March 28 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. cardinal said he expects Catholic Church leaders to intensify efforts on behalf of a new immigration law and gun control measures as congressional legislation on the issues move forward.
Many undocumented immigrants are “family people” who “came to make a contribution to American society,” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired Catholic prelate of the nation’s capital, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” which airs this weekend.
The nation’s Catholic bishops will back up their endorsement of a path to legal status for such immigrants with more action once legislation is introduced, he added.
“I’m hoping that when we get a bill, you’ll see how active they’ll be,” McCarrick said.
While the Catholic Church hierarchy has clashed with President Barack Obama over abortion rights and his health-care law’s mandate for contraception coverage, the nation’s bishops are allied with him on his stance for an immigration overhaul and gun control legislation.
A group of bipartisan senators is almost finished drafting immigration legislation to be introduced the week of April 8.
In the aftermath of Newtown, Connecticut, shootings that killed 20 schoolchildren in December, lawmakers are at odds over new regulations of firearms and ammunition, while some push for more stringent background checks for gun-buyers.
“We obviously are against these heavy-duty automatic weapons; their place is in war,” McCarrick said. At the legislative battle’s “flash point, I think we will find that the church is speaking out.”
Newly elected Pope Francis will give the Catholic Church a “different emphasis,” focusing more on the plight of the poor and the challenge of global climate change, McCarrick said. A bus-riding Jesuit, Francis signaled as much by taking the name of a Catholic saint associated both with poverty and adoration of nature, McCarrick said.
Francis also is likely to act forcefully against corruption and poor management in the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Curia, including the Vatican Bank, McCarrick said.
Benedict XVI’s surprise abdication fueled speculation his exit was partly motivated by an inability to curtail spreading corruption and mismanagement among the 4,000-person apparatus entrusted with running day-to-day church business.
Letters and documents passed to the press by the prior pope’s personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, portrayed the Vatican as a hotbed of conspiracy and Benedict as a frail leader, unable to control his subordinates. The Vatican Bank’s former head, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was ousted last year amid a money-laundering investigation by Italian authorities.
The new pontiff “has the will to make it work better, the will to make it more in the service of people,” McCarrick said. “And I think he has the ability to do that.”
McCarrick, 82, didn’t participate in the election of the new pope because of a church rule limiting voting to cardinals under 80 years of age. He was part of a related conclave of cardinals summoned to Rome for meetings on church issues.
As the U.S. Supreme Court considers a civil-rights case for same-sex marriage, McCarrick said he has “no problem” with civil unions for gay couples that confer the same rights as marriage under a different name.
“I certainly would prefer that” to “what I could call a marriage, in quotes,” McCarrick said.
The cardinal said he considers divorce and children born out of wedlock a greater social problem than same-sex marriage.
“Same-sex marriage is not at this point prevalent in our society, and probably won’t be” because gays are a minority, McCarrick said. Children whose parents divorce or are born out of wedlock, he added, “find themselves out on a limb,” which “is a serious problem in our society.”
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