Sunday, March 05, 2006


Welcome the Stranger, Go to Jail?

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has called his parishioners to engage in massive civil disobedience -- by doing such "radical" acts as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. Actually, such works of mercy aren't quite illegal yet. But if some conservative political leaders have their way -- led by James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Peter King of New York in the House -- helping people in need would become a felony.

No less an authority (figure) than the New York Times has applauded Mahony's courageous and powerful stance in its Friday editorial titled "The Gospel vs. H.R. 4437." The Times editors wrote:

The cardinal is right to argue that the government has no place criminalizing the charitable impulses of private institutions like his, whose mission is to help people with no questions asked. The Los Angeles Archdiocese, like other religious organizations across the country, runs a vast network of social service programs offering food and emergency shelter, child care, aid to immigrants and refugees, counseling services, and computer and job training. Through Catholic Charities and local parishes, the church is frequently the help of last resort for illegal immigrants in need. It should not be made an arm of the immigration police as well.

Cardinal Mahony's declaration of solidarity with illegal immigrants, for whom Lent is every day, is a startling call to civil disobedience, as courageous as it is timely. We hope it forestalls the day when works of mercy become a federal crime.

Cardinal Mahony's clarity of vision and commitment to the gospel is remarkable. Perhaps equally remarkable is the vision and backbone showed by the Times in backing Mahony. Maybe we can appreciate this little glimmer of grace as this week's sign the apocalypse is NOT upon us. Yet.

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