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MooneyImmigration - The Catholic Bishops Conferences of the...

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1 Author’s Note: This research was supported in part by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Some of these findings have been presented elsewhere; these presentations are cited in the text. The author wishes to express deep appreciation for the members of her ongoing research team, especially Tanya Bannister, Jerry Huey, and Vivian Maranzano. Daniella Fuchs was also instrumental in her assistance with the turnover study. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Patricia M. Raskin, Box 65, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10027; e-mail: [email protected]umbia.edu. American Behavioral Scientist Volume 49 Number 11 July 2006 1-16 © 2006 Sage Publications 10.1177/0002764206288461 http://abs.sagepub.com hosted at http://online.sagepub.com The Catholic Bishops Conferences of the United States and France Engaging Immigration as a Public Issue Margarita Mooney Princeton University The secularization paradigm in the social sciences led many scholars to presume that religious organizations no longer had a public role in society. The author argues that one pressing public issue today, immigration, has become a strategic site on which the Catholic church has reasserted its prophetic voice in society, in particular calling for more humane treatment of undocumented immigrants and greater intercultural dialogue. The author compares evidence from the Catholic Bishops Conferences in the United States and France to show how the Catholic church is defining its role as a public religion in modern democratic states. Keywords: immigration; religion; Catholic church; secularization A lthough the religious diversity among today’s immigrants to Western countries has raised questions about how these religions will affect democracy, few have asked how well-established religious institutions in the West grapple with immigra- tion as a public issue—in particular with regard to concerns about undocumented immigrants, refugees, and family reunification policies. Both in the past and the pre- sent, when social scientists have studied religion and immigration, they have most often focused on local congregations (Ebaugh & Chaftez, 2000; Fitzpatrick, 1996; Gordon, 1964; Herberg, 1955; Levitt, 1998; Menjívar, 2001, 2003; Thomas & Znaniecki, 1927). In this article, I explore how a supranational religious institution— the Catholic church—engages immigration in the public sphere in two countries— the United States and France—with similar immigration trends but very different perceptions of the role of religion in the public sphere. I argue that immigration, one of the most pressing contemporary social issues in many Western countries, has
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2 American Behavioral Scientist become a strategic issue on which the Catholic church asserts its prophetic voice in the modern public sphere. I also demonstrate how different national understandings of secularism shape the church’s participation in the public sphere.
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