Abusive men, churchgoers or not, often quote Scripture to justify hitting or demeaning their domestic partners, counselors and social workers say. The passage abusers most commonly use comes from the New Testament:

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24, NIV)

Abusers don't quote the preceding verse ("Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ") and the verses that follow:

"Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church -- for we are members of his body." (Ephesians 5:28-29)

Catholic leaders this week, in the pastoral statement "When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women," condemned the use of the Bible to support abusive behavior and called violence against women a sin.

"A correct reading of Scripture leads people to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and to relationships based on mutuality and love," they said in the statement.

"When I Call for Help" is available online at www.nccbuscc.org. The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse offers hotline numbers and extensive resource materials on its Web site, www.mincava.umn.edu.