After teaching graduate moral theology courses for more than 19 years, one develops a sense for the need to address the critical issues. The issues are critical because they affect the principles which serve as the foundation of our Catholic belief.

The issues are not necessarily comfortable and the presentation of these issues takes courage. As I told my students, some in leadership positions like to take the ostrich strategy: if I just put my head in the sand and wait long enough, the problem will go away. Little does the ostrich realize that even though its head is buried, its body is still exposed.

Moral issues do not just go away. There are consequences. We believe in an objective truth. We can mask that truth, and even tolerate the inconsistencies for a period of time, but eventually the truth must be proclaimed.

The abortion controversy was a difficult social issue. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court permitted abortion and, as in most historical instances, the judicial decision should have settled the question and brought stability in about a decade.

However, like the Dred Scott decision on slavery, which took a civil war to settle, the issue of “abortion” is not settled; in fact, the contention around the issue of “life” continues.

It’s a moral problem that reflects an essential truth that an innocent life should be protected. Life is sacred and the state has a responsibility to protect and promote “life.” The abdication of the state’s responsibility has cheapened life over the last 40 years. Despite the state’s decision, the moral fact remains: namely, innocent human life should not be killed.

Recently we have seen a major push in our society for the promotion of same sex marriage. It has been contextualized as a “right.” Some states have recognized same sex marriage. However, marriage is between a man and a woman.

It is the basic unit of a society. It is, by its nature, present for the continuation of the society through the propagation of children. Attempts at redefining marriage are based on the notion that it is the state which defines marriage, discounting the reality of marriage which begins with God’s creation.

The truth is marriage is between a man and a woman. Laws may be passed and courts may make determination to the contrary, but man and woman were created to procreate and the two shall be as one.

Another issue which deserves our attention, and which will not go away, is the immigration question. This issue can cause immediate division, and well-meaning people can disagree on the solutions. There are many fears that accompany a discussion of the issue.

Some will raise the question of economics, others the question of border security, and still others the fact that many broke the rules to be here. But in assessing the question, the moral principles can never be ignored; they should always take precedent. It is wrong to break up families, separate husbands and wives, and there is Christian responsibility to reach out to others in need. Matthew 25: For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me…. Amen I say to you whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine you did for me.

The consistency of the church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person, the reason we hold life sacred, is that every person has been made in the “image of God.” This goes for the stranger among us.

These brothers and sisters among us demand that we recognize their dignity. In publicly supporting immigration reform, the church in the United States draws from its history as an immigrant church who assisted Germans, Italians, Poles and Irish in assimilating into the society.

In an Oct. 18 article in the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Dolan wrote: “By bringing the undocumented out of the shadows and giving them a chance to earn citizenship, we’d remove barriers to their immersion. This would allow them to participate in our society and develop talents and skills without inhibition, to the benefit of our culture. Without such changes, we’ll remain a two-tiered society with a permanent underclass, a departure from the core democratic principles of our country.”

There is something very flawed with a law that separates families and demands that a husband separate from his wife and sometimes children due to immigration laws.

As a church, we recognize the importance of marriage and family. Tragic stories of separations imposed by the state might be rationalized by the adherence to the letter of the law but the law denies the moral question of the rights of the family and marriage. What God has united no one must divide.

The Fourth Commandment (Honor your Father and Mother) is given by God to protect the dignity and integrity of the family, which consists of a father, mother and children. Catholics and Christians should understand this is an immoral attack on marriage and the family.

Given the national problems with the debt ceiling, the lack of a budget, out of control spending and the general polarization of the parties, we cannot allow an ostrich strategy – bury our heads in the sand and it will all go away – to deny justice to millions of undocumented who merely want a chance to be legal, contributing members of our society.

We must be prophetic and proclaim our moral principles for the sake of the dignity of our brothers and sisters as well as our own moral responsibility.

Immigration reform will respect the dignity of our brothers and sisters. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki