By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published September 18, 2014 | En Español
The Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women holds an annual convention that rotates each year to different metro Atlanta locations. It is always a fun-filled occasion for the women who gather for friendship, sharing, prayer, support and, of course, lots of laughter. I have been privileged to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist for the past 10 conventions, and I applaud the organizers for bringing such energy and joy to the gathering.
Father Bill Williams serves as the council’s spiritual advisor and has given himself generously to the service of the AACCW. I am certain he would admit that he has received at least as much as he has contributed to this vitally important group of our people. While there are a few husbands, sons, brothers and clerics who attend the Sunday morning Mass, those who gather are indeed focused on the gifts that these women and all of their colleagues bring to our homes, parishes and archdiocesan community.
In my closing remarks to the participants at this year’s convention, I had to reflect on the recent news attention to a terrible plague that is all too present in our society—and that is violence against women.
Much of this attention has come because of the brutality of some high-profile sports stars against their wives, fiancées or acquaintances. Nonetheless, we all know that these public figures are not the only ones guilty of such behavior. Women are victims of violence in homes, in public places and secret ones as well. Men who attack women may not consider themselves violent or criminals, but they are simply wrong in that self-evaluation. Violence against women occurs in affluent homes as well as in poor ones. It can be physical and verbal. Such brutality speaks every language and can be found in every cultural context. Young women and mature women can be victims. And this tragedy deserves our attention, our prayers and our resolve to address it.
When I looked out at the faces of the AACCW membership, I could see the faces of my own mother, my grandmother and my sisters, and my heart sank to think of them as having been vulnerable or subject to such violence. Young women in our schools often know what it means to be at risk. It is a familiar plague in too many homes and communities.
Now that our attention has been drawn to this issue, we should take this occasion to teach our young men that violence against women is both cowardly and sinful. These sports figures have high-profile recognition because of their athletic skill and prowess. They make lots of money and enjoy public adulation and respect. But what they do to women should not be overlooked because of their prominence, and most assuredly such behavior must not be imitated or condoned.
Our young men are impressionable, and we must take this opportunity to let them know that “star power” is no excuse for harming women. There are no women who deserve to be hurt or attacked, and uncontrollable rage is no excuse for such violence.
Our young men are influenced by many provocations well beyond the public disclosure of the activities of sports stars. They listen to the lyrics of rap music that too often denigrate women. They play video games that display dreadful violence against women. These resources often influence and confirm the negative attitudes that too many of our young men experience and unfortunately sometimes transfer into their behavior against women.
Our Church has a role to play in helping to shape the attitudes and behavior of young and mature men. Jesus’ attitude toward women was one of respect. He engaged them at moments and under circumstances that defied societal norms—like at a well in Samaria. He protected them from the violence of the retribution of religious laws—when they might have been stoned. He counted women among his closest friends and visited their homes and enjoyed their hospitality. He first revealed himself as risen from the dead to a woman of faith. These examples of tenderness and respect remind us of how a real man cares for and respects the women in his life.