Q – How does the commandment “Honor your father and your mother” apply to people with abusive parents? If they remain unrepentant, how far do obligations to such parents extend?
A – Thank you for the question. Abuse is always a horrible thing, esp. when the innocent are abused. No child deserves any kind of abuse and yet many children still believe they brought it on themselves. This is simply not the case. The one who is abusive is the guilty party.
But, there is always the great blessing of our heavenly Father, who will never let us down. He is the one we should always have absolute faith in.
With this being said, the Catechism spells out the duties of children to their parents. I will emphasize certain parts.
2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so.
As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, we cannot allow anyone, including a parent, to abuse us. If this means cutting off the relationship from a completely cruel parent, we must. If it means involving the authorities, then we ought to. We can still fulfill the commandment by acknowledging they gave us life and we can still pray for them and hope for the best for them without bearing a grudge or wanting revenge. This is still honoring abusive parents.
We are called to love our enemies, even when they are our parents. Yet, love means choosing what is best for them regardless of what it costs me. Sometimes what is best for another is to put some distance between yourself and others, so there is no more abuse.
When a parent abuses a child, they are not acting with the authority God gave them to parent the child. Thus, the child need not stay in the situation in order to honor them.
Should you still honor your abusive parents? Yes. But, with on the condition that you understand that honoring them may mean some of the following may have to happen:
- reporting abuse to seek justice and protect others.
- maintaining a safe distance to avoid abuse – up to the point of ending the relationship if needed.
- pray for them.
- not hold on to hatred / grudges / revenge.
- acknowledge the gift of life they gave you.
- helping their children (you).
- never give up hope that God can change them, even if you have to end having a relationship with them.
I hope this helps.
I ask all of our readers to pray for victims of abuse and those that abuse others. (0)
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