacity to imagine a future that is life enhancing and available. It presumes the narratival character of human life and especially the importance of the future tense to enliven the present and relativize the power of the past (Lester, 1995). Hope implies a sense of agency that allows persons to believe they can act in ways that will allow such positive change for their lives and trust that such change is possible. Christian hope transcends ordinary dreams for the future by placing particular human stories within the larger future story of the loving power and faithful promises of God.

Victims of family violence know intimately the terror of helplessness and the betrayal and violation of their bodies by persons whose love and care they believed they could trust. Such experiences of domination seriously undermine any adequate sense of agency. Often these experiences of domination include no intervention by others to offer help or protection. Fear, a pervasive sense of vulnerability to danger, and defensive efforts to exercise vigilant control often shape a subsequent life posture. In such a context the compassionate resistance that characterizes God’s love for the vulnerable offers survivors of violence a way to reimagine the possibility of hope for their futures.

Hope as resistance to the dehumanizing effects of violence is rooted in God’s fierce “no” to violence against the vulnerable that is recorded again and again in scripture. Such hope depends, of course, on the willingness of others to bear witness to this dimension of God’s love and embody that resistance in their presence with survivors. Hope as resistance is not experienced as a simple progression toward liberation from the fearful and guarded postures of survivors. Rather it is well described in the fugue-like relation of survival and liberation that is imaged in Psalm 23 (Ramsay, 1998a; Williams, 1993a). Here the first three verses describe an idyllic safety, but the next verses describe the continuing reality of danger; however, resistance emerges as redemptive hope when the Psalm pictures God as not only powerfully present but setting a table in the presence of our enemies. This image of hope provides both a sense of freedom and peace and sustains and protects when survival is all that is possible. It helpfully describes the way in which God’s compassionate resistance defies the finality of evil and restores a life giving future story (Lester, 1995) to survivors of family violence.

Love

Family violence not only reflects a distortion in understanding the redemptive power of God’s love. It also perpetuates corresponding distortions about love as it is experienced in human life. Christianity is guided by a three-fold love command recorded in the gospels: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind: and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27-28) Interpretation of this passage has been shaped by the importance that is also given to sacrificial love through interpretations of Jesus’ death, especially in Paul’s letters. The norm of mutuality found in the love command was eclipsed by the ideal of sacrificial love and the valorization of suffering rooted in these interpretations of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Until recent years interpreters of the love command have emphasized the importance of love of God and neighbor as if love of self were to be assumed and needed to be overcome as prideful or at least restrained in order to assure adequate love for God and others. Women who have been battered frequently describe the way these two interpretations together complicated their ability to believe their safety could justify leaving an abusive context. “Did I love him enough? Good Christians are willing to suffer in behalf of love. Shouldn’t I go back?” Given the history of interpretation in Christian tradition, such women have few resources for considering how too little regard for self may be as serious as pride or too much concern for self. Similarly, they have little assistance in discerning the importance of discriminating between Jesus’ voluntary suffering and their oppression, or the value of temporary sacrificial suffering as a means toward mutuality in relationships.

If we turn to the earlier affirmation of humanity’s creation in the image of God and use this doctrine as the interpretive lens about love, we recover the importance of each person’s identity and the norm of mutuality because God’s creative love is the source of each and all life equally (Ramsay, 1998b). Adequate self regard is not equated with self-gratification at the expense of others. Recovering clarity about mutuality of care and respect as the norm for life in community allows survivors of abuse to hear rightly God’s value for their well being and confronts perpetrators who would abuse their power in relationships with the sin inherent in their disregard for the other. As Daniel Day Williams wrote, “Love is that expression of Spirit that has communion in freedom as its goal” (1968).

When Jesus’ crucifixion is interpreted within the broader context of the breadth of God’s creative love for each and all, it becomes more apparent that Jesus’ choice to die on the cross does not idealize enduring suffering for its own sake. Rather, it reminds us that this death came because the whole course of Jesus’ ministry demonstrated a commitment to mutuality in love that retrieved God’s vision for the inextricable relation of love and justice. Jesus particularly modeled mutual regard with the marginalized of his time, seeking to empower them and restore to them a sense of their value in God’s sight. He chose the sacrificial love of the cross rather than deny this radically mutual image of God’s love for each and all. Particularly problematic for survivors of domestic violence is the way the image of Jesus’ death on the cross has been misinterpreted to idealize suffering without differentiating suffering temporarily chosen from suffering that is oppressively imposed.

