Our diocese is gearing up to oppose House Bill 4437, the odious immigration reform bill that has passed the House and now moves to the Senate. We are encouraging people to attend an interfaith prayer service and rally in oppostion to the bill on Tuesday, March 7 at 4 p. m. on the West Lawn of the Capitol. But we didn't have in mind anything as audacious as what Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles is advocating.
Here is a piece of the lead editorial in today's New York Times :
"It has been a long time since this country heard a call to organized lawbreaking on this big a scale. Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, urged parishioners on Ash Wednesday to devote the 40 days of Lent to fasting, prayer and reflection on the need for humane reform of immigration laws. If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.
The cardinal's focus of concern is H.R. 4437, a bill sponsored by James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Peter King of New York. This grab bag legislation, which was recently passed by the House, would expand the definition of "alien smuggling" in a way that could theoretically include working in a soup kitchen, driving a friend to a bus stop or caring for a neighbor's baby. Similar language appears in legislation being considered by the Senate this week.
The enormous influx of illegal immigrants and the lack of a coherent federal policy to handle it have prompted a jumble of responses by state and local governments, stirred the passions of the nativist fringe, and reinforced anxieties since 9/11. Cardinal Mahony's defiance adds a moral dimension to what has largely been a debate about politics and economics. 'As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church,' he said."
My baseball cap is off to the Cardinal. I hoped other church leaders will follow his lead.