To disregard – refusing to even consider – the bishops' position on immigration reform because it is a matter of prudential judgment is a "disconnect," Appleby explained.
"Even under a prudential judgment analysis, someone is required to at least consider the arguments being put forth by the Church, to take them into consideration…there is a responsibility to at least consider what the Church is saying, and then incorporate it into their position to the degree that they can."
He added that the tendency of Catholics in America to put their party affiliation, be it Republican or Democrat, ahead of their faith, means that "there's a lot of education to be done."
Catholics need to be reminded, he said, that religious or faith interests are not incompatible with political interests.
The bishops' concern about immigration reform, Appleby said, is part of their duty in caring for the people "who are in their parishes" and social service programs.
Kim Daniels, spokesperson for the U.S. bishops' conference president, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, echoed that statement.
"We support immigration reform as a response to Pope Francis' call to resist indifference and to regain a sense of 'fraternal responsibility' regarding the suffering of immigrants," she told CNA Aug. 27.
"Many Catholics support immigration reform as a response to the serious humanitarian problems caused by our current broken system. Our parishes and social service ministries encounter these problems every day, seeing families divided, workers exploited, and migrants dying in the desert."
The fundamental principles of "solidarity, human dignity, and family unity," she said, "transcend party politics."
"At this important moment Catholics can help bridge partisan differences, bringing attention to the human face of immigration reform, and answering our faith's call to serve those most in need."
While the bishops' conference itself does not have a "mandate of teaching," individual bishops do exercise the teaching authority of the Magisterium, and many U.S. bishops have been teaching about the importance of comprehensive immigration reform in this country.
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In a July 21 homily, Archbishop José Gomez taught that "God comes to us in the person of the stranger," that hospitality is a "sacred duty," and that immigration is "not only a matter of politics," but is "a matter of our relationship with God."
Archbishop Gomez has been joined in his support of comprehensive immigration reform by numerous bishops, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.