After a lengthy political battle centered around specific LGBT, American Indian and migrant protection, President Barack Obama finally signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act yesterday, but not before five Catholic bishops announced their opposition to the legislation in a statement released Wednesday.
Lauren Markoe writes in The Washington Post about the bishops’ rejection of this legislation that strengthens and funds federal initiatives to further protect domestic violence and human trafficking victims. The 2013 re-authorization added explicit protections for victims regardless of their “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” which is the source of Republican legislators, as well as the bishops’, concerns. Markoe writes:
“[The bishops] are opposing the newly authorized Violence Against Women Act for fear it will subvert traditional views of marriage and gender, and compromise the religious freedom of groups that aid victims of human trafficking…
“That language disturbs several bishops who head key committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that deal with, among other issues, marriage, the laity, youth and religious liberty.”
The bishops signing the statement include Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. Several of these bishops previously opposed marriage equality and LGBT civil rights in prominent ways, making this letter only the latest in the narrative against full equality.
In 2010, during the last re-authorization vote in the Violence Against Women Act, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the legislation as an effective measure to reduce gender-based violence. At that time, emphasis on Catholic teachings around human dignity, justice, and non-violence played a central role in the decision to support the legislation. The recent action of these five bishops re-orients episcopal judgement on the bill to sexual ethics exclusively.
Will the bishops continue to make their view on sexual ethics the only litmus test for all social policy? Such a position would be socially disastrous.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry