A document titled ``Domestic Violence,'' produced by the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace and the bishops' Pastoral Commission, argued that the language of the Scriptures needs to be explained so that it is not interpreted as being anti-women.
The document identifies seven New Testament readings which it said ``would be better omitted from the new lectionary,, currently in preparation'' in Rome.
The readings are Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6; Titus 2:4-5; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:3-16; 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The first four of these texts are in the current lectionary.
Ephesians 5:21-32 formed the second reading at Mass on Aug. 27. That passage in Ephesians includes the phrase ``Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.''
The document adds that if the identified scriptural passages ``are quoted, in any context, they should be suitably commented on in the light of contemporary church teaching.''
The overall level of reported crime in Ireland has fallen in the past three years, but the number of reported incidents of domestic violence has continued to rise. Officials believe that only one-third of women who suffer domestic abuse report it.
About 40 percent of those who contact support services do so to seek advice rather than to bring criminal charges against abusive partners.
Each year, in the Irish Republic, which has a population of about 3.6 million, 18,000 women contact women's shelters for help.
Last year, nearly 8,000 abused women contacted a telephone help line run by Women's Aid and more than 1,200 calls were received from callers speaking on behalf of women suffering abuse.
Statistics show that women who are pregnant are particularly vulnerable. Women's Aid claims that more than a third of women who suffer physical violence report that they were assaulted while carrying a child.
While the document notes that most reported cases of domestic violence are by men against women, ``it would be a mistake to presume that all domestic violence is perpetrated solely by one gender against another.
``Women, too, can be guilty of violence against men. There is increasing reason to believe that more such cases than is commonly believed remain unreported, for the same reasons that many cases of violence against women are not reported,'' it said.
In a forward to the document, Bishop Laurence Ryan of Kildare and Leighlin, president of the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, and Bishop William Walsh of Killaloe, secretary of the Pastoral Commission, wrote: ``In the past, more people than was realized suffered the wordless martyrdom of domestic violence in silence and without redress. Thankfully, awareness of domestic violence, its scope and diversity, is now far more widespread. This is one of the healthy aspects of our contemporary society. Naming domestic violence as an abuse is one of the first steps in countering it.
``The church has not been without its share of responsibility in the past, and we acknowledge this. Within marriage the mutual submission of spouses was often overlooked or equated with unilateral dominance. There is no ground in the teaching of the church today to justify domestic violence.
``Rape is rape whether within or outside the marriage relationship,'' the document added. ``A wife or husband has the right and possibly the duty not to stay in a seriously abusive relationship.''
The document defines domestic violence as ``an abuse of power'' and ``any action which unnecessarily and unjustifiably causes pain or distress either physically, psychologically, or emotionally within close-knit relationships.''
Although rape within marriage has been a criminal offense in the Irish Republic since 1990, the document said some women do not realize they always have a choice in their sexual behavior within marriage.
The document also lists nonphysical forms of domestic violence, including verbal and emotional abuse, isolation, economic abuse, such as withholding money, and pornography.
Paying tribute to church groups and individuals and groups outside the church who have highlighted the issue of domestic violence in the past, Bishops Ryan and Walsh wrote: ``The church, like other sectors, has had its learning curve, and there is still a long way to go. We therefore address this document in the first instance to the Catholic community in Ireland; to the victims of domestic violence; to perpetrators; to those with pastoral responsibilities; to families and friends of victims; to educators and to the faithful who in their daily lives and occupations may be called in conscience to address the issue in different ways.''