June 25, 2011

Cornerstone of Civilization

New York State has joined a literal handful of other US judicatories and about the same number of international jurisdictions in approving marriage equality, to take effect in about a month.

The response has been elation on one side (my own) and the expected warnings of doom on the other, led locally by the Roman Catholic bishops of New York, who question the state's interference in what they call "the cornerstone of civilization." That this comes from a group of celibate men, who none-the-less appear by all standards to be relatively civilized, does not appear to have dawned upon them.

When it comes to cornerstones, civilization has more than marriage to rest upon. Most social scientists and historians credit agriculture and animal husbandry (quiet in the back!) as more central to the establishment of civilization than marriage — and in fact, most marriage law may more likely be seen as an outgrowth of civilization than its cause.

It is also evident, from the historical record (including the biblical one) that "one man / one woman marriage" has not been the only "civilizing" form even of marriage down through the years. As a reminder, allow me to share once again, my "Biblical Wedding Cake Toppers Bookmark" — suitable for keeping one's place in the tangles of the Torah or the Pauline Epistles.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Gordon said...

Father Tobias, Beautifully said! And the #lgbt community is not going to let the RC church rain on our accomplishment in NY. Now on to more states and repeal of Doma.

Startreklivz said...

And of course, one cannot fail to mention the Biblical norm of polygamy (Moses, Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, etc.) Apparently Biblical Morality means what they say it means, not what the text says ....

JimB said...

The difficulty faced by the predictors of doom and disaster is that doom and disaster are not appearing. In Massachusetts, Iowa, and Illinois (we have effective marriage equity with confusing names) the number of straight marriages has risen since the laws changed. It appears that some straight couples are feeling free to marry now that they do not have exclusive rights to do so.


James Lodwick said...

Tobias, Your comment on the recent New York legislature decision in favor of gay marriage is right on, as usual. Perhaps your expression of astonishment that the Roman Catholic bishops of New York would lament the inclusion of gay people in marriage as the destruction of a "cornerstone of civilization" would be more pungent and more accurate if you characterized those prelates as "unmarried" rather than "celibate."

James Lodwick
South Bend, Indiana

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks for the comments.

Gordon, it's a good reminder this is just one step. I hope DOMA will be challenged as unconstitutional before long.

Startreklivz, indeed; hence the bookmark. Some are so busy reading between the lines they aren't reading the lines!

JimB, I've always loved the bit in our marriage rite that prays that others will find their own commitments strengthened when they witness a marriage. I know of some straight couples who have held off precisely because of the injustice.

James, well, that's really what I mean: celibate means unmarried, not abstinent! (Tho lately many, esp. in England, seem to use it that way...) But as a rather shameless RC Franciscan once said when comment was made about his crowing about his "escapades" away from the convent -- "I only took a vow to be celibate! Well, I'm not married!" Perhaps he was not an isolated case...?

June Butler said...

When I read of the Roman Catholic bishops' opposition to marriage equality as interference in "the cornerstone of civilization", I burst out laughing. Some might say that "the cornerstone of civilization" had pretty much gone to hell without the interference of marriage equality, but I would never say that.

Imagine how I felt when celibate men were telling me that I must have baby after baby if the good ole rhythm method didn't work.

I love the bookmark.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Merci, Mimi! It really is so sadly absurd, isn't it? I can well imagine how you felt during the time you were given the orders to keep up the rhythm and march in step. As to rhythm, who could ask for anything more? Well, lots of us can see that the emperor is naked, and few things are more risible than the continued pomposity of some prelates...

June Butler said...

As to rhythm, who could ask for anything more?

After three in a row, I wasn't asking for any more babies. Rhythm be damned. We left the Vatican's choreography behind and made up our own steps.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Recently re-watched Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. "Every Sperm Is Sacred."

I know what my own mother went through. There were two miscarriages and six kids (I was the oldest survivor, immediately preceded and followed by my lost ghost siblings) so I saw what this cost her in terms of health and emotion, God rest her.

It is appalling that so much "theology" has nothing to do with Jesus, but the harebrained errors of Aristotle!

June Butler said...

