Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Conviction first, arrest later?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 06, 2012

Unless you enjoy speaking about political issues exclusively in bumper-sticker slogans, you should recognize that immigration is a complex issue. The American bishops are right to insist that all immigrants, legal or not, should be treated with respect for their fundamental human dignity. But the bishops do not help matters when they make thoroughly illogical arguments. Consider this remarkable passage from today’s CWN story:

Auxiliary Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Baltimore said that an illegal immigrant should “not be detained until he/she has been convicted of a crime that poses a threat to public safety of immigrant communities and families, rather than at the time of arrest.”

Then what if an illegal immigrant is convicted of a crime that threatens the safety of non-immigrants? Presumably Bishop Rozanski would agree that he should be detained. But that’s not what his statement said.

Worse, the bishop’s statement says that an immigrant should be detained only after he has been convicted. But he won’t be convicted unless he’s brought to trial, and he won’t be brought to trial unless he’s arrested, and if he’s arrested, he’s detained.

I know, I know. Bishop Rozanski means that he should not be detained by Homeland Security officials, under the terms of the Secure Communities program. His case should proceed through the normal court system before it becomes a matter for immigration enforcement. That’s not an unreasonable argument (although I would disagree with it). But the bishop’s actual words suggest something else.

Again and again, American bishops have issued public statements that convey the impression they would oppose any effort to curtail illegal immigration. If they made a few careful distinctions, and acknowledged the complexity of the issue, they would be more effective advocates for immigration reform.


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: mclom - Mar. 14, 2019 1:13 PM ET USA

    I agree with commenter Jvob5058 who wrote on Mar. 12, 2019 1:58 PM ET USA . I frustrates me too that so much immorality was going on, yet so many bishops heard nothing, saw nothing, said nothing.

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Mar. 14, 2019 12:09 PM ET USA

    I can't help but believe that the Lord and Judge of all will not look kindly on those in the hierarchy who, actively or by default, chose an imagined "prudential" silence instead of speaking the Truth that their sheep need for salvation. Failure to speak out against others' mocking of God is itself a form of mockery. Deus non irridetur!

  • Posted by: SPM - Mar. 12, 2019 11:59 PM ET USA

    Retribution? What possible retribution could there be? Not being moved up the career ladder? That should not be seen as a negative. Worst case, "retired" earlier? Most Bishops I know would have been joyous at being allowed to ditch the administrative and ceremonial business and simply be free to pray and celebrate the Sacraments. So what is the retribution?

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Mar. 12, 2019 9:09 PM ET USA

    Yet again, Phil, you ascribe the most sinister and mean-spirited motives to prelates. No new evidence is provided here. A post like this only foments more undeserved distrust and anger toward Church leaders. What's the point of this? And what other organization would look into how a guy climbed the organizational ladder *four decades ago*? It's 2019, and it's only in the past year that people have realized that gays have an enormous presence in Church leadership? Really?!? Ugh. Enough, already.

  • Posted by: LCRich - Mar. 12, 2019 5:51 PM ET USA

    I am afraid that fear of retribution may be a major factor as a reason for Bishops silence. My opinion is that this is not a display of strong faith and trueleadership. With strong faith, I would offer up the potential of retribution as a potential of suffering to offer up to God and to His holy Church. Strength and willingness to personally suffer is something true leaders need to offer.

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Mar. 12, 2019 5:37 PM ET USA

    Any leader, who is afraid of spilling their own blood, is not being a true leader. They have forgotten that Jesus told Peter to stop thinking like man. Is that what happens when you don't pray enough? Bishops it is time to put on the armour of God and act like children of God.

  • Posted by: Montserrat - Mar. 12, 2019 2:13 PM ET USA

    "How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything save in opposing Thee?" - St. Teresa of Avila

  • Posted by: Jvob5058 - Mar. 12, 2019 1:58 PM ET USA

    How about another possibility. Our Bishops are so tainted and compromised by personal involvement or careers made and spent by going along too get along. It’s simply not believeable that Fr. Rueda, Randy Engels and many other journalists and lay people ( including this reader) have known about the homosexual infestation in the Church for two, three, four decades, while those in close and constant contact were unaware. They’re not going away: they must be driven away.