Jewish World Review March 6, 2006 / 6 Adar 5766
Theology and illegal aliens
I am an American of Irish descent, and Roman Catholicism has been in my family for hundreds of years. I respect the Church because I've seen firsthand the good that it can do. Worldwide, no organization does more for the poor and downtrodden than Catholic Charities, in my opinion.
Thus, it was no surprise when Cardinal Roger Mahony spoke from his pulpit in Los Angeles on Ash Wednesday and urged compassion for immigrants. Surely, people seeking a better life in the USA legally should get help from the Christian community. But the cardinal's message turned out to include illegal immigrants as well, and then came the crusher: Cardinal Mahony said he will order his priests not to obey a proposed new federal law that cracks down on people aiding "undocumented aliens."
House Bill 4437, passed last Dec. 16, would make it a criminal offense to knowingly assist illegals in evading the immigration laws. The proposed law also calls for a wall at the Mexican border, mandatory detention of illegals caught inside the USA, and a number of other tough enforcement provisions.
Cardinal Mahony opposes them all.
Instead, the cardinal wants a "humane" approach to the illegal immigration problem and calls the tough measures "hysterical."
In a startling conversation with the L.A. Times, Mahony is quoted as saying that Al Qaeda operatives would not trek through the Arizona desert to infiltrate the USA and "the war on terror is not going to be won through immigration restrictions."
How the cardinal arrived at these conclusions remains a mystery. I do believe, however, that thousands of Al Qaeda have trekked through arid areas in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Somebody should inform the cardinal.
Mahony defiantly says that his priests are not going to become "immigration agents," but nobody is asking for that. The intent of the law is to eliminate so called "sanctuary" policies whereby Americans shelter and generally provide for illegal aliens while helping them avoid detection.
As a cardinal of the Catholic Church, Mahony's job description is to act as an "emissary" of Christ. So the question becomes, "what would Jesus do?"
It is hard to believe that Jesus would ask the nationality of anyone before giving the person food and drink, or tending to them if they were injured. But if you follow the "Render to Caesar" parable, Jesus might not be fine with setting up an underground railroad that violates a nation's right to regulate who enters its territory.
Maybe I'm wrong here, but it seems absolutely lawful and logical for any country to want to know who is living within its borders. Is border control a human rights violation? What say you, Cardinal Mahony?
It is somewhat unfair to bring this up, but I must in the interest of full disclosure. Cardinal Mahony was not proactive in protecting children from predator priests in his diocese. In fact, many believe Mahony is a villain in the matter; stonewalling authorities and not holding some criminal priests accountable.
There is no common ground between the issues of predator priests and illegal aliens, except respect for the law. Urging his priests to violate a proposed new federal immigration law, after handling the priest scandal poorly, puts Cardinal Mahony in a tough spot both morally and legally.
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Back in the Vietnam War days, a number of priests violated the law by participating in illegal protests. Some of them spent time in prison for doing so. Will that happen to Cardinal Mahony if the new immigration law passes and he defies it?
Only G-d knows.
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