CHRISTIAN CHARITY….This story hasn’t gotten a ton of attention, but on Ash Wednesday last week, LA’s Cardinal Mahoney declared that if Congress passes legislation to criminalize the act of offering support to an illegal immigrant, he will instruct his priests and Catholic parishioners to ignore the law.

The Republican sponsors of the bill say that they’re just targeting those who smuggle immigrants, and yet they’ve written such a broad definition of “alien smuggling” that it could potentially include things like baby-sitting for a neighbor or working at a soup kitchen. The legislation has already passed the House and is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

Jesus didn’t instruct his followers to inspect the citizenship papers of the sick, the poor, the old, and the hungry. Even so, Mahoney’s statement is an unusual–if welcome–call for civil disobedience. All eyes should be on the Senate this week, and on other Catholic leaders to see if they follow Mahoney’s lead or shrink from the fight.

Amy Sullivan

Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.