By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tA controversial new immigration law in Italy, which criminalizes living in a “clandestine” state and authorizes citizens to mount their own anti-immigrant patrols, has spawned both a major backlash from the Catholic church as well as a fascinating bit of insider Catholic drama.
The dymamics in Italy seem to have obvious implications for the United States, as the Catholic church gears up to make a major push in favor of immigration reform.
tAdopted last Thursday by the Italian senate, the law was put forward by the far-right Northern League, an important coalition partner in the center-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Catholic leaders have been in the forefront of opposition to the measure, charging among other things that it could deter illegal immigrants from seeking hospital treatment or enrolling their children in school.
tProbably the most barbed critique has come from Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, a veteran Vatican diplomat who has served since 2001 as the secretary, or number two official, in the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.