Magazine article Newsweek

The Catholics: A Cardinal's Campaign; Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles Is Speaking out against Crackdowns on Illegals. How Far Will His Voice Carry?

Magazine article Newsweek

The Catholics: A Cardinal's Campaign; Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles Is Speaking out against Crackdowns on Illegals. How Far Will His Voice Carry?

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Ordonez

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, spent last week at the Vatican, where he and other Catholic leaders helped select new cardinals. But his thoughts strayed back home, where more than 500,000 people--mostly Latinos, and many from his flock--marched through the streets of downtown L.A. protesting anti-immigration legislation. "I saw the march from Rome, on CNN," Mahony told NEWSWEEK. "I was thrilled. Not only by the numbers, but by the fact that it was peaceful and sent a strong message to Washington. It put a human face on the issue."

In recent years, the controversial cardinal--whose 5 million-member diocese is the largest in the country--has endured criticism for his handling of the church's sexual-abuse scandal and for spending $189 million on a new cathedral sometimes referred to as the "Rog Mahal." Now, however, Mahony is getting more attention for waging a campaign against proposed laws cracking down on undocumented immigrants. He particularly objected to a provision that would make it a crime to help or hide illegals. In December, he wrote to President George W. Bush, urging him to reject the legislation. Then, on March 1--Ash Wednesday--Mahony went a step further. He told his priests and parishioners that if the law passed, they should ignore it and help immigrants anyway. For an institution that regards obedience as a virtue, it was a radical call to action.

The move was consistent with efforts by many U.S. Catholic leaders to cast immigration as a moral issue. …

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