This distortion, joined with the false subordination sexism imposes, renders women particularly vulnerable to accepting violence in their relationships. As theologian Elizabeth Johnson suggests: Structurally subordinated within patriarchy, women are maintained in this position, not liberated, by the image of a God who suffers in utter powerlessness because of love. The ideal of the helpless divine victim serves only to strengthen women’s dependency and potential for victimization, and to subvert initiatives for freedom, when what is needed is growth in relational autonomy and self-affirmation. The image of a powerless, suffering God is dangerous to women’s genuine humanity, and must be resisted. (Johnson, 1993.) If we attend to the violence that was done to Jesus, we realize this is “a story that teaches its readers how to work to struggle against suffering, not to glorify it” (Placher, 1994).

Marriage and Divorce

Another prominent distortion in popular interpretations of Christian theology that significantly jeopardizes those who find their spouses are violent is their certainty that divorce is a sin, and that leaving a violent marriage under any circumstances would alienate them from God’s love. This misconception presumes that maintaining the form of the family is more important than protecting the well being of individuals within it. It is true that Jesus spoke against divorce, but he also condemned the men who were calculating how to break their promises of care for their wives, who would have been without any resources as divorced women. (Matthew 5:27-32; 19:3-9)

In Christian and Jewish traditions marriages are understood as covenants rather than simply contractual arrangements. The distinction lies in the expectation of trust and care that profoundly deepens the quid pro quo character of a contract’s more limited reciprocity. As marriage vows in Jewish and Christian services suggest, the covenant of marriage describes a context of love and honor or cherishing of the other. These vows speak of the expectation of care that is not limited to careful calculation but is guided by generosity. Yet, these vows also situate marriage in a normative context of mutual care so that the equality of both partners is assumed. In Jewish and Christian scriptures, covenants between persons are reciprocal arrangements of care presuming mutually trustworthy commitments to particular obligations and responsibilities. There are consequences for not keeping faith with a covenant, and repentance is necessary to restore the integrity of such agreements. Such vows make it clear that the spouse who abuses their partner is the one who breaks the covenant, not the one who leaves to assure self-protection and the protection of children (Eilts, 1991). It is also significant that these vows are made publicly which underscores that the role of the community lies in helping to assure the integrity of the marriage vows. In some Christian communions marriage is a sacrament which elevates the significance of maintaining the marriage, but the witness of Jewish and Christian scriptures leaves no doubt that God’s love always intends protection of the vulnerable so that divorce is preferable to continuing life threatening and dehumanizing suffering for family members.

Forgiveness and Repentance

Issues of forgiveness and repentance are particularly complicated for survivors of family violence, for subsequent family relationships, and for congregations affected by such violence. Confusion around popular misunderstandings of the nature and dynamics of forgiveness often deepen further the painful isolation and alienation of abuse. Forgiveness is popularly understood by many Christians and the culture at large as an obligation of an injured party that immediately restores the integrity of the relationship and avoids any necessity for attending to accountability for change on the part of those who have caused harm.

In many families and religious communities one may hear the question, “Why can’t you just forgive and forget so the family can move on?” Such questions disclose several important misconceptions about the biblical injunction to forgive that can increase the pain of survivors of violence and inhibit not only their healing but also that of perpetrators and others who may be affected (Fortune, 1991). First, it presumes that forgiveness is an isolated, singular act rather than part of a larger process of accountability and justice. Second, it makes the victim of violence responsible for healing the family rather than addressing the perpetrator’s and community’s accountability. Third, it avoids any attention to the imbalance of power that violence discloses, again allowing the perpetrator and community to avoid accountability. Fourth, it suggests forgiveness is a quick if not immediate event rather like an eraser that “wipes the slate of memory (and obligation for repentance) clean.”

Biblically, forgiveness is located within a process of reconciliation that begins with the perpetrator’s admission of wrongdoing and willingness to engage in the work of repentance or fundamental change (Fortune, 1991). It begins with calling the perpetrator to account and only moves to forgiveness if, in fact, repentance occurs. When forgiveness is forced as the first and perhaps only step in a process of reconciliation, the only result is a form of “cheap grace” that in fact revictimizes survivors who may now feel guilt that they don’t want to forgive or who feel inauthentic for saying what they do not truly feel. Premature forgiveness also robs perpetrators of the opportunity truly to heal through the process of accountability justice requires.

