The Bishop of Tulsa has issued a pastoral letter calling Oklahoma's new immigration law immoral and unjust.
Bishop Edward J. Slattery wrote that the fact immigrants are in the country illegally is not the only issue. He said they are still people who should be treated with dignity.
The new law, House Bill 1804, makes it a felony to knowingly transport illegal immigrants, creates barriers on hiring illegal immigrants, and restricts benefits they can receive from the government or its contractors. Charities and other private organizations that contract with the government to provide benefits could fall under the restrictions.
The bishop has opposed the legislation since it was first drafted last year. In his latest pastoral letter, Bishop Slattery reminded people of his March, 2006 pledge that he would be jailed “when it become[s] a crime to love the poor and serve their needs." He added "I pray that every priest and every deacon in this Diocese will have the courage to walk with me into that prison."
Bishop Slattery's pastoral letter, his second as a bishop, is titled "The Suffering Faces of the Poor Are the Suffering Face of Christ." A 22-page flip book published in English and Spanish, it will be sent to all pastors in about three weeks, the bishop said Monday.
The Bishop’s Counter Proposal
The letter outlines a four-point action plan written “in response to the situation of fear created in so many of our neighbors in the implementation of H.B. 1804." It calls for: equal access to all Catholic programs regardless of legal status; legal assistance through Catholic Charities to help those needing to establish or maintain their legal residence in the United States; diocesan cooperation with legal agencies to prepare a standardized "power of attorney" form for parents to establish guardianship for their children in the event only the parents are deported; and the provision of Catholic foster care for parents who have used their power of attorney to establish guardians for their children.
In the letter Bishop Slattery writes: “I wish to make it clear that I do not speak as an elected official, whose service to the public proceeds from the will of those who elected him or her to office. Nor do I speak as a civil servant, appointed to the task and accountable to those by whom he or she has been appointed."
“Rather, I speak as the Catholic Bishop of this Diocese, and I speak with the authority of Jesus Christ, Who in His life here on earth always showed his predilection for the poor and oppressed.”
The pastoral letter also includes two prayers that Bishop Slattery asks pastors and parishioners to pray at the end of every Sunday Mass.