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Italian Archbishop Says No ‘Conscientious Objection’ on Immigration Law

migrant
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

An archbishop has broken ranks from fellow Italian prelates, saying that mayors have no right to appeal to conscientious objection to disobey the nation’s immigration laws — an Italian parallel to American sanctuary cities.

Luigi Negri, the former archbishop of Ferrara, suggested Sunday that bishops who have supported or called for recourse to conscientious objection have overstepped their competence, failing to respect the legitimate autonomy of the political sphere in questions that require prudential judgment. Similarly, mayors who appeal to the principle to disobey immigration laws misuse it.

“The right to object is to be defended when fundamental principles are undermined,” Negri said. “Those mayors who use conscientious objection deliberately as a political tool against legitimate actions of superior or equal authorities, abuse the concept.”

According to Catholic theology, one must refrain from obeying laws that mandate immoral behavior, such as a law requiring people to participate in abortions.

The “security decree” of interior minister Matteo Salvini, which among other things facilitates the deportation of illegal immigrants, has raised the ire of certain members of the Italian Catholic hierarchy.

On the same day, the archbishop of Chieti, Bruno Forte, protested the Salvini decree in an interview with the press, claiming that rescuing migrants is not something optional but a “moral imperative.”

Ethically speaking, Forte said, “if something contrary to my conscience is imposed on me, such as refusing help to whole families at the mercy of the sea for days, conscientious objection is justified.”

“Alarmism and talk of an invasion are propagandistic lies that are harmful to everyone, except to those who use them for electoral advantages,” the archbishop said in reference to the interior minister’s allusions to Italy’s migrant crisis.

Archbishop Negri took issue with this line of reasoning, saying that prelates have no right to meddle in secular affairs where moral absolutes do not come into play.

“The issue of security is a matter for dialogue among the secular forces participating in social life,” he said.

“In general, those who exploit the gospel are mistaken,” Negri said, while also defending the Salvini decree, arguing that “a recovery of cultural, human and religious identity is absolutely positive: the famous Christian roots of Europe.”

The archbishop said moreover that not everyone is in a position to integrate into Italian society, which is based on a Judeo-Christian understanding of the person, family, and society.

“Those who seek to integrate must take certain steps in identifying with our society,” he said. “But beware, this may not be enough: a person cannot ask to integrate in Italy while defending Sharia law as a good thing.”

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