Forgiveness is not the first or the only act needed for reconciliation. It is inextricably tied to the restoration of justice in the relationship that depends first on the one who violated the trust of the victim and the family. This initial responsibility of the perpetrator of violence to tell the truth and initiate a process of repentance reflects the need to rebalance the relationship by acknowledging how violence robs the victim of her or his rightful dignity. Indeed, New Testament language for forgiveness draws from a financial context in which forgiveness by the debtor would be impossible (Keene, 1995). It must begin by the wealthy one yielding his or her power. This financial imagery makes it obvious that the “poorer” victim of violence cannot be responsible for the “wealthy” perpetrator’s process of change.

Scripture also gives more attention to the importance of the community’s participation in seeking justice for the injured party. In Matthew’s gospel for example, members of the congregation and then the congregation as a whole may be expected to join with the injured party to seek justice (Matthew 18: 15-20). In the context of family violence it is in fact a source of great support when survivors of violence feel the congregation’s support not only as compassion that validates their loss and pain as wrong, but as encouragement to resist the dehumanizing effects of such violence, and as support to seek healing and justice. When congregations incarnate in this way God’s fierce tenderness, survivors of violence will suffer far less spiritual and emotional damage, for they will benefit from the redemptive witness of the faith community. The congregation also will benefit from taking responsibility clearly to embody God’s compassionate resistance to the dehumanizing effects of intimate violence. When congregations maintain a “holy hush,” (Nason-Clark, 1999) the spiritual consequences of abuse for them and the victims of violence are heightened by their failure to witness faithfully.

Finally, it is also important to note that while scripture clearly enjoins persons to forgive those who truly repent, it does not suggest that forgiveness is easy or quick. True repentance is itself an arduous process that unfolds, often haltingly, over time. Similarly, forgiveness often also requires a long process that is equally challenging. Even when it does occur, it does not presume restoration of the relationship as it once was intended to be. In many situations of family violence that would be unwise or impossible. The trust that was betrayed may not be reparable. Forgiveness does not mean that a survivor forgets what occurred. It simply means the survivor finds release from the immediacy of the traumatic memories, and the perpetrator receives the gracious opportunity to experience release from guilt.

Conclusion

We have explored some of the terrible consequences of intimate violence for the spiritual well being of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders who collude with the violence in silence or denial. Even this brief review quickly discloses the insidious effects of violence in homes that undermine those very possibilities God intends for human and spiritual fulfillment such as love, joyful embodiment, hope, and trust. Instead persons struggle with guarded isolation, physical, emotional, and spiritual alienation, and fear that often blocks their ability to feel the empowering tenderness of God’s compassion or the redemptive hope of God’s fierce resistance to the violence they experienced. Perpetrators are rarely held accountable for their sin against their children, spouses, or elders so that their bondage only grows more complete. Congregations often unwittingly collude in perpetuating intimate violence when they choose not to work proactively as well as responsively regarding abuse that affects conservatively 50 percent of the members either through past violence or current abuse.

Fortunately the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence in Seattle and many denominational offices offer educational resources that can help congregations begin to witness far more effectively and faithfully against intimate violence. Resources for preaching truthfully and skillfully about family violence are also beginning to emerge (McClure & Ramsay, 1998). The “holy hush” that has plagued religious leaders and congregations must give way to a resounding holy “no” to the dehumanizing effects of sexual and domestic violence. Only then will our witness incarnate the life giving power of God’s compassionate resistance to all that deforms and destroys human life.

Nancy J. Ramsay is Harrison Ray Anderson Professor of Pastoral Theology,

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary,

1044 Alta Vista Rd., Louisville, KY 40205.

Phone: (502) 895-3411.

Email: nramsay@lpts.edu.

References

Barnett, O., Miller-Perrin, C, & Perrin, R (1997). Family violence across the lifespan. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Cooper-White, P. (1995). The cry of Tamar: Violence against women and the church’s response. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Eilts, M. (1991). Saving the family: when is the covenant broken? In M. Fortune, Violence in the family (pp. 235-242). Cleveland: Pilgrim.

Erikson, Erik. (1963). Childhood and society, 2nd ed., revised and enlarged. New York: W.W. Norton.

Eugene, T. (1995). “If you get there before I do”: A womanist ethical response to sexual violence and abuse. In Grant, J. (Ed.), Perspectives on womanist theology (p. 10). Atlanta: ITC Press.

Farley, E. (1990). Good and evil. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Farley, W. (1990). Tragic vision and divine compassion. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Fortune, M. (1991). Violence in the family. Cleveland: Pilgrim.

Gelles, R.J. (1997). Intimate violence in families (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books.

Johnson, E.A (1993). She who is: The mystery of God in feminist theological discourse. New York: Crossroad.

Keene, F. (1955). Structures of forgiveness in the New Testament. In Adams, C. & Fortune, M. Violence against women and children. New York: Continuum.

Leehan, J. (1993). Defiant hope: Spirituality for survivors of family abuse. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Leehan, J. (1989). Pastoral care for survivors of family abuse. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Lester, A. (1995). Hope in pastoral care and counseling. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

McClure, J., & Ramsay, N. (1998). Telling the truth: Preaching about sexual and domestic violence. Cleveland: United Church Press.

Nason-Clark, Nancy. (1997). The battered wife: How Christians confront family violence. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Nason-Clark, Nancy. (1999). Shattered silence or holy hush: Emerging definitions of violence against women in sacred and secular contexts. Family Ministry, 13(1), 39-56.

Pellauer, M., Chester, B., &Boyajian, J. (1987). Sexual assault and abuse. San Francisco: Harper Row.

Placher, W.C. (1994). Narratives of a vulnerable God: Christ, theology, and scripture. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Pruyser, P.W. (1974). Between belief and unbelief. New York: Harper & Row.

Ramsay, N. (1998a). Compassionate resistance: An ethic for pastoral care and counseling. Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, 52, 217-226.

Ramsay, N. (1998b). Pastoral diagnosis: A resource for ministries of care and counseling. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Russell, D. (1986). The secret trauma: Incest in the lives of girls and women. New York: Basic Books.

Urquiza, A., & Keating, L. (1990). The prevalence of sexual victimization in males. In Hunter, M. (Ed.) The sexually abused male. Vol. 1.: The prevalence, impact, and treatment. (p. 90). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Williams, D. (1993a). Sisters in the wilderness. Mary Knoll, New York: Orbis. Williams, D. (1968). The spirit and the forms of love. New York: Harper and Row.

Williams, D. (1993b). A womanist perspective on sin. In Townes, E. (Ed.), A troubling in my soul: Womanist perspectives on evil and suffering (pp. 146-147). Mary Knoll, NY: Orbis.



  A Lifeline for troubled marriages



  National Marriage Week 7th - 14th Febuary

 

 

National Marriage Week 7th - 14th February

(clue: National Marriage Week always falls on the week of Valentine's day)

Celebrate marriage!

The only limit to what�s possible is your imagination! Here are some ideas to get you started! Let us know your ideas and plans and we�ll add them to the list.

 

Church and community groups

Host a romantic dinner for married, and other couples, with candle-light and champagne, and a talk on a marriage related subject.

Offer a service or celebration of Re-affirmation of wedding vows, complete with wedding breakfast to follow

Run a marriage enrichment course � it could be an hour, a day, several evenings or whatever suits your community. There are lots of published resources available like the Family Caring Trust's COUPLE ALIVE available from www.familycaring.co.uk and from FLM Leeds 0113 261 8050.

Use the week to publicise all the work you do supporting couples and families in both the good times and the tough

Offer free �Marriage MOTs� using some of the established relationship inventories, or even just a simple quiz you devise yourselves.

Find the longest married couples in your community and celebrate with prizes from the local businesses and shops

Write a letter to the editor or offer to write an article about why your community should celebrate Marriage Week. Include marriage, divorce, out-of-wedlock and information about local marriage strengthening initiatives available to improve things

Run a film night for couples in your community and get them talking about some of the issues raised

Create a �Ten Most Affordable (or most romantic, or most creative) Marriage Dates� list or contest for your community. Get these to the media � radio, TV, newspapers, community newsletters. Ask your local radio stations to promote a contest � keep the focus on Marriage � not just any old date, but ideas for the best Marriage Dates.

Hold a �How this marriage has had an impact on my life� or a �Why I think this is a great Marriage� essay contest for children (lessons learned, examples set, why they want a marriage like this when they grow up, etc.) Award prizes, get the media involved. Marriages described could be those of their parents, relatives, ancestors or one of local, state or national significance.

 

Couples

Take time out to do the things you did when courting that made that time magical!

Write love notes to each other and leave them around your home for each other to discover

Re-affirm your wedding vows � ask your local church or registrar what opportunities they can offer � or just do it in a private ceremony yourselves with family and friends

Take the Marriage Week �10 minute challenge� � download the resource from www.marriage-week.org.uk/challenge

Invite some other married couples round for a romantic dinner and then watch a movie together to celebrate the good times

Make a �loving act pact� with each other, committing you to one positive act of love with/for each other every day/night for the week � and watch the impact on the rest of the year!

Buy a book (or DVD) on strengthening your marriage and read (or watch) it together this week. You might even learn  'How to improve your marriage without talking about it'  by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny 

More books and dvds available on this website at 'Contact' and 'Resources Library'.

Get the house to yourselves, close the curtains, put on your favourite music, dance together, cook a meal together, tenderly feed each other. Fun � even if messy!

Write each other a love letter telling your spouse just how special they are and what you appreciate about them. Lower the lights, and read your letters to each other.

Companies

Got a product or service specially for couples? This is the week to launch it or publicise it � the press will be alert for marriage related news this week.

Have a �Go home to your spouse� evening when you encourage all employees to make time for their families and loved ones

Divorce lawyers and solicitors � why not declare a moratorium on divorce for just this week �NO divorces filed or granted during Marriage Week UK�. Just schedule some vacation that week if that�s what it takes. Get this idea to the media.

Use the week to conduct a specific review of marriage-friendly policies for the workplace. One example could be to give your employees the day off for their wedding anniversary.

Find someone to run a marriage enrichment programme for your employees and their spouses in their lunch hour, or after work.

"Marriage Week - for everyone who loves healthy marriage"

 

 

 



  Marriage Prayer



  Humanae Vitae a summary by Diana Russell
http://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/flm/docs/HUMANAE VITAE Diana Russell.docx



  The Marriage Challenge

Subscribe to Care for The Family's The Marriage Challenge, a series of  short interviews with couples about their various experiences of different aspects of marriage and family life. This week's is 'The Empty Nest', how it was for one couple when their children both left for university.

Empty Nesters 



  Teams
‘Teams' is an organisation for Christian married couples who want to develop their relationship with God both personally and as a couple. They do this as member of a Team of about 4 to 6 couples and a spiritual counsellor meeting together for a meal and to discuss, pray and share the ups and downs of everyday life.

Pat and Tony Banks are the Regional Couple for Northern England.

You can find out so much more about Teams at www.teamsgb.org.uk



  Natural Fertility Leaflet
An Introductory leaflet with details of how to contact a trained NFP teacher: /flm/docs/NFPTA General Leaflet p1.docx


  What's distinct about Catholic weddings?

A thoughtful presentation on what Catholics understand about marriage and what happens at weddings (and why):

What's With Catholic Weddings?

 



  Relate for relationship support

Along with Marriage Care (www.marriagecare.org.uk), Relate is the largest provider of relationship support in the united Kingdom. Support can be accessed in different ways as a browse through the website www.relate.org.uk would show.

From Relate's website:

We are a force for change

We work to champion the importance of relationships in society and in the media. We work with the government to ensure relationship support is kept at the heart of public policy. We carry out research to determine how our relationships are changing and make recommendations on how government policy should respond.

We are stronger together
We work together with partner organisations to raise national awareness of relationship issues. We're a member of The Relationships Alliance, Kids in the Middle coalition, and the Family Room group.

We also work in partnership with Marriage Care to give you easy access to relationship education, training and coaching. Together, we aim to help you strengthen and nurture relationships in the early days, or as your relationship becomes more serious.

 



  New Annulment Guide 2018

The guide to the annulment process in England and Wales has been updated to take account of the 2015 motu proprio of Pope Francis, entitled Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, ‘The Gentle Judge, our Lord Jesus, the Shepherd of Souls'.

Download your fee copy of the guide here. 

See the note on the Pope's motu proprio by Rev Fr Brendan Killeen here. 

For more on the annulment process in England and Wales go to Catholic Family

 



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