I am a Catholic. I am also, however, against illegal immigration. I believe that we should clamp down harder on illegal immigrants and we should do more to protect our borders. Churches, whether they be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or other, however, have a different duty, in society, than governments, police departments and citizens. A church’s duty is to help people without regard to the person’s past or current standing.
After an interview with Cardinal Mahony of the Catholic Church, the Los Angeles Times reported “In an interview on the eve of Ash Wednesday, Mahony said he planned to use the first day of the Lenten season to call on all 288 parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the nation’s largest, to fast, pray and press for humane immigration reform. U.S. Roman Catholic bishops support proposals for a guest-worker program, legalization of undocumented immigrants and more visas for migrants’ families.”. The Times further reported that “In his most forceful comments to date, Mahony said he would instruct his priests to defy legislation — if approved by Congress — that would require churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance and penalize them if they refuse to do so. That provision was included in the immigration bill recently passed by the House of Representatives; a similar proposal is in the version that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to begin debating this week.”.
Cardinal Mahony stated “The whole concept of punishing people who serve immigrants is un-American. If you take this to its logical, ludicrous extreme, every single person who comes up to receive Holy Communion, you have to ask them to show papers. It becomes absurd and the church is not about to get into that. The church is here to serve people…. We’re not about to become immigration agents. It just throws more gasoline on the discussion and inflames people.”
In a letter to the Times a reader stated “It is time for the Internal Revenue service to look into the Catholic Church’s tax-exempt status. It seems as though Cardinal Roger Mahony is getting involved in politics, and I thought that was a no-no.”
I disagree with that reader. I don’t believe that Cardinal Mahony is engaging in politics. He was not telling his parishioners what stance to take on illegal immigration, he was simply asking (not odering) his parishes to “fast, pray and press for humane immigration reform” and instructing his priests to continue to provide assistance to people without regard for their immigration status.
It is a priest’s duty to assist people. To deny a person the sacraments of confession, communion, baptism, last rites, marriage, etc., or to deny financial aid or comfort in times of need, because that person may or may not be here legally or because that person may not be able to prove that he or she is here legally, would be unchristian and against the spirit of the Church. In my opinion, any priest that would deny aid based on immigration status, would not be fit to be called a priest.
Cardinal Mahony also stated that he disagreed with certain new laws and rules being proposed. I disagree with some of his statements, however this country’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and I believe that he should be able to vocalise his thoughts and feelings, just like the rest of us. His being a Cardinal should not rob him of his right to free speech. He is not, after all, speaking of treason or hate and he is not stating that God told him to make his statements. He is not stating that God will punish those that do not follow his (Cardinal Mahony) wishes.
Cardinal Mahony advocates immigrant rights and I and many others disagree with many of the rights he advocates, however, he is a citizen of this country and no matter what his position or influence, should have the right to speak out on issues that he believes in. Politicians, celebrities, union leaders, billionairs, etc. all are allowed to speak out. Why should church leaders be prevented from speaking out?
Yes, the government should do everything it can in order to stop illegal immigration. No, churches should not be stopped from caring for their flock and they should not be stopped from caring for someone just because he or she may or may not be a citizen or a legal immigrant. The government’s duties and the church’s duties are not the same.