Catholic Bishops Present Aggressive Pro-Amnesty Campaign from Pulpit
Last weekend, U.S. Catholic bishops began an aggressive social justice campaign to persuade members of Congress to pass immigration legislation that would grant amnesty to at least 11 million people who came to the States illegally.
As reported in the L.A. Times, the campaign features preaching from the pulpit and urging parishioners to contact their lawmakers and demand that they pass amnesty legislation. In addition, parishes are holding prayer vigils and fasting events “to spotlight the plight of the immigrant.”
The Catholic bishops have provided parishes with samples of general intercessions to be prayed during the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass, such as, “For unaccompanied migrant children, that they may be protected from all harm and reunited with loving families, we pray to the Lord…”
In addition, church leaders are providing prewritten letters and electronic postcards for parishioners to send to their members of Congress.
According to Kevin Appleby, director of immigration policy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the bishops’ campaign is broader, bolder, and more unified than in the past.
“We learned some lessons from 2006, 2007,” Appleby said. “You really have to mobilize constituents and voters in order to succeed.”
Appleby states that polls show broad support for immigration reform among Catholics.
“Translating the support to action is the goal,” he said.
The USCCB’s Committee on Migration is urging bishops around the country to address legalization for illegal immigrants during Mass and providing online talking points and suggestions for homilies, bulletin inserts, and pulpit announcements. Materials emphasize church teachings on caring for the unfortunate and oppressed and welcoming “the stranger.”
“We’ve urged the bishops to focus on this time frame,” Appleby said, referring to the month of September. “It’s a critical time. We need to get the Senate bill through to the House. It needs a push. We’re doing everything right now to keep the pressure up.”
Regarding the fact that many Catholics are not supportive of amnesty, Appleby said, “It certainly can be a divisive issue. One of the goals of the campaign is to educate Catholics on the issue.”
However, in a recent article in Crisis Magazine, columnist Stephen Krason suggests that the public issue of comprehensive immigration reform “requires better analysis by the bishops and their staff.”
The USCCB’s major recent statement on immigration, Strangers No Longer, makes a number of sensible policy recommendations, such as promoting family reunification and a foreign-born worker program. However, its readiness to propose or embrace specific policy proposals at all—as opposed to focusing on opposing the ones which collide with Catholic teaching—may be problematical, since there can be a large range of morally acceptable policy approaches. These are mostly matters of prudential judgment. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states, it is not the Church’s prerogative “to enter into questions of the merit of political programmes, except as concerns their religious or moral implications” (#424).
Krason observes that the USCCB office determines on its website that the responsibility for addressing the reasons why people emigrate from their native country in the first place rests with the United States.
“Congress should examine the root causes of migration, such as under-development and poverty in sending countries, and seek long-term solutions,” he quotes from the USCCB website.
“What authority, obligation, right, or even capability does the U.S. Congress have to try to solve what may be deep-seated or even intractable problems in other countries?” Krason asks. “Don’t these countries’ own political and economic leaders bear the basic responsibility for that?”
Krason also points out that neither the bishops’ immigration statement, Strangers No Longer, nor the USCCB immigration policy website hold illegal immigrants responsible for breaking the law which, he says, though it may need improvement, cannot be simply dismissed as “unjust.”
“Even though the Church consistently emphasizes the importance of the rule of law, there is no concern expressed that the massive influx of illegal immigrants and a lax response damages the rule of law,” Krason asserts.