News earlier this week that President Obama and many Hispanic political organizations were backing an immigration reform proposal that would grant visas to same-gender partners of American citizens offered hope that this long hoped for change would become law.
The U.S. Catholic bishops, along with Evangelical leaders, are dropping a monkey wrench into the works, however, by opposing such a measure. The Associated Press reports:
“The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are in a difficult position as the debate over immigration reform gets underway: The immigrant-built American church, known for advocating a broad welcome for migrants and refugees, could end up opposing reform because it would recognize same-sex partners. . . .
“. . . Catholic bishops, with the support of evangelicals and other theological conservatives, have sent a letter to Obama protesting his proposal. In a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would not provide a copy of the statement, saying the signatories agreed not to make the letter public. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, would say only that recognition of gay couples in the president’s reform proposals ‘jeopardizes passage of the bill.’ “
What is remarkable in this opposition is that the bishops seem willing to forego real immigration reform because of their opposition to supporting lesbian and gay couples in committed relationships. Similar to many diocese’s decisions to forego all adoption services rather than use gay and lesbian couples as potential parents, the US bishops’ seem intent on following a scorched earth policy on immigration.
The Associated Press report points out what most Catholics already know: that progressive immigration policy has long been supported by US bishops. Key to this support has been the idea of keeping families intact. The news story states:
“Americans church leaders have spent decades lobbying for revisions that would keep families together and fulfill what the church considers the duty of all countries, especially wealthier ones, to do as much as possible to help the poor and persecuted. The church and Catholic groups run a network of aid programs for migrants, refugees and illegal immigrants, taking positions that recognize the country’s right to protect its borders, but that still fall ‘to the left of the Democratic Party,’ [Stephen] Schneck [a political science professor at The Catholic University of America] said. . . .
“In a 2003 joint plea for immigration reform, called ‘Strangers No Longer,’ U.S. and Mexican bishops stated, ‘Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected.’
“The issue is of special historic importance to the American Catholic church, which was built by waves of Irish, Italians, Poles and others. The immigrant presence in the pews is now growing as American-born white Catholics drop out in significant numbers. Researchers estimate that a third of the 66 million U.S. Catholics are Latino.
” ‘This is an issue that has been a huge priority for the church for a really long time,’ said Kristin Heyer, a professor at Santa Clara University in California who studies immigration and Catholic social thought. ‘The wider Catholic community, in addition to the bishops, has mobilized in a major way.’ “
To correct the bishops’ policy direction, lay Catholics now need to mobilize to let the hierarchy know that Catholics believe ALL families should be protected by immigration law. Contact your bishop and let him know that you believe that respecting human dignity applies to ALL immigrants, not just heterosexual ones. Contact your federal legislators too, and let them know that your Catholic faith motivates you to support inclusive immigration reform that President Obama has proposed.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry