A Numbers Game?

President and CardinalThe Economist takes a look at what America’s Roman Catholic church has been saying about immigration:

In America Roman Catholic ears are ringing from sermons supporting immigration reform. On September 8th, just before politicians returned to Congress after their summer break, several Catholic bishops spoke in favour of a bill passed by the Senate in June. The legislation would provide a bridge to citizenship for the 11m people currently residing in America without legal authorisation to do so (and also proposes $46 billion for border security measures). It followed on from vigils in August in support of reform of immigration policies (pictured). Prospects for the passage of any sort of immigration reform in the current legislative session are fading quickly, while the chances of the Senate bill passing the House of Representatives are currently low. But the Roman Catholic church is increasing pressure from the pulpit. Why is the church interested in changing immigration policies?

Well, some of it is ideological, of course, a religio-philosophical stance not too dissimilar from that which we heard the other day from the Pope in Lampedusa, and which was so rightly criticized by Theodore Dalrymple for its intellectually lazy “moral exhibitionism”.

But is there, wonders The Economist, something else:

Currently only 22% of Americans are Catholic (although almost a third of those in Congress are Catholic, making up the largest religious group). One possible reason why the Catholic church is keen to cultivate Hispanic migrants could be that, if some of the immigrants are more socially conservative, their voices could become louder on topics such as contraception and abortion, over which the church has clashed with the Obama administration. Welcoming more Hispanics into the country would also swell congregations, extending the church’s influence from pulpits to polling stations.

That could indeed be part of it, but I suspect that The Economist is defining the issue too narrowly (when it comes to social conservatism, the opinions of Latino immigrants may be less straightforward than the magazine imagines). Better, perhaps, to see this simply as a reflection of an old truth.

Numbers mean clout.

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