Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

the US bishops reprise a losing political strategy

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 14, 2010

Regardless of where you stand on proposed immigrant reforms, you should recognize something familiar about the stance of the US bishops.

In his statement for support for a reform bill, Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, who chairs the US bishops' committee on immigration, encouraged Congress "to begin a process toward introducing and enacting bipartisan legislation which affirms the rule of law and basic human rights." In context, the statement was clearly a boost for the legislation sponsored by the Democratic leadership. "This issue can no longer wait and should not be politicized or held hostage to ideology,” said Bishop Wester.

And yet, having staked out a position in favor of the legislation, the bishops then expressed some reservations:

Bishop Wester pointed to flaws in the framework that require revision, including a controversial provision that would permit same-sex couples to receive immigration benefits equal to married couples. 

Do you recognize the pattern? Several months ago the US bishops took a clear position in favor of comprehensive health-care reform. Their enthusiasm for the Obama administration's proposal was limited only by their reservations about the funding of abortion.   

How did that work out? The Democratic majority highlighted the bishops' support for health-care reform and--citing the bishops' own words about the need for a solution that went beyond partisan ideological concerns--insisted that the bill deserved Catholic support despite the abortion-funding problem. The Democrats won that round; the bishops lost.

Undaunted by that defeat, the US bishops are using exactly the same strategy in their approach to the immigration debate.

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: samuel.doucette1787 - May. 20, 2010 8:24 AM ET USA

    To lynnvinc7142, if families were split up by the creation of the US-Mexican border by the mutually ratified peace treaty in 1848 which ended the Mexican-American War, then why not encourage those families to reunite LEGALLY by obeying the laws of the USA? Also, your use of "Aztlan" is a racially-loaded Mexican supremacist term.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2010 3:42 PM ET USA

    Another instance of the fatuousness of the USCCB. "The U.S. bishops reprise...". Was a vote taken among the bishops? Or is this the Utah bishop speaking off his own bat? The Catholic organization as we may call it [the Church] does not take polls. Each bishop is independent in his own diocese. Bishop Wester speaks for himself. The committee color [like most of the USCCB's documents is mud.

  • Posted by: lynnvinc7142 - May. 19, 2010 11:37 AM ET USA

    While things have to be done within the law, and there are exceedingly violent Mexican drug gangs (who manage to get across whatever & whom Mexicans, Tejanos & Chicanos fear & detest greatly), the borders were created in recent history (past several hundred years), splitting families, etc. Also Aztecas came from NM & AZ Aztlan areas to Mexico centuries. The Mexican-US relation is more tightly interwoven than most people realize. It's a more difficult issue than people realize.

  • Posted by: - May. 18, 2010 8:08 PM ET USA

    We have a process by which people from Argentina, Canada, Italy, Germany, China, Cambodia, Senegal and a host of other countries can enter the US. For the life of me I fail to undestand that because people coming in from Central America are poor, suddenly the laws do not apply. And the bishops always seem to come around that somehow, in spite of their illegal entry, those violating immigration laws need special treatment. A special option for the poor does not mean open borders.

  • Posted by: - May. 18, 2010 7:05 PM ET USA

    Why would the USCCB repeat a losing strategy? Perhaps, to them, passage of the health care legislation with its accompanying abortion is what the USCCB really wanted. Then perhaps also it is the federal support for homosexuality that is the primary aim of the bishops. Immigration legislation is just a cover for their real intent. The action of the bishops makes me wonder if what they really feel they have is a "winning" strategy. We cannot assume these men are stupid, can we? Or holy?