Challenging suppositions: catholic clergy perspectives and practices regarding intimate partner violence

Committee members: Connie Corley, Dale Weaver

Thesis (M.S.W.) California State University, Los Angeles, 2012

Catholic, Clergy, Intimate Partner Violence, Priests

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a prevalent issue throughout the United States. Many victims turn to their pastors or religious leaders for help and support with domestic violence. However, there is limited information about the actual perspectives and responses of Catholic clergy towards parishioners who are confronted with IPV. This study examined the knowledge and practices of six Catholic priests. In-depth interviewing was used to collect the data. The findings illustrated the insight these six participants have regarding domestic violence as well as their typical practices. The majority of the priests perceived IPV to be impacting women and consisting of physical, verbal and emotional abuse. The clergy reported they respond to parishioners dealing with IPV by providing them with support, limited pastoral counseling, along with referring them out to professionals. Most of the priests expressed that divorce is considered when there is ongoing abuse and the victim is not safe.