The first time I stepped on the doorstep of a church, being led by my grandmother Domnica, I was probably about 5 years old and, as the Soviets closed the church in our village, the nearest church was about 4-5 kilometres away, in the neighbouring village, Pitușca. For a child it was not exactly the most fun experience, to walk so many kilometres, then to attend mass, standing up, without the right to bother, I mean to wriggle around, talk, drink water, go out, then – take the thousands of steps back home. The difficult road to the mass has just made me remember forever some situations: predominantly women came to church, sang in the church choir, familiarized children with the church (mothers or grandmothers). Only women took care of the cleaning of the churches, the church feast, and the baking of the communion wafers. Of course, priests were always exclusively men.
Since then, from childhood until today, in my mind women have remained like indestructible pillars of the church, without which, probably many of these holy sites would dramatically diminish their meaning.
I know many cases when women addressed the church, the priests, for help in their relations with violent husbands. I do not doubt that, somewhere, the priests would have helped to solve the problem, but the cases I know have not given good results. The priest is not to blame here: the violent person, as a rule, does not go to church, does not believe in the scriptures and does not live according to the Bible. Then it is extremely difficult to correct the behaviour of someone you don’t know, who doesn’t share your values and doesn’t consider you an authority.
I was deeply saddened to follow the rhetoric of the Metropolitan Church of Moldova regarding the ratification of the Istanbul Convention (Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence).
How did the Metropolitan Church end up not condemning those who beat women and children, those who molest or sexually abuse children, or those who kill pedestrians on the sidewalk, those who sell weapons and use them, those who organize hunters in the forests and shoot among themselves, those who steal from public money and let pensioners starve to death? Why did the Metropolitan Church choose to condemn this convention?
After all, Moldova is a signatory to dozens of international treaties and conventions, but the Metropolitan Church did not comment on the Atomic Energy Treaty, the Humanitarian Law Treaty or the Outer Space Agreement. Nor should it, because Moldova is a secular state and none of these treaties affects the life of the church, nor has the Istanbul Convention disturbed the liturgies in the dozens of states that have ratified it.
The world is constantly evolving. Even the Church has developed a lot, from an entity that burned Giordano Bruno on fire, because it predicted the infinity of the Universe, which sentenced Galileo Galilei to house arrest until his death because he claimed that the earth revolves around the sun, which forbade Copernicus’ books and challenged Newton’s discoveries. Over time, the Church has accepted, along with society as a whole, the conquests of science, and today’s places of worship and priests’ lives are inconceivable without technology, the internet and modern equipment.
The church’s attitude towards violence has also evolved. The Catholic Church in France, for example, has gone so far in cooperating with the state that it has recently undertaken to report to the police the cases of violence that will be communicated to it during the parishioners’ confessions.
The Catholic Community of Bishops in the United States has long made public its message of support for victims of domestic violence. A public post entitled “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women” explains in steps what a pastor, a church worker, should do when he learns of a case of domestic violence: 1) to take care of the safety of women and children; 2) to be involved in the responsibility of the abuser; 3) to help restore the relationship (if possible) or to help the parties overcome the loss of the relationship.
I am sure that there are priests who hold to this pillar of the Church – women, and, wanting to have healthy, spiritually fulfilled parishioners, they support them just when their lives and health are endangered. Probably, priests could attract to the Church also violent men, left alone in the face of chronic problems: migration, alcoholism, psychological difficulties, communication, unemployment, poverty, stereotypes. There are so many issues that affect men, and the Church is seen as a part of the community that does not judge but helps the weakest.