After my third child, I suffered from what I now believe was postpartum depression, which was not a known mental health problem at the time. If I had conceived again, I believe I may have had to be institutionalized. Were the celibate men going to take care of my three babies? It was and is an abomination to lay such burdens on people in the name of the God of love.

Br Richard Edward Helmer BSG said...

I saw a brilliant production of Albee's Tiny Alice today. The pompous cardinal who personifies the worst hypocrisy and pandering of institutional religion had nothing on the RC bishops in their overwrought pronouncements on the "cornerstone" of our civilization (with the royal "we" resounding around the episcopal echo chamber).

Of course, many of us were taught that Jesus is the chief cornerstone...

Ah, well, whether 1964 or 2011, religiosity as a means to control is what it always has been!

Deacon Charlie Perrin said...


I prefer the response of my own Bishop, Lawrence Provenzano:


The man is a true mensch!

JCF said...

{{{Mimi. Or, more specifically, "Young Over-burdened Mother Mimi"}}}

So, ahem...

{I made this same post over at Doug/Counterlight's ;-)}

Now that you can, Tobias...


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks Deacon C. Your bishop made a very good statement, as did mine.

JCF, thanks, too. Soon and very soon...

Brother David said...

The USA is slowly catching up to Canada and Mexico!

Anonymous said...

Well, this country has been successfully eviscerating marriage since the no-fault divorce and legalized contraception movements of the 60s, and what do we have to show for it? An endless sea of rootless children, both illigitmate and survivors of divorce, whose attendant problems are currently sinking the social safety nets and law enforcement. I admit that in the face of such evil same-sex "marriage" is small potatoes. More an insult than an injury, except for those Christian businesses that won't cater to these "weddings." They are now in legal jeopardy.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

FrM., I take your point about the children of divorced parents, but I don't think there is any valid cause and effect between no-fault divorce, contraception, and illegitimacy. People are choosing not to marry, true, but then, people often refused to marry in the past. There was one study done in the 50s that upon genetic testing in a middle class suburban neighborhood found that a surprisingly high percentage of the children were not the biological offspring of their putative father. The results were so embarrassing that they were withheld for decades.

At this point I think your church would to well to tend to the actual evil it commits, rather than critiquing the alleged evils of others, or fretting about "Christian" businesses who violate the law.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Tobias--

The four horsemen of the societal breakdown of marriage-- legalized and universally prevalent contraception with attendant legalized abortion, no-fault divorce, illegitimacy, and SSM (with polygamy waiting in the wings)-- aren't necessarily linked cause-and-effect but rather as symptoms of the underlying disease. That decease being the sexual revolution that destroyed the societal adherence to the Christian moral teaching that sex is to remain the exclusive preserve of married couples. Even if it was observed imperfectly in the past-- and what moral norm isn't observed imperfectly in this vale of tears?-- it was a pretty effective norm in our nation's past based on statistical and anecdotal evidence.

Fortunately, I'm the type that can walk and chew gum at the same time. So I can (and do) harshly criticize the rampant corruption in my Church as well as look to the general societal threats.

God bless,

June Butler said...

FrMichael, did you read my little story up thread? How would you counsel a married couple today in a similar dilemma? I'm curious.

Of course, today the great majority of Roman Catholics no longer ask their priests for advice in family-planning.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr Michael, what I'm trying to say is that I do not "buy" your reading of the "breakdown" in particular as to SSM. How a pledge of fidelity between two persons can be painted as a contributor to social breakdown escapes me; and studies have shown that places where same-sex marriage is legal have not suddenly increased in divorce and infidelity. Massachusetts continues to have a very low divorce rate, as of two years back roughly at the point the US was in 1940. In fact, divorce rates have gone down. I've looked at a few "Catholic Answers" but most of what is claimed is simply made-up: opinion presented as fact. That may work for the magisterium, but it doesn't hold much for people willing to look at objective evidence. The "fear" of same-sex marriage, and the accusations it will cause all sorts of terrible after-effects, is simply homophobia. It is based on impressions and intuitions, not facts.

