Chicago's Cardinal Francis George could school Phoenix's Bishop Thomas Olmsted on moral courage when it comes to the subject of immigration. While Olmsted refuses to condemn attacks on immigrants in his flock by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, ICE, and other law enforcement entities, Cardinal George had the gonads recently to demand that the Obama administration cease federal immigration raids, and come up with humane, comprehensive immigration reform.
According to the Chicago Tribune, George called the issue "a matter of conscience," and with nativist minutemen protesting outside Our Lady of Mercy Church in Albany Park, George insisted that, "We cannot strengthen families when people live in fear from day to day."
George continued: "May this be the year that raids and separation of families stop...May this be the year that our legislators pass comprehensive immigration reform."
After reading the article, I was stunned by the contrast to our own Bishop Olmsted, who's been as close-yapped as the proverbial church rodent, while Sheriff Joe, with the help of ICE, ravages the Hispanic community in the Valley. That's a community that makes up almost half of all Catholics in Phoenix. As I wrote in a September Bird column, "Sure, the undocumented are only a part of that near-half, but they are some of the church's most devoted followers."
If there's any such thing as a "sin," then surely it must be having the platform to decry injustice, while refraining from doing so. Olmsted has the moral authority to call Arpaio out, to deny him sacraments (as Joe is a Catholic), and to demand that he stop casting dragnets for the innocent. You'd think horror stories such as those of Ciria Lopez-Pacheco, the mom who was separated from her kids by masked MCSO deputies, or of Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez, the Hispanic housemom whose arm was broken by MCSO thugs, would light a votive candle under the Bishop's purple robe.
But Olmsted remains mute when it comes to Arpaio. Oh, sure, Olmsted has made pious statements about the plight of the "visitor" in our midst. And he has argued in general for compassion, and has signed off on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops call for the end to ICE raids.
That's the equivalent of some high-roller putting a dollar in the collection plate when no one's lookin'. Has Olmsted ever stood up to Arpaio on behalf of his parishioners? Not that I've ever seen. If he believed in justice and compassion, Olmsted would be at the front of the next anti-Arpaio march, or he'd be speaking at immigration forums, such as Somos America's Reform Not Raids powwow later this week.
As far as I'm concerned, Olmsted is "living in sin" as long as he fails to protect his flock. But for every sin, there's a shot at repentance and redemption. On the other hand, if he never acts, Olmsted deserves zero forgiveness from the man upstairs. (Of course, now that I think of it, maybe that's a Protestant point of view.)
Remember, he was in Guadalupe last year this time, during Joe's sweep of the town, confirming children in to the Catholic faith, as the MCSO's black cars circled Our Lady of Guadalupe. He saw the fear in their little faces. He has no excuse.
Speaking of Guadalupe, whose new mayor Frankie Montiel has added insult to injury by inviting Arpaio down to the burg to sup, I just got an e-mail from Andrew Sanchez, the fellow whose family is such a prominent part of Village Voice Executive Editor Michael Lacey's cover story, "Are Your Papers in Order?" Sanchez is organizing a press conference and a protest of Arpaio's scheduled visit to Guadalupe on March 26. The press release is below.
There's no love lost for Arpaio in Guadalupe, and the indignation of the residents there over Montiel's invitation to the sheriff is palpable. So my question is, why don't they recall Montiel? Other members of the town council have been recalled for less. In fact the most recent recall of town council member Patty Jimenez helped put Montiel's coalition in power. Montiel has spit in the face of his fellow Guadalupanos with his kowtowing to Joe. And yet he remains beyond the reach of Guadalupe's recall-happy power brokers.
Anyway, though I think Arpaio will chicken out, I'll be there Thursday to check out the protest, and the council meeting Arpaio's supposed to be at.
Guadalupe (Residents) Press Release Contact: Andrew Sanchez E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: March 24, 2009 Guadalupe, Arizona The Residents of Guadalupe: Object Arpaio Scheduled Visit
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Location: In front of Guadalupe Church 5445 Calle San Angelo Guadalupe, Arizona 85283 Time: 10:00 a.m. Date: Tuesday March 24, 2009 Re: Guadalupe Residents oppose Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Residents of Guadalupe will hold a Press Conference in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to announce opposition to the sheriff's visit in non violent protest as Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and Gandhi taught us. Protest on March 26, 2009 at 4pm.
The Guadalupe Community wants to go on record, [saying] that it condemns the abusive practices that go on in Maricopa County and the Town of Guadalupe. We endorse Cardinal Francis George's request to end Sheriff Joe Arpaio's raids. Representing the change needed for the county and to reassess its values that "yes" we value human rights, safety for all humanity and justice to all who visit, live and are raised in Maricopa County.
The Guadalupe Community will continue to oppose Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for as long as he continues to abuse the law and 287g, which is used to harass, abuse and unjustly treat legal American citizens.