Catholic bishops in US say they will break immigration law
Catholic leaders in the US have said that they may break a proposed immigration law, saying that "the laws of the gospel always exceed the laws of the land."
Their comments were directed at a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December, and currently before the Senate, to tighten border controls.
Among other things, the bill would obligate churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance.
Anyone who knowingly "assists, encourages or directs" someone to reside in the U.S. illegally would be guilty of alien smuggling and subject to up five years in prison under the bill.
A number of Catholic bishops have now denounced the bill. But Cardinal Roger Mahony, the leader of the nation's largest archdiocese, has now gone further and promised to defy the bill if it becomes law.
"I would say to all priests, deacons and members of the church that we are not going to observe this law," Mahony said after a mass last week. He called on Catholics to "make room" for immigrants.
Bishop Arthur Tafoya has also said that Roman Catholics must stand on the side of justice and equality for all.
"As Catholic Christians, we are followers of Jesus Christ and we must follow the laws of love and charity, and stand on the side of justice and equality for all. The laws of the gospel always exceed the laws of the land," said Tafoya.
"Cardinal Mahony's words are courageous and prophetic," Bishop Tafoya said in a statement Friday.
In 2003, U.S. and Mexican bishops issued a statement on migration saying that "more powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows." The bishops also said that nations were obligated to respect the dignity of migrants "regardless of their legal status."
Last year, the American church launched the Justice for Immigrants campaign which, among other things, encourages Catholics to write members of Congress in support of a legalization system for illegal aliens.