On the other "threats": The existence of the "norm" only pushed indiscretions underground and out of sight. All the sexual revolution did was make them more visible. I have no reason to believe that there is more infidelity now than there used to be; and if you look at a chart of marriage and divorce statistics you will see that the relationship has been relatively constant for quite some time -- long before the revolutions of the 60s. It may well be that the availability of birth control has saved a few marriages, offsetting the increased ease of obtaining divorce. I simply don't accept your reading of the social trends at play.

I hope your harsh criticisms have some effect on your church's problems. I do wish you all the best in that, and all blessings on you ministry.

JCF said...

What color is the sky in your world, FrMichael?

Here in the world where the Most Holy Trinity loves the Imago Dei AND loves the sexuality of all them (LGBT and Straight, consciously choosing when/if to become parents), it's a beautiful blue.

I shouldn't let you annoy me. I know you're creating more conversions-to-Episcopalian, and for that I'm grateful.

Anonymous said...

Hey JCF, does God approve of pedophilia, a sexuality of a certain percentage of the human race? That alone gives lie to the idea that God loves all forms of sexuality.

Grandmere, a comments box is not the place to conduct pastoral counseling. Not sure what era you were of childbearing years, but potential responses range from referrals to Natural Family Planning (not rhythm), to complete abstinence until past childbearing years, to use of a condom based on the intransigence of the husband. This latter follows the vadecum issued in the 90s by the Vatican.


Anonymous said...

Fr. Tobias--

To the extent that SSM divorces the idea of procreation as a foundation of marriage, it does serve as a reinforcer of the decline of the institution.

Not sure what you mean by "a chart of marriage and divorce statistics." Do you think that the general American divorce rate is similar to that of the American rate of the 1940s? It is far higher. Compare Massachusetts of the 1940s with the Massachusetts of today and see what the comparisons show.

I wasn't one to hold that SSM was a root cause of the downfall of Western Civilization. It is simply an odious manifestation of the ongoing breakdown. IMHO the main threat of SSM comes with the specter of adoption as well as the legal jeopardy suffered by Christians and others who care not to treat SSM the same as heterosexual marriages. Plus the twisted redefinition of monogamy (that is, having other sexual partners while being "married") that is a barely-disguised part of the movement out in CA. However, I have never seen you advocate that particular aberration, so I don't want to make a big deal of it here.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr. Michael,

As I have demonstrated at length, the notion that procreation is essential to marriage is simply false. If the church actually taught it to be essential (not permitting marriage where it was impossible) this whole discussion would be different. But the church, even the RCC, does not teach that. The tradition has generally been that procreation is a "good" of marriage. The NT view, as expressed by Paul, is that the primary good of marriage is companionship -- not even sex, as the marriage perdures even in times of agreed abstinence (1 Cor 7:5) -- and the prevention of infidelity. All of this applies equally well to SSM. Ultimately all long-term faithful marriages become infertile if the couple live long enough, and that is seen as a good thing: ultimately it is the fidelity of the relationship, not its fertility, that is upbuilding to civilzation.

As to the rates I suggest you look at the charts at this site. Note particularly the charts showing numbers of divorces and marriages, and divorce and marriage rates going back to 1940. These show that the rates "track" each other -- as marriages increase, so do divorces, and they remain about the same in relationship to each other -- so the rate of diverce per marriage is relatively constant -- with the exception of the post-war divorce and marriage peak (no doubt fueled by wartime infidelities. Divorce climbed in the sixties, but has remained more or less stable since the 90s, in fact even declining slightly.

I place your "concerns" about adoption and the protection of religious bigotry in a similar category. As to monogamy -- I take the traditional definition to rule out "open marriage." The idea that this is somehow characteristic of gays, however, is factually mistaken -- as I noted in the study referred to above from the 50s in relation to biological parentage.

So, as the old saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion and beliefs, but not your own facts.

June Butler said...

FrMichael, the years when I was capable of conceiving were mainly in the 60s and 70s. Of course, we knew about complete abstinence, but to take that route may have meant the slow, or not so slow, death of the marriage. I don't believe Natural Family Planning was yet in use. The 90s declaration allowing the use of condoms in the case of intransigent husbands came too late for us, or I may have worked rather hard to turn my husband into an intransigent.

