Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cardinal Mahony on the Arizona immigration law

I believe that the new Arizona immigration law is a bad idea on several levels.  Cardinal Roger Mahony obviously agrees that it's a bad law, and I wonder about what others think about how he expressed his opposition to the law.  Start with this: Could a Catholic legislator vote in good conscience for the new Arizona immigration law?  If so, did Cardinal Mahony go too far in the language he used to condemn the law?  I'm interested in how we understand a bishop's responsibility to speak out on issues of concern to the Church, particularly on matters of prudential judgment.  If Catholics can disagree in good conscience about the extent to which the new law respects human dignity and the social order, and about whether it is a prudent exercise of state power, should a bishop's comments reflect that capacity for disagreement?  Or should a bishop feel empowered to speak just as forcefully and unequivocally on matters of prudential judgment as on matters of non-negotiable Church teaching?


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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I believe Cardinal Mahony went too far in disagreeing with the bill, particularly since it mirrors current Federal law in many aspects. His language is full of fear-mongering and grandstanding, particularly since the law, as I see it written, would not be used against charitable organizations providing food, medical care, or shelter.

I do not see what would prevent a Catholic legislator, in good conscience, from supporting the bill.

Posted by: Jonathan | Apr 27, 2010 1:27:11 PM

Prof. Vischer, your question is an understandable one. Catholic progressives who frequently partner with Prof. Penalver apparently have a clear answer to this question: Cardinal Mahoney (and all bishops) should keep quiet on these kinds of details. Listen to America Magazine and Prof. Carfardi: "The bishops must leave the political answers, the how of solving political problems, even when those problems have a moral component, to the informed consciences of the laity. Political strategy is not a question of faith . . .let the lay people do what they do best: work out the details." http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12239 Chris Korzen, founder of the progressive group Catholics United, agrees: "'It's becoming clearer and clearer that the church needs to spend more time focused on its own internal problems, and less time trying to be a political player, particularly in our own country.' Korzen points out that Catholic doctrine allows people the right to their own opinions in politics." http://www.newsweek.com/id/236715/page/2 It's a strange thing for Catholic progressives to silence the very voices that have pioneered support for their positions, but there you have it. I guess your question is one that Catholic conservatives and progressives can finally agree on!

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Apr 27, 2010 1:36:07 PM

I carry no brief for this particular law (since I have not read it), but there is an angle on immigration that is often not represented in these discussions: Is it good for the souls of illegal immigrants to be told by their ordinary that their breaking of the law contributes to the cause of social justice? Again, I have not read the Arizona law, and I have a visceral reaction against anti-immigrant rhetoric. But it seems to me that a spiritual shepherd should think carefully and cautiously about the lesson he is teaching his flock about respect for law and how to treat the community that allows them to work and flourish. Fomenting outrage and bitterness against citizens who have merely exercised the power of self-government because they believe it advances the common good seems disrespectful of the nature of our institutions.

Sitting in front of an abortion clinic and blocking its entrance is illegal, even though it may result in the saving of innocent lives. If Bishop Mahoney thinks that this wrong--as I do--then he should not be so quick to ignore law-breaking simply because it is the support of the chattering classes.

Posted by: Francis Beckwith | Apr 27, 2010 2:52:50 PM

I have trouble taking Mahony seriously as a moral authority about anything. He has wrecked scandal on the Church and thoroughly failed to implement the Dallas Charter on the Abuse of Children that he promised to implement. He has systematically failed to cooperate with the secular authorities in the prosecution of priests who molest children.

Try finding someone with credibility.

Posted by: SJS | Apr 27, 2010 11:36:16 PM