Catholic bishops oppose VAWA

Five key Catholic bishops are opposing the newly authorized Violence Against Women Act for fear it will subvert traditional views of marriage and gender. Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac poll show that most American Catholics think their church is “out of touch.”

RNS on the opposition to the VAWA:

The act, which was signed into law by President Obama on Thursday (March 7), is intended to protect women from domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, and allows the federal government to spend money to treat victims and prosecute offenders.

But for the first time since the original act became law in 1994, it spells out that no person may be excluded from the law’s protections because of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” — specifically covering lesbian, transgender and bisexual women.

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.

“These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference,” the bishops said in a statement released by the USCCB on Wednesday.

“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,” the statement continued.

The bishops also take issue with the lack of “conscience protection” for faith-based groups that help victims of human trafficking, an addition they sought after the Obama administration decided in 2011 to discontinue funding for a Catholic group that works with trafficking victims, many of whom were forced to work as prostitutes.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute asked American Catholics about the state of their church:

“Looking at all adult Catholics … we see a conflicted group,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “A slim majority say the church is moving in the right direction while slim majorities say church leaders are out of touch with their views and the next pope should change directions.”

The survey, released Friday, found that 52 percent of Catholics said the church is moving in the right direction, but 52 percent also said it was out of touch with American Catholics. Fifty-five percent said the next pope should move the church in new directions. At the same time, the poll found that 58 percent of American Catholics hold a favorable view of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who stepped down at the end of February, and that 16 percent saw him “very favorably.”

Majorities of Catholic Americans believe the church needs to change its stance on several controversial issues, including its ban on contraception (64 percent), marriage among priests (62 percent) and the ordination of women (62 percent), the survey found….

…As controversy continues to surrounded newly uncovered cases of sexual abuse by priests, 81 percent of U.S. Catholics told Quinnipiac that the next pope needs to do more to combat sexual abuse. That result is five points lower than the percentage of respondents who gave a similar answer in 2005, before Benedict became pope.

Brown also noted that Catholic voters are the leading demographic in support of same-sex marriage, despite the church’s strong stance against it. In the survey, about 54 percent of Catholic voters said they supported same-sex marriage, compared to 47 percent of the broader American population.

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