Now that the Sistine Chapel’s makeshift chimney has been dismantled, the American Sunday talk show pundits have speculated on Pope Francis’ potential, and all the religion correspondents have departed Vatican City for home, it is time to reopen a mystifying chapter in the most recent saga of American Catholic ecclesiastical missteps. As Al Jazeera reports:
“On the eve of President Obama’s signature on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, five leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops earlier last week attacked the necessary legislation. This move not only confirms that the bishops are out of touch with American society, but also proves that they are ready to disregard their own longstanding justice commitments – and millions of domestic violence victims – for the sake of a few unrelated legal points.
“Their claim? That the act promotes same-sex marriage and endangers freedom of conscience for religious organisations. The problem? Not only does the act – now law – do neither of these things, but the Catholic Church now appears guilty of massive hypocrisy. For the sake of making oblique objections to the Affordable Care Act and to the Supreme Court challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, it is withdrawing support for a law that aids 1.3 million female domestic violence victims annually (to say nothing of the men and children it also serves).
“It is worth repeating: five prominent bishops’ myopic focus on legal protections for official Catholic positions on marriage and reproduction has led them to attack an important social justice document that does not even threaten the values they are trying to uphold. It is an act that protects many other values that they have forcefully defended in the past. In this move they have not only abandoned victims of intimate partner violence, but have also stepped over the fine line between legitimate political advocacy for a strongly held belief and dishonest manipulation of facts.”