Gregory Jaquet thinks Catholic-inspired Latin American culture creates the framework for domestic violence.
In Latin America, as far as I know, and in the rest of the world, as I suspect, the Roman Catholic religion creates generations of violent men.
We could talk about that freely if we were not surrounded by a society with so many persons believing in the interpretation of God’s plan as made by the Catholic church. They follow living rules allegedly established by Him, with little discussion on how they might be interpreted. Well, I’d like to discuss that. Can we?
The reasons often posited, when men are violent — especially with their wives and children — are as follows: anger, frustration, jealousy, difficulty in regulating strong emotions, and the engrained idea that they have the right to control women.
These are the kind of men, it seems to me, that Catholic Latin American culture seem to generate. They often follow the Church’s strict principles on social life — especially sexual life. I meet these people everyday in the Institute where I work. 500 of them weekly. They have been violent with their families or they are desperately trying to fight their anger and frustrations so that they avoid battering their children and wife.
Religious culture, of course, is not the only reason. But it has to be considered as an important cradle for many family problems. The emotional life of these men, guided by the principles they inherited from strict Catholic teachings, are imbalanced and painful. And I’ve seen enough of them to argue that they can and often do lead to violent behaviors in men.
The problem is in socio-cultural education rather than in proper religion. But this education will not change or evolve as long as new principles are not tolerated by the one and only spiritual guide of Latin America: the Roman Catholic Church.
These are the social life rules followed by the violent men I’ve met here:
Sex is prohibited before marriage and is meant for procreation only. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive (between spouses) purposes — says the Catholic Catechism.
Besides the conflict between that rule and the natural need for sexual pleasure is the irresponsible order to marry someone without knowing him/her sexually. Without considering the quality of that part of the relationship. What kind of advice is that? Frustrated men considering sex as prohibited first and compulsory but with a defined goal first and in a defined moment second is the reality of many here in Latin America. Frustration, hidden emotions and compulsory liars are on the way!
I understand the romantic ideal of a life where desire is managed to be directed only to one partner for a lifetime. But times have changed the way sexuality is considered in everyday life. Being good or bad is not the problem. Ordering people in a reformed society to live according to teachings from an idealized one generates frustrations and anger. And, I’d argue, domestic violence.
Oh, and Young Men: Don’t even think about masturbation as a way to cope with your desires. That will diminish God’s good plans for you. After all:
“Masturbation is an offense against love, because it makes the excitement of sexual pleasure an end in itself and uncouples it from the holistic unfolding of love between a man and a woman,” says the Youcat (the social guide to a Catholic life, for young people).
Very young couples set up families due to those rules. Those unwanted, immature families begin dysfunctional relationships that can eventually become violent for the reasons mentioned above.
Contraception and abortion are not allowed. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception). Those young couples have undesired babies condemned to a difficult life in a family far from what the Bible declares ideal. And in a cradle for emotional instability, anger and violence. And divorce is not an option!
Abortion is strictly prohibited in Costa Rica, for instance. As are triple tests during pregnancy to identify trisomy or down syndrome on foetuses. Same with medically assisted procreation. What is considered a fundamental right in many countries remains here completely prohibited.
Adultery is a federal crime in the United States of Jesus Christ, a Commandment all to itself. Once men have chosen their spouse because she’s Catholic and nice (and because they love her, as love is so much higher than desire, I know…), they’ll have sex with her only. And start ignoring their own desire for other persons. And be held to this rule for a lifetime. Frustration again. How many of them will be unfaithful and hide it? How might men act differently if they could make their own ethical choice on this issue rather than have it instilled into them as a rule? I don’t know, but it’s worth discussing.
As they learned how bad it is to commit adultery and as the community around them reinforces this they also develop a kind of pathologic jealousy.
Years go by in their marital life and the risk of committing adultery on their wives begins to grow. They know that. But they can’t cope with the possibility of that adultery going public — the mix of shame and loss of salvation they’ll endure. That jealousy, from what I’m learning of these men, leads many to build walls around their wives and control them so harshly that it often leads to violence. Surely there are other ways to remain faithful rather than to be beat over the head with a rule and publicly shamed for failing to comply?
We’re receiving 500 men a week at the Instituto WEM. They mostly come to receive emotional help during marital crisis. Without a proper statistic in hand, I can safely say that 9 out of 10 are unfaithful and extremely jealous.
A man (a fantastic man, I agree, a master…I am Catholic) wrote 2000 years ago:
“But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
Because of that very romantic sentence, millions of Latin American men today believe they are already daily adulterers — and they are so personally shamed that they can’t talk to anyone about it. This locked-in emotional frustration often leads to physical acts. And because many men already believe that their thoughts made them adulterers, how many simply take the next step and actually become a physical adulterer? After all, there are no levels, right? Thought and action both go against the Commandment in equal regards.
Gays are suffering a mental disorder. According to the Catechism, gays violate natural law, cannot bring forth life, and do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
It sounds like a joke.
For maintaining that rule in modern life, the Catholic Church is nothing short of responsible for the suffering of millions of Latin American boys. Who can choose between exile from their community, a life of lies in a dysfunctional heterosexual marriage, a hidden life and/or depression?
We know something we did not when the Bible was written: gays exist and there are a lot of them. Same as elsewhere in the animal kingdom. They are not sick. If Jesus and His friends who wrote the Book knew that, would they have decided for this teaching? Obviously not, considering the other tolerant and benevolent principles. Frustrated gay men living in heterosexual marriages in crisis are a surprisingly common issue in the people I’ve met.
Men are in charge, powerful and dominant. No doubt male domination is not a Catholic Church creation. But as described above, it is perpetuated by the spiritual guide who keeps the power to the man. Every symbol, all the canonical powers, every event linked to the Church shows us the enormous domination of males over essentially reproductive use of the women. Men have the voice, the power, the political clout. Alone.
Being strong, not crying, hiding emotions, fixing problems, leading families, those responsibilities loved by men that can experience the good side of oppression are leading to emotional crisis and legitimate domination. Both effects create another cradle for domestic violence in imbalanced families.
Don’t talk about intimate life, emotions and sex. All those teachings lead to a big silence. While sadness, fear or anger are growing in men’s souls, there’s culturally no space for confession and help.
Men are supposed to be strong and ignore sexuality and desire until they’re married. There’s nothing to talk about until then. After marriage, sex must be exclusive with their wives, and on reproductive purpose only. Divorce, masturbation and weaknesses are not issues. Still no need for discussion. Churches can claim they’re the place to confess, to look for help and salvation. Looking for emotional help considering those prohibitions is like being rescued by a stone while drowning.
Why is there no way to understand Holy Orders as a direction we should take, a moral indication of what is worse and better, instead of as a definitive rule? If this were the case we could adapt with society and more easily move towards equity and freedom.
Historical soccer rules were changed, adapted to the reality of the game. Without losing the original direction of it. Why is it that the Church’s bosses don’t decide to take the Bible as a, well, Bible, instead of as a Book of Strict Rules? I don’t know. What I know from my Central American experience is that sanctified marriage and medieval rules for sexuality certainly help give rise to violent men.
We could consider this of no importance, as every human is free to adopt the behavior he likes. But religious principles still are common rules in many countries. Where I live, God is in every moment of everyday lives. A lot of people are praying, reading the Bible in buses, and referring to God’s will to explain any situation or expectation. They are doing their best to lead their lives according to the Catechism. Boys and girls really work hard not to share intimacy before marriage, use contraception, abort or reveal homosexuality.
As long as the Catholic Church stays firm on social principles, the Latin American culture will continue growing with ancient rules paving the way for unhappy families.
—Photo Francesca Special K /Flickr