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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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"In other words, the bills 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."Or how about: in other words, the bill's supporters were willing to let the opponents hang themselves out to public pressure until said opponents came around. Ordinary politics. Nothing sinister about it. OK?Now having taken care of that: Jim, I count eight places where you had to clarify, so to speak, the USCCB statement because of what you see as misreadings of it. I think that much clarification would not be necessary if ecclesial leaders would put aside their orotundity and obfuscation and talk like..., oh, like people.

These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons." Would that this were true. The USCCB statement actually makes it clear how important including these classifications is at this point in time.

"To avoid a lengthy quote, Ill 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 doesnt 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."Yes, I agree about Catholic Charities. Nor does the bishops' statement give me reason to suppose that the bishops would oppose outreach and support to victims of violence regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I base this claim on these three statements: "These two classifications ['sexual orientation' and 'gender identity'] 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".Note that all I am doing here is pointing out what the bishops have said in their statement. The bishops' claim that "these two classifications are unnecessary to establish just protections" may be a sound or an unsound claim. The heat of various commenters' comments suggests that a number of commenters believe it's an unsound claim. But inasmuch as they take that position, it's incumbent on them to provide a basis for it. It's not self-evident to me that existing laws, perhaps including previous iterations of the law in question, created gaps in legal protection such that lesbians weren't accorded protections or extended services under the old law.Why would the bishops not want the two classifications to become privileged classifications in law? The bishops' statement provides this reason:"[The two classifications] are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition". Not being a legal expert myself, it's not clear to me how privileging these classifications in the new Act bolsters the push for marriage redefinition, but its not being clear to me doesn't mean there isn't a sound basis for holding that view.

Per Bruce "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. "Wow - Imagine that. The social model of a standard, boring, traditional married couple raising kids the - dreaded "nuclear family" that horrifies those on the left - works better than other social constructs after all, bearing out what Roman Catholic pontiffs have said for eons.To give credit where due, it seems the pagan Romans and even the ancient Pyramid builders - basically any civilization that lasted long enough to leave a record of its existence - figured out that the traditional marriage and family model worked well for their societies. Mothers will generally tend their children of course; the concept of traditional marriage and family helps society with the very important task of tying fathers to their children, both to ensure the men act responsibly, to estanblish inheritance, and not unimportanly, to help make genetic lines clear and theerby avoid inadvertent inbreeding and the various problems that brings. Thanks for the link Bruce.;-)

Ah, yes, the "pagan Romans" and their promotion of a family model strictly identifiable with today's "traditional marriage and family model." That's exactly the sense I get when I read Tacitus or Plutarch--Augustus was basically Ward Cleaver in purple.

I did not say the ancients were wonderful, that much should be obvious. The point was that even they were smart enough to see that marriage and family were worthwhile.

VAWA does not introduce tne categories of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to U.S. law. Among other places, they were used in the 2009 Hate Crimes Acts:"(2) Offenses involving actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.(A) In general. Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if(I) death results from the offense; or(II) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

"The point was that even they were smart enough to see that marriage and family were worthwhile."Oh. Good. Freaking. Night. They were smart enough to see marriage and family as worthwhile? That is crazy. I never heard of anything so crazy and weird. Next you'll be telling me that they turned left on red, and wore hats on their feet and shoes on their heads.You know who else thinks that marriage and family are worthwhile? Pretty much everybody. Not everybody, just pretty much everybody. That includes (do I hear a drum roll off in the distance?) gay people who want to get married and make families. But, of course, gay people wanting to get married undermines marriage for everybody else,* and so the bishops--so very well versed in what marriage is like--rightfully seek to put the kibosh on that. *the explanation for that involves a lot of Lobachevskian geometry, so I'll spare everyone

John Hayes - it may be that the Hate Crimes Acts are what the bishops had in mind in describing the same distinctions being made in VAWA were "unnecessary". As to why the bishops believe that putting those classifications in VAWA advances the redefinition of marriage - unless they tell us, I don't know how we would know.

Jim Pauwels, VAWA covers many more things than the Hate Crimes Act (e.g. victim shelters, restraining orders, prevention programs, etc). My guess is that rather than it being any great conspiracy to redefine marriage, it was just updating the 1994 VAWA to include the additional categories listed in the 2009 Hate Crimes Act. It refers to the Hate Crimes Act for the definition of "gender identity"

And of course the Vatican is a player worldwide in opposing legislation that would protect women from violence: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/opinion/concerns-at-un-conference-on-v..., you seem to think that marriage somehow protects women from domestic violence. Alas, not so. The VAWA protects women regardless of marital status. Isn't being safe the real issue here? And remember, the USCCB weighed in only after both houses of congress passed this bill. They spoke of no concerns other than marriage redefinition and gender identity. This bill saves lives. But the USCCB had to speak up to oppose it after its passage. Why are women's lives so easily dismissed?Also, note that the USCCB has taken quite progressive stances to protect immigrants, documented or not. It is estimated that something like 60% of women crossing the border experience sexual assault. Violence against the undocumented has a gendered character. Yet the USCCB's man for immigrant issues opposes the VAWA, which provides real help to those women. Why are women's lives so easily dismissed?Perhaps one of the women in the conclave will speak to this issue. Oh, right.

Lisa,Yes, everyone - both male and female - should be protected. But some behaviors - cohabiting for one - increase the risk. Shouldn't there be some personal responsibility as well. Looking for the government to provide protection from risky behaviors will never be as effective as abstaining from those behaviors. So if being safe is the real issue, then denouncing risky behaviors, as the Catholic Church does repeatedly, is the most effective action. The VAWA is at best a subsidiary solution.

Per Abe "But, of course, gay people wanting to get married undermines marriage for everybody else,* and so the bishopsso very well versed in what marriage is likerightfully seek to put the kibosh on that. "Now you are on track. And so to summarize/simplify: Traditional marriage is good. Broadening the definition of traditional marriage to include gay couples (or polygamy for that matter) is not good.It is nice to see we finally agree on something Abe - :-)

That anyone is dismayed, angry or even surprised by this is mystifying to me. The hierarchy of the church is the very last place one should seek any wisdom about human sexuality and gender. Remember: despite the goodwill and personal opinions of any individual cleric, the body insists on the second-class status of women, whose human being is so defective, faulty or somehow deficient that it is an obstacle to some measure or "part" of God's grace. So with this as the (largely unconscious and/or unexamined?) presupposition, is it any wonder that they would refuse support in a matter such as this? And what can we really expect if we then throw lesbians into the mix? Seriously, does any thoughtful Catholic expect them to act otherwise? Denying women full participation in the complete experience of vocation, grace and authority is simply a "benign" form of violence (all in the name of Jesus, of course). Who cares what they think or say in these matters? I certainly don't.

"Why would the church consider some people as lesser beings?"Someone needs to brush up on his catechism.

I read a good one the other day: While outrage is the enemy of thought, humor is the cousin of tolerance.

Well that would be a real swell zinger, Ken, but for the fact that you aren't the funny-man you seem to think you are.

President Obama in an interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday this may have something to o with who should be mentioned in VAWA:"But would an American pope take orders from him?I dont know if youve checked lately, but the Conference of Catholic Bishops here in the United States dont seem to be takin orders from me, Obama said with a laugh....Obama added: My hope is based on what I know about the Catholic Church and the terrific work that theyve done around the world and certainly in this country, and, you know helping those who are less fortunate is that you have a pope who sustains and maintains what I consider the central message of the gospel. And that is that we treat everybody as children of God and that we love them the way Jesus Christ taught us to love em.Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/obama-weighs-in-on-pope-pick-88801...

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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).