(CNSNews.com) – Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Catholic archbishop of the archdiocese of Los Angeles, criticized Arizona’s new law against illegal immigration on his blog as “mean-spirited” and “useless,” and asked, “Are children [now] supposed to call 911 because one parent does not have proper papers?”
While Mahony was critical of the law, which mirrors existing federal law about identity-documentation for non-citizens, he did not note in his Apr. 18 blog that in his archdiocese (and most Catholic dioceses), a person who presents himself to receive the Catholic sacraments of confirmation or marriage or Holy Orders (priesthood), for example, usually must also present official documents.
If one cannot provide these “proper papers,” the Church, under ordinary circumstances, usually will not accept a person for entrance into the Catholic faith and church.
For example, according to the L.A. archdiocese’s Web site, a birth certificate or hospital certificate is required to register for the sacrament of baptism.
A form on the main page of the Web site entitled “Information on Baptismal Certificate from La Placita” reads, “Only the parents, father or mother, may register a child for baptism. Registrations are Monday & Tuesday of the week you plan the baptism, from 8:00am to 6:30pm. To register please bring the child’s Birth Certificate or Hospital Certificate.”
Those instructions on the L.A. archdiocese’s Web site are linked from the parish Our Lady, Queen of Angels Church, located at 535 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, Calif, 90012. CNSNews.com contacted the parish and asked if a birth certificate is absolutely required for baptism. A representative for the parish said, “To baptize, yes … because here we have many children.”
However, Sister Sandra Makowski, chancellor of the diocese of Charleston, S.C., who holds a degree in canon law, the law of the Church, told CNSNews.com that a birth certificate is not required for baptism under canon law.
“It shouldn’t be that rigid as far as I can see,” she said in reference to the document linked at the L.A. archdiocese’s Web site. “It does not say that in canon law. Some churches might be more careful about who they give it to, but I’ve never seen that [requirement].”
Sister Makowski also said, however, that a baptismal certificate is necessary to partake in all of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. “It’s like a proof of membership really,” she said, “your ID card into the membership of the Church."
CNSNews.com made several inquiries for comment on this issue to Tod Tamberg, the director of media relations for the L.A. archdiocese, but they were not answered.
The archdiocese’s Web site also makes clear that a baptismal certificate and other documents are required for the sacrament of Confirmation. Confirmation is viewed as a rite of adulthood and full belonging in the Church community. Only a bishop may confer this sacrament.
The Web site for Cardinal Mahony’s archdiocese states, “Candidates are required to show proof of Baptism by submitting a recent certified copy of their baptismal certificate along with their registration form. If for some serious reason a baptismal certificate is not available, e.g., the church was destroyed, a sworn statement from a witness to the Baptism can be provided. This statement should be signed by the pastor. Suggestion: Request that candidates bring the certificate to the interview. It often takes time to locate a certificate or to have one sent from the Church of Baptism.”
Completion of an educational course is also required before Confirmation so candidates understand what membership in the Catholic Church means, and what is expected of them as members of the Church community.
Additonally, sponsors of those who are baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church must be of a certain age, and should be practicing and baptized Catholics.
Arizona’s law against illegal immigration (SB 1070) mirrors the federal law, which it cites in requiring aliens to carry identification. Title 8, Chapter 12, Section 1304(e) of the U.S. Code reads:
“Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.”
In criticizing the Arizona law, which is not in effect yet, Cardinal Mahony further said in his Apr. 18 post: “The law is wrongly assuming that Arizona residents, including local law enforcement personnel, will now shift their total attention to guessing which Latino-looking or foreign-looking person may or may not have proper documents. … Almost all of our immigrant families are ‘mixed,’ that is, some members have legal documents to be here and some members do not. Asking ordinary Americans and over-worked law enforcement officers to hunt down people of suspicious legal documentation is ludicrous and ineffective.”