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USCCB Opposes Violence Against Women Act.

On March 6, the USCCB issued a statement expressing "concerns" about the Violence Against Women Act, saying the in the end, the USCCB could not support it.Why their concern, you might ask? Surely the USCCB opposes violence against women?You guessed it: it's about same-sex marriage. This is from the USCCB press release:

All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications sexual orientation and gender identity as contained in in S. 47 is problematic, they wrote. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union, said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; and Archbishop Jos H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

Here's what gets to me: the rates of domestic violence in the US are horrific. About 1.3 million women are assaulted by a domestic partner every year. One third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. One in four women will be victimized in her lifetime. Children are often witnesses to domestic violence: boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to become abusers themselves.What does the VAWA do? According to the WaPo,

the bill provides $660 million over the next five years for programs that provide legal assistance, transitional housing, counseling and support hotlines to victims of rape and domestic abuse.

Advocates for abuse victims credit the Act with a sharp decline in the rates of abuse since it was first signed into law in 1994. According to The National Domestic Abuse Hotline,

Victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking have been able to access services, and a new generation of families and justice system professionals has come to understand that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are crimes that our society will not tolerate.

But the mere fact of explicit inclusion of lesbians is enough for the USCCB to say, in effect, "OK, let's cut all those programs. Let's fire the lawyers, let's discontinue the counseling, let's get rid of the transitional housing that gives women and kids a safe place to go. Not if lesbians would be recognized as people who might be in need of those services too."

You know what? It seems to me that it really doesn't matter that the abuse victim might be gay. Abuse is wrong, regardless of gender. It is a crime that cries to heaven for help. But the USCCB continues on down that road to Jericho and walks right on past that woman left beaten up in a ditch. She's only a woman, after all, and what if she's--gay? Helping her might redefine marriage, somehow.Here's the kicker. The USCCB issued "When I Call For Help: A Pastoral Response To Domestic Violence Against Women" in 2002. One of their practical suggestions was that women could call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It's funding? Yup--it was first established by the VAWA. Thanks guys.Ordinarily, one should not blog in anger. I'm angry. This is outrageous.

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Quelle surprise! Hierarchs can't bring themselves to support measures that would combat violence against women.This fear and detestation of all things feminine is so primitive with these guys.How can any of us think that the conclave will produce any change???

Lisa, Your allusion to the wo/man on the road to Jericho is on point. That was the greatest prejudice of the times of Jesus just as anti-gay is today. Just ask Pat Robertson. I hope no one would consider an American Pope after this.

Lisa, I don't believe you provided a link to the full USCCB statement. It is here:http://www.usccb.org/news/2013/13-046.cfmTo complete the picture: the statement indicates that the US bishops have supported previous iterations of the Act, and state unequivocally their opposition to violence against women. Apparently, it is new provisions in this new iteration of the Act (including another provision not highlighted in Lisa's post) that the USCCB finds objectionable.It's reasonable to ask, "Why were these new provisions inserted? What circumstances mandated the addition of these provisions that serve as poison pills in the eyes of the USCCB?" The statement concludes by noting that both houses of Congress have already passed the 2013 Act. Certainly, it will become law. This is not a case of a statement in service to a lobbying effort to prevent passage; it is already passed. Nor does the statement urge President Obama not to sign the Act into law. The USCCB's call to action is (to quote from the statement), "Now that Congress has acted to change the law, we urge future action to revisit these concerns in the months ahead."I don't read the statement as being equivalent to the USCCB saying (to quote from Lisa's post), OK, lets cut all those programs. Lets fire the lawyers, lets discontinue the counseling, lets get rid of the transitional housing that gives women and kids a safe place to go. Not if lesbians would be recognized as people who might be in need of those services too. Rather, it reads to me as a statement urging Congress to tweak some unjust provisions in a fundamentally just and necessary law.Finally: I don't know precisely what it means for the USCCB to "not support" something. It may not be the same as actively opposing it.

Catholic couples church marriages have dropped by 50% and if just Anglo Catholic marriages were counted the drop would be increased significantly. Bishops... Guess where the Anglo Catholic couples are getting married now? On Beaches, parks, lawns and the city hall basements, lined up right behind the SS couples. Where are the bishops 'concerns' about that?

@ Jim, Surely they could have said that then. "We support the law with reservations, in light of the body count," or something. But no. And finally, doesn't this STILL seem to violate the Catechism's own language of no unjust discrimination against LGB folk? And opposing violence against them?

Last year they went after the Girl Scouts. ( Link to the 2013 Girl Scouts Silver Dollar: http://www.girlscouts.org/something_big.asp ) WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Stop the Violence campaign:http://www.wagggsworld.org/en/take_action/violenceStop the Violence: Speak Out for Girls' Rights Girls in every country across the world are being subjected to many forms of violence this is wrong and must stop.Girls have the right to live free from violence and the fear of violence. They need to be aware of their rights and find the voice to create a global movement and actions to end violence.Building from a whisper to a shout, we need to talk, join together and inspire action around the world.

Bill M., I don't think the American cardinals are alone in their notions about women.In an article in Mother Jones today, a reporter describes the leading contenders and quotes Commonweal's assessment of Scola, the frontrunner:". . . feminism is responsible for homosexuality, because the more women act like men, the more men are likely to want to have sex with other men." http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/03/who-would-be-greenest-new...

The American bishops could have adopted the hopeful language in the current America editorial "We pray for a pope who begins a conversation with the words, In listening to the experience of our brothers and sisters who are homosexual....

Its an empirical fact that women who are divorced or unmarried are more than twice as likely to be victims of violence. Given that fact, a law which funds some programs to ameliorate violence and at the same time undermines marriage is far from an unmitigated good.

But the good news is that, while the bishops are doing their thing, Catholic women religious are working hard to protect domestic violence survivors, end human trafficking, and promote the dignity of women, children and men.Catholic religious sisters, through NETWORK, are celebrating the passage of VAWA. The NETWORK website has a link where you can, if the Spirit moves you, thank the elected officials who voted "Yes".http://www.networklobby.org/

"@ Jim, Surely they could have said that then. We support the law with reservations, in light of the body count, or something. But no. And finally, doesnt this STILL seem to violate the Catechisms own language of no unjust discrimination against LGB folk? "Lisa, here is what I take to be the key passage in the USCCB statement:"Among our concerns are those provisions in S. 47 that refer to sexual orientation and gender identity. All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications sexual orientation and gender identity as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons."So what the USCCB objects to is the codification of the terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity". Why the USCCB doesn't want those specific terms included, is not really clear from the statement. I assume that there is some legal strategy at work here; possibly those terms as defined in the Act would set a precedent that could be exploited by future laws and regulations in a way that the USCCB would deem unjust. Not being an attorney or a legislative wonk, I'm not really sure what the implications are; I'm just speculating. But I do read this as a technical/legal objection (in service to a moral viewpoint, to be sure). I don't think we have enough information to know whether this objection is misaligned with the Catechisms's injunction regarding unjust treatment of homosexuals.

@Jim,I think we disagree. I think that to "not support" a measure that funds critical needs is to oppose funding for critical needs. The link to sexual orientation is clear from the text of the bishops--they fear that including lesbian and trans people will "undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition." That seems clear to me. It's about same-sex marriage, along with legal recognition of trans people.By the way, it is estimated that 50% of trans people are the victims of rape or assault by an intimate partner. 50%. Isn't that enough for the USCCB to say: "we have qualms about the language, and want to say so, but we will stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters against rape and murder"? If rape and murder aren't enough, what would be?And just imagine how this press release and USCCB statement must feel to LGBT people in our Church. Imagine being told that the bishops won't support the VAWA because it might include you.

And who is the president of the USCCB that just showed such diplomatic (non)sense?Cdl Dolan, supposedly a papabile....

Although I do not think that it is necessary of even helpful, I can understand why a statement such as this is signed by Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades Chairman, Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youthand Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco Chairman Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of MarriageBut, what stake do these chairmen of these respective committees have in the issue? Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton - Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development ??Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore - Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty ??Archbishop Jos H. Gomez Chairman, Committee on Migration ??How is the issue related to domestic justice and human development, religious liberty, or migration?

Bruce, I heard the opposite: that single women were safer than married women, because the first victimizer (except for suiscide) is the spouse. But maybe that's only for murder cases. Not sure. Second-hand unverified information....

Lisa, I believe that your anger might be displaced. Doesn't the fault lie with the supporters of the bill who insisted on these controversial additions to the law, compared to the earlier 1994 version? The main objections have been three: this point about sexual identity; the new version gives visas to illegal immigrant women who are domestically abused; and, with the noble goal of combating the high rate of violence against Native American women, it gives tribal courts jurisdiction over such cases, but with the consequence of leaving defendants in such cases without due process rights. At first it appeared that the law would fail in the House because of objections over these issues, despite the fact that its opponents were willing to support it if they were removed or modified. Yet its supporters refused. In other words, the bill's supporters were willing to let the whole thing fail just for the political optics of having their opponents appear to be opposed to a law fighting violence against women (thus feeding the "war against women" narrative), even though they could have had a nearly universal consensus behind a more moderate law. In other words, they are the one who were playing politics with women's lives, while the opposition was motivated by legitimate concerns raised by issues in the bill.

It's a sad day when the obsession against gay marriage leads the US Bishops to oppose the Violence Against Women Act. Something similar happened in a recent statement directed to the armed forces provisions for gay couples.I think the Bishops need to rethink their strategy here. There needs to be a focus on the dignity and rights of homosexuals. The current strategy is likely to loose the bishops the support of even those of us who oppose gay marriage.God Bless

It seems that according to the tortured logic of the USCCB, the way to support harmony in marriage is to do nothing about violence against lesbians. This is so clearly outrageous that I actually wonder about the mental capacities of our bishops. Was this decision prompted by madness, stupidity or both?

Ann asks "this decision prompted by madness, stupidity or both?"Forget whatever comes from the USCCB...The USCCB is advised by the same lawyers who opposed ACA accommodation because it left out Taco Bell franchisees from claiming a 'religious liberty' health insurance exemption on the birth control coverage .A 'religious liberty' exemption for the non- covered workers in policies Taco Bell would never give to the minimum wage counter people. The USCCB lawyer opinions would get them expelled from the Tea Party as radicals for pushing the wingnut agenda too far. .

Where were these Excellencies until March 6? The Senate passed the bill 7822 on February 11, and the House passed it 286138 on February 28 after earlier rejecting, 257166, a version that would have been more to the liking of these worthies. Notice large majorities for the passed bill in both houses. And now, well after the fact, those stalwart defenders of whatever put forth the wan statement that "we urge future action to revisit these concerns in the months ahead." Fat chance!It's a reverse trifecta: troglodytic, ineffectual, and late.

Naturally Catholic Bishops will comment against a bill that bolsters the notion of gay marriage. The secular government includes references to gay marriage in a law called "Violence Against Women Act", the Catholics object, and some on Commonweal cry "foul" - against the Bishops of course.To those bemoaning all this; what would you have the Catholic Church say about gay marriage?

"To those bemoaning all this; what would you have the Catholic Church say about gay marriage?"We do not believe in same sex marriage but we applaud this law and any other action which reduces violence against women.

" ... what would you have the Catholic Church say about gay marriage?"What they say in all of those countries where it is legal: we may not like it but those countries have it. They aren't forcing us to perform it and we won't prevent them from imparting secular benefits, rights and responsibilities ... all paid for by all citizens ... to the people who take advantage of it.In other words, act like adults rather than whining kids whose ball lot wants aren't accepted by the rest of the players.

"The link to sexual orientation is clear from the text of the bishopsthey fear that including lesbian and trans people will undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition. That seems clear to me. Its about same-sex marriage, along with legal recognition of trans people. By the way, it is estimated that 50% of trans people are the victims of rape or assault by an intimate partner. 50%. Isnt that enough for the USCCB to say: we have qualms about the language, and want to say so, but we will stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters against rape and murder? "My reading of the USCCB statement is that its view is that the objectionable language isn't necessary to provide protection. Their statement says, "All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications sexual orientation and gender identity as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons."Is it your understanding that, prior to inserting this new language into the Act, lesbians and trans's weren't accorded any protection under the Act (or perhaps under other laws)?If the USCCB is correct that the problematic classifications were inserted for reasons that are extraneous to according them protection - then why were they inserted?

In other words, the USCCB continues to deny reality for the sake of biologically-disabused theology.Lesbians and trans people exist. They are discriminated against. By men. By ecclesiastics. By other women. By society. By this church. Here and now.Denying that doesn't mean that it isn't true.

Jim P.,Our society had to expand via the 15th & 19th amendments the lofty sentiment of the Declaration that "all men are created equal" in order to make explicit that rights belonged to racial and ethnic minorities, to former slaves, and to women. Even with those amendments in place, it has taken a long and still unfinished struggle to achieve the promised equality. Why is that? I think it is because, for reasons I need not characterize here, powerful interests are determined to prevent it and are willing to use any excuse or omission to do so.If my own protection against violence was at issue, I would want the law to be redundantly clear that it was meant to cover me as well as others. Classifications are only "problematic" and "extraneous" when they apply to people one still hopes to marginalize.

Isn't this just part of the new intellectual argument certain natural law obsessive people in the church are promoting, namely that there are no homosexual persons, just homosexual acts?To grant homosexuals a distinct status (that is not explicitly grounded in behavior) indeed supports the new emerging viewpoint of most people (i.e. "born that way") that has been defeating the church's preferred model, which is foundational to natural law.This is what drives me nuts about the natural law obsessives: the pristine beauty of their *model* is more important to them than the actual people who are the exception to this idol they worship. It is better that souls are warped, families torn apart than it is for them to acknowledge that however beautiful their idol is, it doesn't match up with God's actual creation.

And I use the word "idol" deliberately. Robby George et al are so vested in their *ideas* I really think they have lost sight of actual Christianity.

Re Ann Olivier's post: You've nailed it, Ann. Bravo! Jim P., In the real world people don't talk "ecclesiatic," or other convoluted tongues.

What I don't understand is why a fetus has human dignity and a gay man or lesbian does not. Aren't human being human beings? Why would the church consider some people as lesser beings?

"Jim P., In the real world people dont talk ecclesiatic, or other convoluted tongues."I don't think there is anything particularly "churchy" about the language used in the USCCB statement. But in the real world, people certainly do talk "ecclesiastic", when it is appropriate to do so. I'm given to understand that in various other parts of the real world, people talk "philosophic", "techie", "legalese", "business-speak", "street", and all sorts of other ways of talking that are appropriate to those mileius.

I hope the next pope can choose better language than the USCCB has for addressing the world. Then he will not need Jim Pauwels to run around after him explaining that he did not intend to imply that he cares more about doctrinal purity in legal documents than about living and dead human victims of abuse. The USCCB could have fooled me.

Jim Pauwels, here are the four places in the act where "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" appear. It seems to me that the USCCB hasn"t done an effective job of explaining why Congress should change any of these. "(39) UNDERSERVED POPULATIONS The term "underserved populations" means populations who face barriers in accessing and using victim services, and includes populations underserved because of geographic location, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, underserved racial and ethnic populations, populations underserved because of special needs (such as language barriers, disabilities, alienage status, or age), and any other population determined to be underserved by the Attorney General or by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, as appropriate.""(13) CIVIL RIGHTS."(A) NONDISCRIMINATION.No person in the United States shall, on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph 249(c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual orientation, or disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 [etc]... "(19) developing, enlarging, or strengthening programs and projects to provide services and responses targeting male and female victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, whose ability to access traditional services and responses is affected by their sexual orientation or gender identity, as defined in section 249(c) of title 18, United States Code;...""SEC. 304. CAMPUS SEXUAL VIOLENCE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING VIOLENCE, AND STALKING EDUCATION AND PREVENTION.(a) IN GENERAL.Section 485(f) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1092(f)) is amended(1) in paragraph (1)(A) in subparagraph (C)(iii), by striking the periodat the end and inserting , when the victim of such crime elects or is unable to make such a report.; and(B) in subparagraph (F)(i) in clause (i)(VIII), by striking and after thesemicolon;(ii) in clause (ii)(I) by striking sexual orientation and inserting national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity,...To avoid a lengthy quote, I'll explain that "undeserved populations" defines categories of people for whom grants will be made to programs which propose to provide victim outreach and support. It doesn't seem to me that Catholic Charities would have any objection to providing outreach and support to victims of violence regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.If he USCCB does see a problem in these changes. i think they need to spell it out.

"Jim Pauwels, here are the four places in the act where sexual orientation and gender identity appear. It seems to me that the USCCB hasnt done an effective job of explaining why Congress should change any of these."I agree that more explanation could be given. I said as much in my comment above (3/11/13, 2:52 pm).

Jim Hohman wrote "This is what drives me nuts about the natural law obsessives: the pristine beauty of their *model* is more important to them than the actual people who are the exception to this idol they worship"In "First Things", of all places, David Bentley Hart argues that the view that natural law is evident and binding on all people is not correct. He sees it as a useful argument only with people who believe that a Supreme exists and, beyond that, believe that natural law ( and, particularly, natural law as interpreted by the Catholic Church) provides a correct understanding of what their Supreme being requires of them."Denounce him, if you wish, for the perversity of his convictions. Still, after all hypothetical imperatives have been adduced, and all appeals to the general good have been made, nothing would logically oblige him to alter his ideas. Only the total spiritual conversion of his vision of reality could truly change his thinking.To put the matter very simply, belief in natural law is inseparable from the idea of nature as a realm shaped by final causes, oriented in their totality toward a single transcendent moral Good: one whose dictates cannot simply be deduced from our experience of the natural order, but must be received as an apocalyptic interruption of our ordinary explanations that nevertheless, miraculously, makes the natural order intelligible to us as a reality that opens up to what is more than natural. There is no logically coherent way to translate that form of cosmic moral vision into the language of modern practical reason or of public policy debate in a secular society. Our concept of nature, in any age, is entirely dependent upon supernatural (or at least metaphysical) convictions. And, in an age that has been shaped by a mechanistic understanding of the physical world, a neo-Darwinian view of life, and a voluntarist understanding of the self, natures laws must appear to be anything but moral."So "natural law forbids this" is not a slam-dunk argument with non-Catholics. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/02/is-ought-and-natures-laws-1

"I hope the next pope can choose better language than the USCCB has for addressing the world. Then he will not need Jim Pauwels to run around after him explaining that he did not intend to imply that he cares more about doctrinal purity in legal documents than about living and dead human victims of abuse. "I don't run, and in this case, I've barely explained. Essentially, what I've done here is (a) locate the bishops' statement; (b) read it; (c) understand it; and (d) quote it. And, I suppose, (e), not stand on my head to put the worst possible interpretation upon it. If that is what apologetics consists of, then then it's a good deal simpler than I had been led to believe.

"What I dont understand is why a fetus has human dignity and a gay man or lesbian does not. Arent human being human beings? Why would the church consider some people as lesser beings?"I take it that the church's point in its statement is that human beings are human beings - and all are entitled to protection.

David Gibson - in the Catholic Twilight Zone, gays are *intrinsically disordered*. Thus, a fetus has human dignity; so does a gay person but with limits (the old must live as brother and brother or brother and sister, etc. routine).And this is based upon a concept of *natural law* that we know with 100% certainity (just like we did in terms of racism, slavery, democratic rights, role of women, etc.).Noah Millman in the link above probably does the best job of focusing on the weakness of *natural law*.....it begins with a view of reality that is a certain way and not open to reason, science, debate, questioning, etc. nad posits that this view is from God, of course. It really puts the lie to Aquinas and his *faith seeking understanding*.

"If my own protection against violence was at issue, I would want the law to be redundantly clear that it was meant to cover me as well as others. Classifications are only problematic and extraneous when they apply to people one still hopes to marginalize."If your own protection against violence is at issue, and existing laws don't provide adequate protection, why would piling this law atop existing laws make a difference?If legal language is problematic for legal reasons, it should be fixed. That can be noted without imputing bad faith to the people who want to fix it.

From this point forward if anyone wishes to discuss this topic with me, they must first take up, in a substantive manner, Matthew Shadle's comment of 3/11/13 3:15 pm.

Matthew Shadie's argument is based wholly on a conjectural reconstruction about motivations: he thinks that proponents of the bill introduced language about gender and sexual orientation as part of a plot to make their opponents look unfeeling (whereas, he claims, said opponents are motivated by "legitimate concerns.") At best, he thinks the situation went down according to the plot of a sitcom; at worst, he thinks there was some sort of grand conspiracy. He basically says that we shouldn't fault the bishops for not wanting to guarantee protections for lgbtq people, but should instead fault those seeking such protections for putting the bishops into a position where they look bad. The point of the bill is to protect people from abuse, but guys like Shadie shift the victimhood around so as that it instead pertains to people whose protection is already enshrined.

Claire,Your info for single women may be correct, but its probably better thought of as single and without child and not cohabiting. Here's the info for what is called 'intimate partner violence'. You will notice that marital status is conspicuously absent.http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet(National).pdfIts an obfuscation to hide this empirical fact: The results showed that cohabiting couples had a higher rate of assault than did married couples. These findings persisted after controls for age and socioeconomic status were introduced. Violence was also more severe in cohabiting than in married or dating couples. Here are some resources for you to check.Jan E. Stets, "Cohabiting and Marital Aggression: The Role of Social Isolation" Journal of Marriage and the Family 53 (1991):669-680; Richard J. Gelles, Intimate Violence in Families, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: 1997); Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage (New York: Doubleday, 2000): Ch. 11 pp 150-160

Jim Pauwels, Lisa's post is about the USCCB statement. Matthew Shadle's comment is not about he USCCB statement but his own objections to the new law.The USCCB statement raises only two issues:1. The addition of sexual orientation and gender identity in the four paces I identified in my comment.2. The lack of a provision that would have prevented last year's loss of the trafficking grant by USCCB.Mr Shadle doesn't mention (2) at all but introduces two other issues that aren't in the USCCB statement. He spends most of his comment in an ad hominem argument about the motives of the people who passed the law. Now that I have met your requirement that I "must first take up, in a substantive manner, Matthew Shadles comment of 3/11/13 3:15 pm" will you reply to my comment of 3/11/13 9:17 pm?

John Hayes --That natural law theory cannot be separated from religious belief is belied by the fact that the most influential of all natural law philosophers was Aristotle. Check out Alasdair MacIntyre's "After Virtue". Then check out, for instance, Hobbes (atheist) against Locke (deist), Philippa Foot (?) against John Finnis (Catholic), or Edward Feser (Catholic) against Grisez (Catholic).One should not talk about "natural law theory" as if there has been only one, consistent set of theories. Far back into history there have been many, starting with the Aristotle and the Stoics, and going forward into the middle ages and the modern and contemporary times. Right now there is a lively argument going on even among self-identified Thomists as to whether or not the "new natural law" theorists (who include Finnis and Grisez) should be called Thomists at all.Talking about "natural law theory" as if it were one body of work with cosistent conclusions is like talking about "American music" as if there were only one kind, as if jazz were the same thing as bluegrass or Charles Ives or Leonard Bernstein or rock. It would be really silly to reject them all.

David Bentley Hart recently wrote something about natural law and present politics - http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/02/is-ought-and-natures-laws-1

What theists or non-theists believe about natural law has no bearing on the obligation of a natural law argument to be rational and based on evidence. If it is not an actual argument that is based on reason and evidence, it is not a natural law argument, no matter who says it is.

Thank you, thank you, Lisa.Regarding the loss of the trafficking grant, John Hayes

Oops, posted out of time.Regarding the loss of the trafficking grant, John Hayes quoted some time back a court decision prohibiting the church from using public monies to impose its beliefs on citizens. I thought that a powerful argument.

Ann Olivier wrote: "Then check out, for instance, Hobbes (atheist) against Locke (deist), Philippa Foot (?) against John Finnis (Catholic), or Edward Feser (Catholic) against Grisez (Catholic)."I think that your examples confirm that here are many "natural laws" - just as there are many systems of philosophy. That is different from the idea that there is a natural law that is binding on all persons. I think that Hart's point is that anyone is free to reject your "natural law" unless they are already commited to your premises. In "Humanae Vitae", Paul VI said:"No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, (l) that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men's eternal salvation."That is natural law as interpreted by the Magisterium. Paul qualifies his statement with "No member of the faithful could possibly deny..." and Hart points out that non-Catholics who do not share the same premises as Catholics will not necessarily arrive at the Magisterium's interpretation of natural law - or even the belief that any binding natural law exists.

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About the Author

Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).