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.

Lisa Fullam is 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).

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