The Catholic Bishops of Texas don’t do their parishioners — or anyone else — any favors when they conflate illegal and legal immigrants.

Waging a political campaign against Senate Bill 4, the state’s new anti-sanctuary law, the bishops fan the flames of fear with overheated rhetoric in heavily Hispanic communities.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores dealt the victim card from the bottom of the deck by declaring that the SB 4 debate “sound[ed] as if all immigrants are criminals.”

Unlike the bishops, state lawmakers and Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the legislation into law, were punctilious in distinguishing between legal and illegal immigrants.

A practicing Catholic married to a Catholic Mexican-American, the governor, a former attorney general, stressed that SB 4 strictly prohibits discrimination and profiling. Law-enforcement officers cannot ask questions about citizenship in the absence of a criminal investigation.

The bishops bowed briefly to that reality, and then set up more straw men.

Without evidence or specifics, Garcia-Siller and Flores announced, “People are now afraid that pretexts will be invented so they can be stopped and asked about their immigration status.”

The bishops agreed with Abbott that “we are a nation of laws.” Yet that, too, was subject to extra-legal revision. “Not all laws are good laws,” they opined.

Such thinking is wrong on two counts:

First, if everyone is free to decide which laws are good and bad, and which ones they are going to obey, chaos ensues.

Second, immigration laws, however imperfect, protect important economic and social interests of Americans – many of whom might actually be filling church pews.

While vowing to “step up efforts to inform persons of their rights” the bishops stopped short of declaring their churches sanctuaries. As of now, the only self-proclaimed “sanctuary congregation” in San Antonio is the First Unitarian Universalist Church.

Nothing in SB 4 prevents more churches from going the sanctuary route. The state law only targets government authorities and public agencies that fail to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

U.S. law is another matter, however. Federal statutes prohibit “concealing, harboring or shielding” illegal aliens.

It’s a distinction worth noting. Like the difference between legal and illegal immigrants.