In old age due to dementia a person can become irritable and abusive, wholly unlike their prior self.

As a married person will have taken vows to be faithful; what guidance is there to a spouse in the instance their partner becomes abusive?

I bring up dementia as an example as the persons behaviour maybe completely outside of their own will.

Does the Catholic Church have some sort of official guidelines on how to deal with these issues in mental health situations and/or pastoral care training for priests?

  • 1
    Great question, as I have known people with dementia not being able to recognize their own sons or daughters. What personal suffering this involves!
    – Ken Graham
    Jun 20, 2020 at 23:24
  • 1
    I think the commonness of this scenario necessitates clarity from the catholic community. Not as personal advice but what guidance generally is provided for the married to remain faithful (or not). Jun 20, 2020 at 23:35
  • If this question was edited to ask for some kind of official position that would be good, but I don't know what kind would be appropriate. Is there an official pastoral care guidebook? Some papal missive? Something else?
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 21, 2020 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


In the case of someone with dementia or other mental failure beyond their control, the faithful spouse should seek aid for their spouse. This could mean they need to be placed in a home, for the safety of everyone involved, or it could mean that assisted living is required. This will all depend on severity.

Some Saints, like Saint Rita for instance, give us an example of spouses enduring abuse and ultimately converting their spouses through prayer. However, the Church permits civil separation for the sake of safety if one spouse is physically abusive. Divorce, and especially remarriage, are never permitted.

In both cases, a faithful spouse would pray for the safety and sanctity of their spouse.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .