It was uplifting to see London's bishops standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the city's poorest inhabitants at the Mass in support of migrant workers at Westminster Cathedral on Monday. Though this gesture the bishops reminded the British public that the Church's true place is among the lowliest in society, and that, if the rights of the capital's illegal immigrants are violated, it will not be afraid to speak out with all its force.
The Mass was an appropriate response to the alarming study published by the Von Hilgel Institute in February, which found that Catholic migrants are being forced to endure Dickensian working conditions and squalid accommodation as they struggle to provide for their families back home.
But we would like to ask, gently, whether it was appropriate for the Church to give such unequivocal support to the proposal by Strangers into Citizens to offer a one-off amnesty to long-term undocumented migrants. Bishops have a duty to stand up for the inviolable rights of migrant workers, but they must ensure they are not drawn into the partisan politics of immigration, which is rightfully the domain of committed lay people.
Their endorsement of this specific migration policy makes it hard for Catholics to argue that there are better ways of guaranteeing the rights of migrants and the smooth running of society without appearing to be disloyal to the Church. Moreover, there is a danger that undocumented workers who just want to get on with their lives will be turned into a political football.