Bishops Should Discourage Illegal Entry to Our Country

Rev. Michael P. Orsi | August 2, 2010 | 5:53pm EDT
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Four Catholic bishops from Mexico’s border states commended U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton for her temporary injunction on some provisions of SB 1070, more commonly known as the “Arizona Immigration law” - the most high profile part of which is a requirement for police to check suspects’ immigration status during routine stops if there is reasonable suspicion they are in the United States illegally. 
The bishops said they would continue to oppose the problematic provisions of the law without giving specifics. They, of course, include that the law has caused families to live in fear and anxiety that they may be torn apart and that these are good people who contribute to our society. Then they plead with our political leadership to fix the broken system with “comprehensive reform of our Nation’s immigration laws.”
But, the bishops don’t encourage the obvious – obedience to the current national laws!
Catholic theology has always taught that “all just laws must be obeyed.” This means laws that are legally enacted by a legitimate authority must be enforceable and promulgated in a reasonable time so that the populace is aware of the law and the consequences of infraction. 
There must also be some provision to amend laws if a society later deems a change would benefit the common good. This is for the good order of society. A person or group of persons may knowingly violate a law only if it contradicts the “natural law” because then it would be an unjust law. 
This is traditional Catholic teaching. For example, while many Catholics protest abortion outside of abortion clinics they are always encouraged to obey the state’s laws regarding the distance that must be kept from the facility which is usually marked by a bright yellow line. 
They are also told to obey police instructions for safety – theirs and those seeking entry. On the other hand, demanding that a Catholic hospital provide abortions or forcing a medical worker to participate in an abortion is a violation of conscience which cannot be legitimately enforced. The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would fit this last category.
No doubt, there are hardship cases which need to be addressed in Arizona’s quest to purge illegals, but, one has to wonder why the bishops are not willing to do the obvious and alleviate the problem at its root; discourage illegals from entering the country! 
This is basic whether or not Arizona’s law passes constitutional muster, simply because illegal immigration is wrong. A joint statement from the Mexican bishops informing their citizens of this would go a long way in properly forming consciences, encourage law enforcement on both sides of the border, insure people’s safety, and promote international cooperation.
There are two reasons why this is not happening. For too long, American Catholics have been led to erroneously believe that “social justice,” a relatively new term in the Catholic lexicon, means liberal social policies on the part of the state are morally good. Quite often this means “doing good using someone else’s back” – the taxpayers. 
It is the essence of socialism, which promotes the redistribution of wealth. This is politics. It must not be confused with charity either. Charity has an individual dimension. It is something a person does freely and is within the provenance of the church to encourage. It is why people, parishes, dioceses and other charitable organizations attend to people’s needs from their own purse. 
Another reason, I have unofficially heard, is “that these Mexicans are for the most part Catholic. They will help the church grow in our country.” This is self-serving and not Catholic. As a matter of fact, it is not unlike the Obama administration’s desire to expand his party’s Hispanic voting base. 
No doubt the bishops mean well; however, a disregard for the rule of law in the name of compassion can only lead to the destruction of the good society. In the end it delegitimizes the bishops as moral leaders and will prove detrimental for them when addressing church-state issues.
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