Are there any formal Catholic Teachings on honoring abusive fathers & mothers?

Just wondering if there is any guidance that the Church provides for honoring one’s parents in cases of severe abuse. I had a similar question on another forum, but no one provided any Church Teachings, so thought I’d try here.

Forgive them. It is something you will never forget because it affected your life. But to forgive them will set you free.

You may not be able to enjoy going to visit them if you are an adult. If you don’t want to be close to them, and it probably would be a two-way street being that they are abusive, that perhaps they would not want to be close to you either. You don’t have to expect to be visiting them for lengthy stays, or talking on the phone every day. But they are still your parents and though you don’t feel comfortable with them, at least forgive and pray for them.

Why they were abusive would also help to know. Maybe they were abused themselves and don’t know how to love.

Most Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - I adore thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference’s whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.

“Let this prayer be echoed all over the world.” - Mary


2251 Children owe their parents respect, gratitude, just obedience, and assistance. Filial respect fosters harmony in all of family life.

2208 The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world."12

2209 The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.

The first duty of parents towards their children is to love them. Nature inculcates this clearly, and it is customary to describe parents who lack this affection as unnatural. Here the offence is against a distinct virtue which the theologians call pietas, concerned with the demeanour reciprocally of parents and children. Hence the circumstance of this close relationship must be made known in confession when there is question of sins of this sort. In the case of serious damage done by parents to their children, besides the sin against justice there is contracted the quite different malice derived from this propinquity. This virtue, interpreting the precept of the natural law, also requires parents diligently to care for the proper rearing of their children, that is, to provide for their bodily, mental, and spiritual well-being. This is so even in the supposition that the children are illegitimate. Parents are guilty of grievous sin who treat their children with such cruelty as to indicate that their conduct is inspired by hatred, or who, with full intent, curse them or exhibit a notable and unreasonable preference for one child rather than another. Parents are bound to support their children in a manner commensurate with their social condition until these latter can support themselves. The mother is bound to do nothing to prejudice the life or proper development of her unborn infant, and after birth she must under pain of venial sin nurse it herself unless there is some adequate excuse.

A father who is idle or unthrifty so that his family is left without fitting maintenance is guilty of grievous sin. Parents must see that their children obtain at least an elementary education. They are bound with special emphasis to watch over the spiritual welfare of their children, to afford them good example, and to correct the erring. The teaching of the Church is that the right and duty to educate their own offspring abides natively and primarily with the parents. It is their most important task; indeed understood in its full sense it is ranked by no obligation. In so far as it means instruction in the more elementary branches of human knowledge it is in most cases identical with the obligation of bestowing care in the selection of a school for the children.

I can’t help on official teaching but I can say from experience of a mentally abusive father that the best thing to do is remove yourself from further harm whether that be mental or physical or both but also to forgive them. Whatever you do needs to be first protect yourself and secondly forgive them.


Yes. This^^
We pray for people that hurt us. It’s the best defense against the prince of lies.

I am very sorry that you did not receive proper love and nurturing from your parents. This is the basic need of all children. Forgive them, always pray for them, for your sake as well as theirs. Your parents are not responsible for you as an adult, they have done their job raising you. Now you must make a life of your own. Become the person God made you to be. Do not let the past ruin your future. Do not miss Mass, you need the graces from doing so. Praying for your peace of mind. God bless you.

Forgiveness is the best (for your spiritual and mental health - not necessarily theirs).

As others have mentioned, take care of yourself by not being around them if possible.

Forgiveness does not mean reconcilliation. It is possible they will be congruent activities, but not absolutely needed. Inevitably hurting people hurt people, so unless they get help there is no requirement to expose yourself to more mistreatment.

Pray for them, they are probably passing on similar parental behaviors to what they experienced.

Good luck.

Thank you all for your help here. Does anyone know if there are specific Church Teachings on the topic of severe abuse (and ideally what it means to honor a parent in those situations)? Child abuse has been around, I am sure, as long as history has been recorded - so one would think there would be more the Church teaches on the topic and ideally what the child (whether young or grown up) should do about it. And note, this is not meant to be a criticism of the Teachings of the Church - maybe it hasn’t been a priority for the Magisterium to address this topic.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit