In the April 7 issue, the Sentinel published a new policy from the Archdiocese of Portland regarding the use of the term “sanctuary” within parishes. The policy asks Catholics to equate “sanctuary” as “accompaniment” and not “asylum.”
Accompaniment as described in the document is an essential part of our responsibility to undocumented persons, especially those who are members of our congregations. However, offering asylum may become necessary to protect families and individuals from forced deportation.
The archdiocese’s new policy is a good-faith but misguided attempt to shield the institutional church and its ministers from the legal consequences of resisting unjust immigration laws.
In this document, the archdiocese has tried to redefine “sanctuary” to remove its historic and commonly understood implications. Sanctuary, as both accompaniment and asylum, is a response to such unjust immigration policy and is necessarily extra-legal.
The institutional church should support congregations willing to face the consequences for moral action, not discourage them.