Pushing Amnesty: Moral or Immoral?

By Marguerite Telford on April 4, 2014

This week Cardinal O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, joined by several other members of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, held Mass at the Arizona southern border as part of a lobbying effort for increased immigration and amnesty for illegal immigrants. Pictures of Catholic clergy distributing the Holy Eucharist to hands reaching through a fence were all over the media.

As a Catholic, I am saddened and alarmed by the bishop's use of the Holy Eucharist as a photo opportunity to push for amnesty. As a person informed on immigration issues, I am appalled by the bishops' lack of understanding of how their actions encourage foreigners to illegally cross our border, leaving their family members behind, to come wait out an amnesty which may never happen.

Do Catholic Mexican nationals not have access to priests in Mexico? Of course they do. Distributing Holy Communion through a fence to individuals standing at the border in anticipation of breaking American laws demeans the Catholic Church and undermines the sovereignty of the United States.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Arizona said, "We see this as a moral issue, as an ethical issue." But he is just wrong. Amnesty for 11-12 million individuals who entered this country illegally is not a moral issue; it is a complicated political issue that requires an understanding of the resulting fiscal, security, labor, and legal consequences. It is a political issue for which the vast majority of countries are far less open to and far less forgiving of than the United States. A distinction exists between fundamental moral issues and "prudential" judgments. Unlike abortion and euthanasia, immigration is not a key theological issue that obliges Catholics to support the bishops' stance. Further, only in the United States has advocating on behalf of illegal aliens recently become a moral imperative.

As a Catholic, I question the wisdom of the bishops spending parishioners' money, my money, to push an issue that is not theologically and doctrinally based and not shared by the people sitting in the pews. The Catholic hierarchy encourages foreigners to break our laws and come into the United States illegally, to make the dangerous journey, and to leave their families in order to enjoy the standard of living offered here. Thus, they must also share the responsibility for the deaths, rapes, assaults, and robberies experienced by these individuals (thousands of whom are minors traveling alone), the orphans left behind, and the unemployed, poor Americans displaced by illegal aliens in the labor market, in whom the bishops seem uninterested.