Some Bishops support immigration reform, then there is Olmsted who supports Sheriff Arpaio
WASHINGTON (By Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, Catholic America) June 20, 2010 — Like Fordham football's fabled "Seven Blocks of Granite," the U.S. bishops are holding the line on immigration. Central to their message is the moral dimension that calls for comprehensive reform.
But the partisan law recentlypassed in Arizona has intensified the need to articulate the Catholic position so as to contrast with short-term political advantages. Will such Episcopal pronouncements be enough?
Statements on the Arizona law have come from all manner of Catholic leaders, ranging from prelates, like Archbishop Chaput who is notable for his conservative positions, through centrists, like Archbishop Dolan and to the out-spoken Cardinal Mahony.
Each of these prelates advocates the crystal-clear teaching of the Vatican about the dangerous tendencies in current U.S. immigration politics.
Catholics, unlike secular liberals, believe in Original Sin. We are concerned about legal loopholes that inevitably invite abuses of human rights while stoking the flames of racism. Such abusive hatred is not fictitious.
One judge threw an immigrant mother in jail for lacking papers and then awarded her two-year old son to a couple for adoption on the grounds that the mother had "abandoned her child."
In another instance, the wife of a soldier MIA in Iraq, was to be deported because — although his military service earned him legal status — the immigration laws do not extend to his wife.
Then there is the notorious case of Luis Ramírez who was beaten and kicked to death by a gang of white high-school football players in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. An all-white jury let them go scot-free. Persons who favor laws that produce such consequences share guilt for these attacks on God's good order.
While the context of Nazi Germany's crackdown on Jews is not the same as contemporary Arizona's law about immigrants, both have a moral equivalent in singling out one group for unfair treatment. I think lessons learned from the response of Germany's bishops to the Nazis' laws should make today's bishops more wary. Some German bishops before the war warmed to the Nazis political promises to attack liberals, restore family values and end abortion (at least for Aryan women).
Thankfully, most prelates from the pope down were not deceived. However, many Church warnings against the Nazis were watered down by concerns about alienating centrists, by fear of partisanship, and by an unsuccessful effort to achieve reconciliation with Hitler. In hindsight, such ecclesiastical caution was a serious mistake. In the face of hideous injustice, words are not enough.
Will any of today's bishops deny communion to Catholic officials who vote for this bill and its spawn of imitators in other states? Has censure been voiced against the local sheriff Joe Arpaio (a Catholic) who has led raids on Hispanics? These are strategies used in the past by bishops.
Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix, has been forthright in signing documents detailing the Church's objections to this new law, but he has been criticized for not treating this issue with the same vigor as other public matters counter to Church teaching.
Bishop Olmstead, I note, was in national news for his invocation of Canon Law against a nun ethicist at a Catholic hospital. Less visible were his denial of Holy Communion to a 10-year old autistic child and a legal maneuver to side-step financial liability for clerical pedophilia. He prohibited of a speech by Janet Napolitano in the diocese. He cited her opposition to Church teachings and denounced President Obama's speech at Notre Dame on the same grounds. (Neither Napolitano nor Obama are Catholics.) But in the case of Catholic officials attacking Church teachings on immigration, the best from Bishop Olmstead so far has been a call to greater love and casting blame for Arizona's law on Washington.
"With a diocese 80% Hispanic, Bishop Olmsted is more comfortable on Sundays speaking to Sun City residents from Kansas where Bishop Olmsted has his roots rather than marching against the tyranny of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio toward the Diocese's Hispanic Catholics. The time is long over due for Olmsted to be fired," according toJon Garrido National News, owner and CEO of Hispanic News.
I am against denying communion as a political tool, but I think bishops who have done so about other issues like same-sex marriage create a dilemma for themselves. If they do not treat violations of Church teaching on immigration with the same measure as other issues, they run the risk of scandal to Catholic America that sees loyalty to all of the Magisterium as essential.