Immigration as redemption for U.S. bishops

Washington’s 2013 effort at comprehensive immigration reform offers a chance at redemption to the United States bishops. For what I … Continued

Washington’s 2013 effort at comprehensive immigration reform offers a chance at redemption to the United States bishops.

For what I judge all too long a time, the USCCB and its member bishops have projected opposition to the Obama presidency. Witness their rejection to the Affordable Care Act. Health care for all had been a celebrated cause of America’s Catholic bishops since the last century. But instead they departed from nearly a hundred years of Catholic advocacy, to officially oppose Obamacare. Their rejection was partly based on nit-picking Obama’s executive order prohibiting federal funding of abortions. Thankfully, key Catholic organization engaged in health care refused to follow the bishops in denying the greater good in search of perfection. Will this happen again as Washington prepares legislation on comprehensive immigration reform?

Since the 2003 pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope,”the solid links between faith and action on this matter had placed Catholicism as a key ally in the cause of reform. But just when this decade long struggle is about to triumph, the bishops’ response was a mushy endorsement of a week-old plan of eight senators. Unmentioned by Archbishop José Gómez was the reform policy of President Obama, articulated frequently during the 2013 campaign. In fact, the president’s bold executive action in June of 2012 to forestall deportation of youths qualifying for the proposed DREAM Act, merited the same kind of muted response. In a 2012 interview, Cardinal Dolan urged Republicans to change their policies rather than congratulating the president for his.

To be clear, I laud the bishops for their stance on immigration reform. But when compared with their effort and expenditures for less compelling issues like same sex marriage or insurance plans covering contraception, the USCCB seems less eager to advocate for immigrants. The bishops orchestrated opposition to Obama’s reelection by foisting a highly visible campaign against what was described as the president’s attacks on religious liberty. Letters invoking threats to one’s salvation if voting for Obama were read from some pulpits. Such measures constituted a full court press of the USCCB for what it considers important. Immigration, in contrast, has merited far less. I am not in favor of “communion wars” denying the Eucharist to recalcitrant Catholic congressman like Lou Barletta (R-PA) who do not espouse this Catholic teaching. But at least the bishops can expend more energy on immigration.

As the saying goes, “You put your money where your mouth is,” and the bishops should demonstrate a fervor and zeal for immigration reform that matches their performance on these other causes. Otherwise, they will suffer once more in the court of public opinion as they have on so many other issues like the cover-up of clerical pedophilia and inquisitorial investigation of our beloved nuns. It was disappointing that Christian Latino ministers were featured at Obama’s second inauguration and its luncheon and not any Latino Catholic who has toiled long and hard on this issue. But in light of the bishops’ collective coldness to Obama, their absence was predictable.

Immigration’s case rests on solid pillars of Catholic teaching. First, separation of family members goes against the natural law. Second, the interests of nation-states are secondary to the primary needs of humankind. God made us in his image and likeness, while national boundaries are merely human constructions. Third, enforcement of legal requirements ought to respect human dignity, and in too many instances detection of who is and who is not without documents has violated church teachings in this regard. Fourth, the evangelical commission from Jesus to preach to all nations (Mt. ) is embodied in a pastoral obligation to educate Catholics about the priority we owe to the Gospel over and against partisan political loyalties.

While I hope for the best, I fear the worse. Some have suggested that the bishops will reject reform for not excluding same-sex couples, and they describe the president’s provision to allow a path to citizenship for gay and lesbian immigrants as a “poison pill.” Will the USCCB reject the entire bill for this one provision? Will they expose themselves again to small-mindedness? Let’s hope the bishops opt instead for redemption.


Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York.
  • jeffreed

    Let me see the leading Catholic Bishop advocating for illegal immigrants was Cardinal Roger Mahony. While advocating for illegal immigrants, the good Cardinal Mahony was proverbially moving heaven and earth to protect priests who molested young boys. Oh yes some of the young boys that were molested were Latinos So why would the good Cardinal Mahony advocate for illegal immigrants and at the same time allow priests to molest boys. The answer is quite simple. The immigrant community in Los Angeles largely but not exclusively illegal provided butts in seats and dollars in the collection plates which was far more important to the good Cardinal than looking out for the welfare of young boys who were being molested by Catholic priests.

    What happened in Los Angeles was happening all over this nation. Recently, a Monsignor from Philadelphia was jailed for his role in covering up the molesting of young boys by Catholic priests. All across this nation the Catholic Church has done everything it can to cover up the actions of Catholic priests molesting young boys and never come clean. Now in New Jersey and Pennsylvania we are hearing stories of priests getting girls some legal and some not pregnant. Oh yes the church is fighting to prevent the investigation of how many priests have fathered children.

    The Catholic Church has no interest in the welfare of young boys and girls. The only reason the Catholic Church is interested in the welfare of illegal immigration is without them it will be in terminal decline. The idea of the Catholic Church being a moral or ethical institution is a bad joke.


    Just what is wrong with America’s immigration law? It could be enhanced by congress to have the likes of Canada’s immigration law point system so that we receive the correct type of immigrants that are a aset to our country. What nation of the world that has no illegal aliens and or homeless? The Vatican. What nation of the world that has over 12,000,000 unlawful entry people in it that takes jobs from the country’s citizens for very low wages that the country’s taxpayer pay the rest of the unlawful entry peoples tab. The United States of America. These unlawful entry people are ILLEGAL ALIENS, not immigrants which are the fiber of our country. The RCC admistration call for comprehensive immigration reform which is nothing but a false label like the dream act which means a lot more than dream when you find out what it really covers. The RCC is more interested in get the pews and baskets full then what is correct for our country. They are not worryed about the cost of these ILLEGAL ALENS in our country account they just claim TAX EXEMPT. Our nation with a $16.4 TRILLION debt, how can we afford these ILLEGAL ALENS who will cause all of America’s socil programs to fail. What is the purpose of national border and national laws? The Vatican has them and enforce them. The citizens of America are the owners of America and should have a real say of ILLEGAL ALIENS before great damage is done by members of our government to our country for the latino vote and full pews. Where is the DIALOGUE with the American people?



Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.