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Archbishop: Alabama immigration law threatens religious liberty

Catholic World News - August 03, 2011

The bishops of Alabama have joined with local Episcopal Church and Methodist officials in taking legal action against immigration legislation scheduled to come into effect on September 1.

The law makes it illegal to “encourage or induce an alien to come to or reside in this state if the person knows or recklessly disregards the fact that such coming to, entering, or residing in the United States is or will be in violation of federal law.” The law also makes it a crime to “transport, or attempt to transport, or conspire to transport in this state an alien in furtherance of the unlawful presence of the alien in the United States.”

“The new state law is broadly written,” Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile said in a statement. “Both supporters and opponents of the law agree that it is the broadest and strictest immigration law in the country, affecting every part of the life of undocumented immigrants. In doing so, however, the law makes illegal the exercise of our Christian religion which we, as citizens of Alabama, have a right to follow.”

“The law prohibits almost everything which would assist an undocumented immigrant or encourage an undocumented immigrant to live in Alabama,” Archbishop Rodi continued.

“This new Alabama law makes it illegal for a Catholic priest to baptize, hear the confession of, celebrate the anointing of the sick with, or preach the word of God to, an undocumented immigrant. Nor can we encourage them to attend Mass or give them a ride to Mass. It is illegal to allow them to attend adult scripture study groups, or attend CCD or Sunday school classes. It is illegal for the clergy to counsel them in times of difficulty or in preparation for marriage. It is illegal for them to come to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings or other recovery groups at our churches.”

“The law prohibits almost every activity of our St. Vincent de Paul chapters or Catholic Social Services,” he added. “If it involves an undocumented immigrant, it is illegal to give the disabled person a ride to the doctor; give food or clothing or financial assistance in an emergency; allow them to shop at our thrift stores or to learn English; it is illegal to counsel a mother who has a problem pregnancy, or to help her with baby food or diapers, thus making it far more likely that she will choose abortion.”

“This law attacks our very understanding of what it means to be a Christian.”

Archbishop Rodi added:

I did not wish to enter into a legal action against the government of Alabama. It is not my temperament to look for an argument. I prayed fervently about this matter, and my prayer kept bringing me back to the motto I chose ten years ago for my bishop’s coat of arms: “The love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14) …

No law is just which prevents the proclamation of the Gospel, the baptizing of believers, or love shown to neighbor in need. I do not wish to stand before God and, when God asks me if I fed him when he was hungry or gave him to drink when he was thirsty, to reply: yes, Lord, as long as you had the proper documents.

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  • Posted by: eustachius234 - Aug. 03, 2011 6:50 PM ET USA

    JMJ I’m all for government enforcing their own borders, keeping illegals out, and not providing incentives for them to migrate – free whatever, but expecting everyone to enforce the law for them is something else, especially when it goes against basic morally. I’m usually against the liberal bias in the Catholic hierarchy as it attempts to push all sorts of liberal nonsense, but this does concern their legitimate role in the discussion on faith & morals.

  • Posted by: mcomstoc6740 - Aug. 03, 2011 5:28 PM ET USA

    Why not just report an "undocumented immigrant" or "illegal alien" to the authorities and then provide whatever services are needed? One could do that even if the illegal were in jail I would hope. If not then there should be a push to allow such for all those incarcerated for any reason.

  • Posted by: paul20105493 - Aug. 03, 2011 4:42 PM ET USA

    Past the public area of St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City - an independent country - has secure borders. There is a police force separate from the Pope’s personal Swiss Guard, and Vatican City residents have passports. I wonder: If I were to slip in there “undocumented” and around their control points, what would happen if I were discovered? Would they support me and help me to stay there? Or, even if my intentions are peaceful, would they at least deport me, if not also incarcerate me first?

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