Thursday, November 29, 2007

OK Bishop: "Suffering Faces" of Immigrants = "Suffering Face of Christ"

Reacting to a new state immigration law which, he said, would "create an atmosphere of repression and terror" among undocumented workers reminiscent "of the atrocities of the last century," Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa released a 22-page pastoral letter on Christ the King Sunday.

Only Slattery's second pastoral of his 13 years in the Oklahoma diocese, the bishop said that the legislation -- HB 1804 -- is intended "to deny those who have entered our country illegally the right to work... and the right to find shelter for their families in our communities. Thus they are forced to flee our state."

"The right to earn one’s living and the right to shelter one’s family securely are basic human rights, the fundamental building blocks of a just society, and to deny these rights is immoral and unjust," Slattery wrote. "Since the intention of HB 1804 is immoral, when it is implemented, the effects will be an intolerable increase in the suffering endured by the families of illegal immigrants, plus the spiritual suffering of those who must enforce it."

"It is to Christ’s Suffering Face, seen in the faces of Oklahoma’s immigrant population" that the bishop wrote he "would draw the gaze of all those who - in whatever manner - find themselves responsible for the passing, the enforcement, or in support" of the new law, which would mandate a minimum one-year jail term or fines for anyone who transports, harbors or shelters an illegal immigrant. In early 2006, Slattery said that he "would become a criminal" if legislation forbidding aid to undocumented workers were ever enacted.

Among the new law's emergent effects, the bishop cited the arrival of law enforcement at a diocesan parish before a mid-November weekend Mass.

The police, he said, "knew that Hispanic Catholics trust the church and come to Mass, even when they would not otherwise venture out of their homes for fear of deportation. That makes a Catholic church an easy place to ‘round up’ illegals, so arriving before the 5:30 Spanish Mass, they began to ask the members of the faithful for their papers as they came to offer Christ’s sacrifice.

"Such intolerable excesses may force the church to go underground," he wrote, "but we somehow will find a way to continue offering the Mass and the Sacraments to our people - for their salvation as well as our own!"

In related news, among those currently facing deportation is a Primitive-Observance Augustinian friar at a Florida monastery. The planned removal of Br Joachim, a native of the Philippines who's been in the States for five years, has aroused the ire of parishioners.