During a recent episode of the Catholic Conversations podcast, host Adrian Fonseca said women should stay in abusive relationships in order to save their husbands’ souls.
Fonseca, a producer for the Guadalupe Radio Network, was discussing a misogynistic rant from TikTok star Tristan Tate, in which he said he would never pay child support if an ex-girlfriend ran away with their kid. Fonseca’s reaction was to advise anyone in a similar situation to stick it out and “endure the pain of having a bad wife.”
It was a strange reaction partly because the issue at hand wasn’t the strength (or lack thereof) of a hypothetical marriage… but things got much worse when Fonseca performed an on-the-spot role reversal and wondered what a woman should do if her husband wasn’t showing commitment (18:39).
… If a wife has a husband who’s a deadbeat husband, who is not making money for their family, who’s even abusive… I’m just gonna say it, because it’s true. And people will freak out. But it’s true. And just look at the saints. Look at venerable… Maria… of blessed Canori Mora… Look at… Saint Monica.
Look at… many of the saints who are married, all these women saints are examples of this act. They lived in abusive relationships. What did they do? They stayed and endured the abuse. They offered up those sufferings for the salvation of souls, but most primarily for the salvation of souls for their husband…
And blessed Canori Mora, her husband tried to murder her on multiple occasions! Multiple occasions! And she stayed with her husband, and it was by her suffering that her husband converted and ended up becoming a priest after her death.
There you have it. A woman in an abusive relationship should just stay put because it might help her husband get closer to God. Even if that happens after the woman dies. Which could happen sooner than expected if she stays in that relationship.
Just completely broken brain Catholic logic for you.
Because Catholics believe marriage vows can’t be broken (as if anyone ever makes those vows expecting to get divorced), Fonseca is basically urging women to stay in broken, draining, literally harmful marriages because breaking one vow could lead to a slippery slope where a man disobeys other vows and gets further away from God.
It’s much better, he argues, for a woman to stay put so that a guy maybe finds spiritual happiness down the road. Even if she’s not around for it. Because she’s dead. (It’s also consistent with the Catholic Church’s belief that a woman doesn’t control her own body.)
I should point out that this isn’t unique to Catholicism. A few years ago, Southern Baptist Convention leader Paige Patterson got in hot water after leaked audio showed him advising women in abusive relationships to stay and pray… because (wait for it) their husbands might eventually find God. He later told an alleged rape victim at his seminary not to report it to the police and to forgive the attacker. It’s the same basic framework, though: A woman’s physical suffering is nowhere as important as her abuser’s salvation.
The sane response in the case of Fonseca would be to say that no woman should ever put up with a deadbeat, abusive husband. If he can’t uphold his end of the marital vows, she deserves the chance to find happiness elsewhere. That’s not some secular avoidance of commitment; that’s making sure she’s not trapping herself in an unhealthy lifelong partnership.
But Fonseca’s religious beliefs steered him to the worst possible advice. He could’ve criticized Tate and left it at that. He could’ve urged women to leave those abusive relationships and pray for their husbands from a distance.
Instead, he showed his audience why his faith would make their problems even worse.