By the way, we will celebrate 50 years together come the fall.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you Mimi. Of course, the very existence of the "naturally infertile periods" points to the error of the old "natural" law (and later dogmatic) position that sex (and marriage) are geared exclusively, or even primarily, to procreation. Sadly much Christian doctrine was formed and set in a time in which people had quite mistaken ideas about the true nature of God's creation...

IT said...

FrMichael and his ilk would love to put the genie back in the bottle and the women barefoot, pregnant, and back in the kitchen. Really, that's where all this comes from: a dislike of feminism and sexual equality.

Massachusetts currently has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country, as well as one of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy.

The Red-state south, a hotbed of anti-gay viewpoints, not so much.

Elsewhere we<A HREF='http://friends-of-jake.blogspot.com/2010/05/red-state-blue-state-and-family-values.html"> discussed the new book Red State Blue State which points out that the traditional views of sexuality are no longer functional in the current climate. The awful liberals make very stable marriages and healthy kids. The conservatives still have children getting pregnant.

And any claim that "open relationships" defines same sex marriage was disproven by analysis of the very shady study that purported to show it.

but we expect nothing more of FrMichael who is a staunch defender of the indefensible. One wonders why he trolls on the Episcopal blogs.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, IT.

I do not think Fr M is "trolling" though his language occasionally is more dramatic than need be. I find he often raises point which bear further illumination, even as I heartily disagree with his position.

JCF said...

Pedophilia and promiscuity? (While poor anti-LGBT Christians are victimized, quelle horror) *Those* are his reasons for opposing SSM? Sounds like trolling to me (YMMV, Tobias. As always, it's your blog, and you may welcome whomever you wish)

Anonymous said...

Fr. Tobias:

I see we are getting back to the arguments that arose on the comments which led to your book. Since I'm not keen on rehashing everything over again, I would like to state for the record that procreation is an essential element to marriage in the RC Tradition and I suspect, if we were to get into the weeds of other Christian traditions, many other Christians as well.

The existence of non-fertile periods is no lasting obstacle. Just like our teaching on usury, it involved development of doctrine, not contradiction of doctrine as represented by non-procreative marriage. I think one could summarize the Catholic understanding on the procreative end of marriage along the lines of these two statements:

1) If the couple is of child-bearing years and can expect to be able to safely bring children into the world, then both partners intend to do so in the course of their marriage.

2) All sexual activity will respect the Creator's design for the reproductive systems, male and female, of the human race as well as the Sixth Commandment.

Not to be snarky, but your link on divorce statistics is pointing me to a null site.

One could also argue, as is often done in my circles, that the heavier percentage of Catholics in a state, the lower the divorce rate. That would explain Massachusetts and many other states as well, although my own state is an outlier to both the % Catholic and % liberal statistics. I suppose that a controlled study could done on the issue, but AFAIK it has never been done.

IT, I'm many things, but rarely a troll. Granted that sometimes I'm brief and blunt as parish duties call...

Happy Fourth of July to you all! And congratulations to Grandmere and her husband!


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr Michael, we are indeed treading out the granary of Gath. So as my book is widely available (now even on Google Books) I'll simply flag these facts:

In the Episcopal Church, (and in the Church of England's Common Worship) procreation is not seen as an essential element in Christian Marriage. It is, in both cases, considered a tertiary "good" -- with the emphasis on childrearing rather than procreation itself.

It goes without saying (but I'll say it!) that I utterly reject the RC teaching on a purported "Creator's design" as bordering on "worship of the creature rather than the creator" -- and besides, logically inconsistent, since the human reproductive system obviously arises due to our biological inheritance from other creatures who similarly are "fruitful and multiply" -- and where it departs, indicates something quite other than an insistence on procreation: such as the ability to have intercourse during those naturally occurring infertile periods.

Sorry about the link. I pasted the wrong thing. Here is the correct one, I hope. My point is that divorce rates correlated strongly with marriage rates. Whether there is correlation with Roman Catholicism or not, I don't know -- though it is true that divorce is much higher in the "Red States" that are dense with Evangelicals, and the divorce rate among Evangelicals is higher than among Episcopalians. My point was that your suggestion of a correlation with SSM is questionable.

Happy Fourth to you as well...

Anonymous said...

Fr. Tobias--

The link worked this time. Thank you.

The provided graph on divorce statistics actually backed my point. Even though the graphs of marriage and divorce appear similar to each other, pulling the statistics off them prove my point between the 1940s and now. As I read the charts:

1940: 1.65 million marriages, 275 thousand divorces. 6 marriages for every divorce.

1995: 2.33 million marriages, 1.15 million divorces. Ratio about 2 to 1.

I would agree that post-1995 is a fairly constant, perhaps even with a slightly improved divorce to marriage ratio.

More next comment...

Anonymous said...

Fr. Tobias--

I'm not sure what we are arguing about here regarding SSM. My point is that the sexual revolution, the idea the people were morally right to have sex outside marriage, is the root cause of the baleful changes in the American sexual and marital mores.

I don't blame SSM for the increase of heterosexual divorce, I blame the sexual revolution plus the always-divorce-happy American culture. One of my more entertaining reads as a seminarian was a letter from a 19th century bishop (maybe from Boston) complaining to Rome about how divorce-happy the Americans were. IIRC he was complaining about a few dozen civil divorces-- not few dozen thousand, but less than fifty-- in his diocesan area.


Anonymous said...


By referring to pedophilia and promiscuity, I was refuting your assertion that God loves all forms of sexuality. Clearly He does not.

So having quickly disposed of your weak argument, the question before us Christians is whether same-sex attraction is loved by God or not.

I represent the large majority of the Christians who by unbroken witness of Scripture and (in the RC view) Apostolic Tradition hold that it is not.

The blog host is of the view that same-sex sexuality is reasonable and holy by Scriptural warrant. What makes his blog worth reading is that he doesn't just appeal to experience, as in, "I love my boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other/(same sex) spouse and how dare you, nasty bigot, tell me this isn't just the same as husband-and-wife-with-children." That is as weak an argument as a placard stating "God hates f--s" is on my side. Fr. Tobias at least appeals to Scripture and reason, even if IMHO he is a bit too infected with the zeitgeist. I have to say (and not just to avoid being thrown out of this combox) that his Scriptural take is the best I've read from his side of the aisle.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr M., as the old saying goes, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. In this case I think we are looking at things differently. I was referring to the way in which the number of divorces tracks the number of marriages: the third chart from the top at the page I pointed to.

Moreover, the first chart under "Marriage, Divorce Rates" Shows that the divorce rate and marriage rate both, per thousand of population, is again declining. Marriage is declining a bit faster than divorce.

I just think pinning this all on the "sexual revolution" is a bit to facile. I have no doubt that birth control had a major impact on family life, and marriage.

The wonder though is why you brought this up, since I was referring to the portrayal of SSM by the bishops as an assault upon marriage and the family. Heterosexuals seem, as you note, to do perfectly well at assaulting marrriage without gay couples being to blame!

That being said I appreciate your comments on the continued effort to find some rational basis for movement that is faithful to Scripture and tradition. I've been re-reading the early Fathers, and in the post apostolic era their main concern, to the degree they express any concern over same-sex behavior, is almost entirely related to pederasty; which is natural as that was the "approved" form in the cultures they were engaged with.

Anonymous said...

Looked back to my initial comment on this thread. It adequately represents my point: SSM is an insult to injury, the grave injuries to marriage already dealt decades ago by the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce, contraception, abortion, etc. Unlike my bishops, my main concern with SSM is the legal jeopardy it places Catholics in the public sphere. I'm not worried about some SSA couple walking into my rectory and seeking marriage. I'm concerned about a Knight of Columbus council being sued by such a couple because the council won't rent out their hall. Even worse is Catholic children learning in public school that marriage is a union of two consenting adults, regardless of sex. THAT was the impetus behind Propositions 22 and 8 in California and will continue to be the burr in the saddle, why live-and-let-live doesn't fly. In the end, neither side can abide by a libertarian solution when the majority of school children are educated in public schools.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr. M., I think I graspdd your point the first time, but find it utterly objectionable, and a classic example of special pleading.

