“Ask a Priest: I am in an abusive relationship… Will Jesus still love me if I leave my husband?”

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Q: I have been with my husband for 22 years. We were baptized Catholic in November 2012, we have two children, ages 12 and 5. I want to know if Jesus will still love me if I leave my husband. I have put up with abuse all these years — emotional and, for a number of years, physical. Our son has special needs and [my husband] calls him a retard! He calls me worse in front of the children and gets them to do the same. I have tried, I really have. But I do not want our children to grow up and think this is normal, that it is OK for men to treat women this way. I love Jesus with all my heart and do not want to lose him from my life. -C.G.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It sounds as if your husband has severe psychological problems and is in need of professional help. For your own emotional well-being and physical safety you might consider an immediate separation, especially if your husband refuses to seek professional help.

Know that Jesus loves you and will always love you. You can count on that. Moreover, the Church in no way condones abuse by a spouse.

The Code of Canon Law in No. 1153 §1 states, “A spouse who occasions grave danger of soul or body to the other or to the children, or otherwise makes the common life unduly difficult, provides the other spouse with a reason to leave, either by a decree of the local Ordinary or, if there is danger in delay, even on his or her own authority.” The kind of abuse you describe is a violation of justice and charity. It is a wrong that should be resisted and, with the help of God’s grace, righted.

You need to find help as soon as possible. It won’t be easy to separate from your husband and to find ways to help him. A parish priest could help. Your diocese probably has a family-life office that could give advice too. Think about legal help too, if appropriate.

See these steps as acts of love you can do for your spouse and children. The abuse is probably not something you can fix on your own. In the meantime try to maintain your prayer life. Stay close to the sacraments. Try to network with people who can support you as well as respect your faith. And above all, remember that Jesus loves you and only wants the best for you and your spouse and your children. If temporary or permanent separation is required to this end, so be it. Our Lord will understand. God bless you and count on my prayers for you and your family at Mass.

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