09 January 2012

Alabama Immigration and Humanitarian Concerns


While I may differ from some of my brethren on the Alabama immigration law's justice under God's law, I am certainly in agreement with them that humanitarian concerns and ecclesiastical concerns must not be allowed to be damaged by this law. While a nation and the states within have a right and duty to control immigration appropriately, this cannot justly extend to humanitarian services or the work of the Church. The Most Rev. Thomas J. Rodi, Archbishop of Mobile, said that “[no] law is just which prevents the proclamation of the Gospel message, the baptizing of believers, or love shown to a neighbor in need.” The Archbishop is quite correct in that statement.

That a civil government would pass a law that makes it illegal for a priest to baptize, to hear a confession, or to administer the Blessed Sacrament to an illegal immigrant is unbelievable to me. Many is not all of Church social services are apparently illegal. This aspect of the law is a gross injustice and a misuse of civil authority.

The simple fact is that the civil government does not have the authority to interfere with a member of the clergy in the performance of his duties. The civil government cannot limit the administration of the Sacraments, provision of basic humanitarian and social services, and other functions of the Church only to those who have the appropriate legal status. This aspect of the law is intrinsically unjust under the Laws of Christ. In such cases, Christians are absolved from their duty to follow those parts of the law, as Christians are only bound to follow civil laws that are in accordance with the Laws of Christ. Only civil laws that are in accordance with the Laws of Christ are rightly considered just.

Now, that certain aspects of the immigration laws in Alabama are inherently unjust does not automatically mean that the entirety of the law should be dismissed. As I have written in a previous pastoral letter, there are very serious issues at hand here in the United States. Immigration is something that can and must be controlled for the good of the people, both the current citizens and the immigrants. That control is part of the responsibility of the civil government. That responsibility, though, includes the duty to ensure that immigration reform is just and effective, without serious impact to humanitarian and ecclesiastical services.