A bill on immigrant reform that passed the House of Representatives in December has been attacked by Cardinal Roger Mahony as a "vicious" assault on immigrants. He fears that the bill, if passed into law, would criminalize the Catholic Church's effort to help those who come to this country illegally.
He reminded a gathering in Los Angeles for the Annual Migration Day Mass on Jan. 14, that immigration in the history of the U.S. has been a major contributor to the growth of the Catholic Church in America. He noted that, in the past, integrating immigrants into the society was not without difficulty and that, today, it is going to be "a major struggle."
Over a hundred and fifty years ago, ex-priest Charles Chiniquy described how his bishops pushed for foreign occupation of the developing frontiers in America. In his book, 50 Years in the Church of Rome, Chiniquy describes how he was enlisted to assist Catholic immigrants in settling up the "rich, fertile lands of Illinois and the Mississippi Valley."
"If we succeed," Chiniquy was told, "Our holy Church will soon count her children here by ten and twenty millions, and through their numbers, their wealth and unity, they will have such a weight in the balance of power that they will rule everything."
At that time, one of the main worries of the Catholic leaders was the "snares laid before them by Protestants." As it turned out, the "Protestants" prevailed in winning enough of the immigrants to Christ that the dream of Rome to dominate America never materialized.
Today, however, a new flood of Roman Catholics is arriving in the states bordering on Mexico and Cardinal Mahony is keen to protect that flow. Many sections of Los Angeles County are predominantly Hispanic, populated by both legal and illegal residents. Some who arrive settle near the border but others scatter throughout the country. Rome has a new hope of building a dominating influence through this flood.
As in Chiniquy's day, the only thing standing in their way is the soul winners. Some who are coming across the border have already been influenced by a burgeoning evangelical church in Latin American countries. If Bible believers will build on that influence and seed the Catholic communities with the gospel, perhaps we can repeat history and blunt the drive for dominance by Catholic officials.
Few cities anywhere in the U.S. do not have significant Hispanic populations. Many are too poor to build adequate worship facilities of their own. It should be the goal of every church in these areas to have a Spanish speaking service available to them.
Whether the flow of immigration is reduced or not, soul winning churches have lots of work to do, reaching the present population. A few thousand Spanish gospel tracts seeded into these neighborhoods could show the people that there is a way out of the rituals and spiritual darkness that Rome holds over its captives. We must join in the "struggle" that the Cardinal sees and snatch as many out of Rome's bondage as possible.