A nun's death and illegal immigration: Forgiveness or punishment?
By Elizabeth Tenety
August 4, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
On Sunday, Sister Denise Mosier, 66, a Benedictine nun and former missionary in Africa was killed and two others gravely injured when, on their way to a retreat, their car was hit by an alleged drunk driver.
The 23-year-old driver, Carlos Martinelly Montano, is reported to be in the United States illegally from Bolivia, and has two previous drunken-driving convictions and has been awaiting long-delayed deportation hearings.
With immigration debates flaring up in both Arizona and Virginia, it didn't take long for immigration reform advocates to politicize Sister Denise's death.
But the Benedictines are emphasizing mercy over politics.
As the Post reported:
Sister Glenna Smith, a spokeswoman for the Benedictine Sisters, said Tuesday that "we are dismayed" by reports that the crash . . . is focusing attention on the man's status as an alleged illegal immigrant. Critics of federal immigration policy have seized on the crash. "He's a child of God and deserves to be treated with dignity," Smith said of the driver, Carlos A. Martinelly Montano. "I don't want to make a pro- or anti-immigrant statement but simply a point that he is an individual human person and we will be approaching him with mercy. Denise, of all us, would be the first to offer forgiveness." . . . "We are also confident that responses of mercy and forgiveness, though not usually easy, are not optional for Christians," read the order's statement on Tuesday.
The Benedictines may be advocating forgiveness, but when it comes to immigration reform, the Catholic Church rejects official pardon.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops say they are not amnesty advocates, but are rather taking a 'path to citizenship' approach: The USCCB has called for a comprehensive reform bill that would, among other provisions, " give migrant workers and their families an opportunity to earn legal permanent residency and eventual citizenship."
At a recent House Judiciary subcommittee meetings, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona framed the debate in moral terms. "Immigration is ultimately a humanitarian issue since it impacts the basic rights and dignity of millions of persons and their families. As such, it has moral implications, especially how it impacts the basic survival and decency of life experienced by human beings like us," Kicanas said.
In light of Sister Denise's death, what is the proper role of religious forgiveness in society? Are the Benedictines right to emphasize Christian forgiveness? Are the bishops correct to eschew amnesty?
When is it right to forgive, and when to punish?