At First Things, law professor Michael Scaperlanda says the Catholic bishops in Oklahoma missed an opportunity. HB 1804, passed late last year, makes it illegal to “conceal, harbor, shelter, transport, or move illegal immigrants in the state,” and allows confiscation of assets of those so involved.
Scaperlanda thinks Christians are right to be alarmed, because its provisions could be applied to Christians doing acts of mercy.
But he thinks the Catholic bishops of Tulsa and Oklahoma City fumbled. They entered the fray on the basis of the law, and not on the basis of the Gospel. Their “Pledge of Resistance” said they would not obey it. Scaperlanda suggests that “by defining themselves in opposition to this law, the signatories implicitly give primacy to the secular realm and the civil authority that promulgated the law.”
What is the alternative? By simply and affirmatively proclaiming what Christ calls them to do—administer the sacraments, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the alien—the signatories could have written and signed a pledge to stand with, minister to, and love the undocumented regardless of the consequences, legal or otherwise, for the signatories.
Such a pledge of solidarity or hospitality would have given primacy to the gospel. Christians are called to be Christ for the world regardless of the cost. At this time, when a Christian witness might come with a price tag, this alternate pledge would have stated that the archbishop and the priests of the Oklahoma City archdiocese remain firm in this commitment.