By Mills, David
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life , No. 225
In the heat of current controversies over religious freedom, it is rarely noted that the churches, and particularly the Catholic Church, have been the guardians of social order and even of pluralism. The churches have been reticent to impose their views on others--the Catholic bishops have not even suggested making contraception illegal--and quick to extend their services to anyone who needs them.
But there are limits. And not just when the state tries to make the churches do things they can't do. Sometimes it tells them not to do things they have to do.
Alabama's immigration law, still unsettled, "makes it illegal for a Catholic priest to baptize, hear the confession of, celebrate the anointing of the sick with, or preach the word of God to, an undocumented immigrant," as the Archbishop of Mobile, Thomas Rodi, said last year when he joined a suit against the law. It rules out anyone, priest or layman, encouraging them to go to Mass or giving them a ride to the church, letting them come to Bible studies or Sunday school, driving them to the doctor, giving them the food and clothing they need, counseling a pregnant woman against abortion or helping her take care of her baby. …