You are an insult to me, and countless other faithful people; I forgive you the offense to me -- you hardly know any better; I cannot absolve you of the offense to others, nor would you accept tha absolution, since you do not believe yourself to be in the wrong and have no need to repent; but I pray you may come to a better mind before you stand before the one who will judge you with the strictness, and narrowness, with which you so freely judge others.

Live and let live doesn't fly because you and your colleagues seek to privilege your rights over the rights of others. There is a right to public accommodations; there is no right to refuse them to those of whom one does not approve. There is no right to control the education of others. Ultimately Bigotry and discrimination is no less shameful when it wears religious vestments. That it is still recognizable gives me hope that its days are numbered.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Tobias--

There is no lack of accomodation for SSM, at least in my neck of the woods. There are plenty of photographers who will photograph such an event without any twange of conscience. There are no lack of civil officials who would record the event in the civil registers in the jurisdictions where SSM is legal. There are no lack of halls that would host a same-sex couple's reception. The problem here isn't public accomodation, it is people looking for trouble, trying to get the tens of millions of Americans who strongly disapprove of SSM into legal jeopardy.

As for "There is no right to control the education of others," in my religion as I suppose for most Christians, parents are the first and foremost educators of their children in every aspect. Others-- priests, teachers, catechists-- are only educators by delegation. The ridiculous LGBT education bill sitting on the California Governor's desk is an affront to parental rights. Having public school teachers teach their charges that SSM is marriage without an opt-in/opt-out policy is an affront.

This truly is an issue without a libertarian solution.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Got you the first time, Fr. M. Merely repeating the mantra doesn't make it any less unacceptable in a pluralistic society. I'm sure you would be very galled were a local store or restaurant to refuse to serve Roman Catholics because the owners disapproved of their religion. People in a free society are only so free, and rights to public accommodation must be honored -- by all. I heartily disapprove of the teaching of the RCC on this matter, but I have no right to stop that teaching, or if I owned a photography studio, to refuse a legitimate commission to photograph an RC function.

It is not a failure of libertarianism, but a failure of bigotry. There is no right to discriminate! That is what you are arguing for; and if you argue for it only for those things with which you disagree you are engaged in special pleading.

You can toss about adjectives and epithets all you like, but it doesn't change reality. Parents do not have an absolute right to control the education of their children in a public setting. We see the dangers in that as people choose to take offense at science and history they find ill-suited to their beliefs and ideologies. Parents do have a right to send their children to private school, or home school -- but there is no right to dictate to the public education system that it teach in accordance with their private beliefs, even if widely shared, or "protect" their children from reality.

Anonymous said...

Well, in the RCC there actually is considered a natural law right for parents to tell a public school system that it must teach in accord with their private beliefs.

I think we understand each other clearly. Greatly different premises create wildly varying logical conclusions.

I wouldn't dream of suing a hyper-Calvinist Rome-is-the-Great-Babylon photographer who refused to photograph my priestly ordination. Yet we know that analogous cases will arise from SS couples seeking legal redress for situations where they know they will impose on others' consciences. I'm surprised that you think that society is served by smashing people by judicial action unnecessarily when alternative sources for public services are readily at hand.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Fr. M., you know what I think about the RC version of "natural law" -- so yes, different premises lead to different conclusions.

Given the evidence of past behavior, I can only imagine the outcry if your fantasy Calvinist photographer actually were do do as you say. You may claim you would do nothing, but given the outcries from Catholic League types over recent times towards anything remotely perceived as anti-Catholic, I think there would be plenty who would.

Frankly, the strong efforts to undo SSM in Califormia show that Roman Catholics are quite willing to seek to impose their view on others, under the guise of "protecting themselves."

The idea that there will be millions of cake-bakers, wedding photographers, and hall renters, piously suffering the onslaught of an engineered legal assault is absurd. There may be a few cases here or there, but your concern is out of all proportion to the reality.

What you really want is for SSM not to happen. Your continued portrayal of the RCC as "victim" is an embarrassment, and only goes further to reveal the depth of systemic homophobia in the RCC. I mean that clinically, as an irrational fear. SSM will not "harm society" "insult marriage" or bring on a flood of lawsuits.