From a reader…
As you are probably aware, the USCCB has declared this Monday, February 26 to be a call-in day for DACA, and is urging Catholics to call their congressmen in support of the DREAMERs. On some other Catholic sites people have started a rallying cry, declaring that those who do not call in are being disobedient and will be guilty of mortal sin. I am not sure that this is even possible. Although immigration certainly has a moral component, it strikes me as more of a political issue and not nearly on the same level as abortion, gay marriage or euthanasia. My question is does this statement by the US bishops carry any moral obligation, or are we free to disregard it?
Here we have to walk a fine line and make a few distinctions.
First, contrary to what libs want everyone to accept, some issues concerning human well-being are more important than others. For example, the right to be born and the right to a dignified natural death are more foundational to human well-being that other issues. That is why abortion and euthanasia are intrinsically evil. We really can’t have differences of opinion on those points. “Gay” marriage violates the image of God in us and the explicit and manifest will of God identifiable in the fact that we are made male and female (and God tells us in Scripture what that’s all about), at the same time as Scripture also has condemnations of homosexual acts. So, we really can’t have differences of opinion on that.
Then there myriad questions of human-well being that are grayer areas. What to do about poverty? What to do about immigration? These things have to do with contingent moral judgments that admit manifold solutions. We can have different ideas, legitimate ideas, about how to help the poor and how to help immigrants.
When the bishops of a place decide to make statements about the economy, or immigration or nuclear arms, or whatever else that falls into these areas that involve contingent moral judgments which admit wide variation of solutions, we Catholics must pay attention to what they say. We pay attention because a) we ought to be interested in social issues and b) they are our bishops. We owe respect to our bishops, and so we give them an honest hearing even when they are not talking only about spiritual issues or those other issues that don’t really allow for a difference of opinion.
Hence, are are not free to “disregard” what bishops says, individually or collectively.
That said, bishops don’t have dominant claim on our minds or obedience when it comes to matters that are in those murky and difficult areas involving contingent moral choices. We can listen to them, weigh their arguments and then determine that, yeah I agree, or nah I don’t agree.
If you don’t agree – and remember, we are not talking about matters like abortion, artificial contraception, euthanasia, homosexual acts, etc, – you are not obliged to call anyone. You can regard their message, disagree, and disregard their invitation to call your elected representatives.
If you do agree – even about those things which admit of many and varying solutions, such as what’s the best way to lift people out of poverty, which school of economics do we think has the best shot, what to do about immigrants, etc. – then you are still not obliged to call anyone. You can accept their invitation to call someone or your can disregard their invitation to call someone.
If the bishops issue an invitation to call elected officials about things that really don’t admit many solutions, when they have to do with, for example, abortion or homosexual acts, then their invitation has a stronger force to it. The more the issue has to do with defense of society from intrinsic evils, the stronger the invitation. However, even then it remains an invitation to call a representative, not an obligation.
I firmly believe that society would be better off were more Catholics, with a strong identity and fidelity to the Church’s teachings, active in the public square. In a sense, we are obliged to participate in public life, in society, according to our vocations and means, etc. On the other hand, that obligation isn’t so strong that we don’t have a legitimate choice in the matter.
Bottom line, if you choose not to call anyone about DACA, either for it or against it, you do not commit a sin. However, were you to call your elected officials in support of something intrinsically evil, then yes, you would commit a mortal sin.
It seems to me that the people who want you to think that it is a “sin” not to call in about DACA – and let’s be clear – they want you to call in support their view – they don’t want you to call if you differ with them, use “sin” (which ironically they don’t believe in for a lot of other clearly sinful acts) to manipulate your emotions. There are libs who blur issues into one murky cloud of moral choices. If someone mentions the evil of abortion, they rush in with talk about immigration, as if the two issues were on the same moral footing. In doing so, they blur the clear primacy of the right to be born through associating it with myriad other issues that involve contingent moral choices (“How to we lift people out of poverty?… How do we educate children?… How do we welcome immigrants?… etc.).
Be wary and make distinctions.