On Monday, Pope Francis tweeted from his @Pontifex account:
We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants. God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy.
– Pope Francis (@Pontifex) July 8, 2013
The pontiff’s message, coming at a time when a critical debate on immigration policy is at hand in the United States, suggests that illegal immigrants should be “embraced” because they are, perhaps, “the most needy.”
As Reuters reports, the pope celebrated Mass on Monday on the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa “to commemorate thousands of migrants who have died crossing the sea from North Africa, underlining his drive to put the poor at the heart of his papacy.”
The report states that Pope Francis’ decision to go to Lampedusa was symbolic because “news reports of the deaths of desperate people trying to reach a better life that had been like ‘a thorn in the heart.'”
The pope reportedly saluted the migrants and thanked the people of Lampedusa for “taking them in and setting an example of solidarity to a selfish society sliding into ‘the globalization of indifference.'”
Similarly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with its president, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, have wholeheartedly embraced immigration “reform,” in the United States. They supported the Senate immigration bill with words that portray images of well-off Americans “welcoming” the poor and the needy from other nations who are seeking exile from oppressive governments, hoping for a better life in the freedom offered by the United States.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, continued this theme, urging Senate lawmakers to widen “the path to citizenship” and to allow as many as possible to “come out of the shadows” of illegal status. Gomez has asked for very flexible cut-off dates for eligibility for permanent residency and relaxation of income and work requirements for those who came to the country illegally.
Clearly, the Senate immigration bill did not go far enough for Archbishop Gomez. With the Senate bill’s provision, as of May, that citizens could not sponsor their siblings or married children over the age of 31, Gomez objected to cuts to the family-based aspects of the immigration system.
Gomez, a Mexican-born American citizen, summed up the policy of many vocal Catholic leaders:
Our national debate about immigration is a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul. It’s also a defining historical moment for America – a moment for national renewal.
It is curious that as Catholic leaders are campaigning essentially for amnesty, providing a plethora of images of “needy,” “struggling” families being “welcomed” by those who supposedly have “more,” there is scarce mention of another concept that many of these same Catholic leaders have highly prized, particularly in their recent struggles with the U.S. government: the rule of law. The notion that those who have come to the United States illegally should be exempted from the nation’s laws is not only not mentioned by these Catholic leaders, but also seemingly dismissed. The fact that many Americans have been the victims of violence at the hands of illegal immigrants has received little, if any, attention from Catholic leaders.
This is an especially worrisome approach when many of these same Catholic leaders have also just completed celebrating a second “Fortnight for Freedom,” during which the focus has been on the government’s invasion of the First Amendment rights of Catholics in the HHS mandate, which requires that most religious employers provide free contraception and abortifacients to their employees through health insurance plans. Here, Church leaders have demanded that the rule of law–the first amendment of the Constitution–as well as Church law, regarding abortion and contraception, be respected, yet the nation’s laws and the Constitutional authority to protect the nation’s borders is dismissed by them.
The same Catholic leaders who had no problem “welcoming” universal healthcare are in the process of suing the Obama administration on the HHS mandate. The same Cardinal Dolan, whose archdiocese had initiated a lawsuit against President Obama on the grounds that the HHS mandate violated the Constitutional rights of Catholics, welcomed him in a “fun” evening of “roasts” at the annual Al Smith Dinner. This was to be excused, though, because all the joking was for a good cause.
The same Catholic leaders who have excoriated President Obama, the Supreme Court, and other “gay marriage” supporters on the high court’s declaration that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, have already set up “boundaries” around church marriages.
Cardinal Dolan himself condemned the Supreme Court’s decisions as “a profound injustice to the American people.”
The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage.
Cardinal Dolan’s concerns about the nation’s “laws” do not seem to extend to the requirement that the government protect the “liberty and justice” of its citizens by securing its borders.
Similarly, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, clearly set a “boundary” around Catholics who serve in the military:
I likewise remain confident that the First Amendment constitutional guarantee of the “free exercise of religion” will forever ensure that no restrictions or limitations on the teaching of the Catholic faith will be placed on any Catholic priest or deacon in the armed forces. Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees that no endorsed minister will ever be compelled to perform a religious ceremony contrary to the dictates of his/her faith nor will today’s decision have any effect on the role and teaching ability of a priest or deacon in the pulpit, the classroom, the barracks or in the office.
“Boundaries” seem to be important to protect the Church’s ability to teach and practice its faith, yet Church leaders shrug their shoulders at the desire of many Americans to secure the “boundaries” of the nation. These Americans, almost all of whom are descended from immigrants and many of whom contribute to their churches, synagogues, and community organizations to help the “needy,” are painted as “unwelcoming,” and, by some, as even “racist” and “bigoted.”
George Weigel, writing at the Denver Catholic Register, has some interesting observations for many pro-amnesty Catholic leaders:
Catholic political theory places a high value on the rule of law, which it regards as morally superior to the alternative, which is the rule of willfulness imposed by brute force.
The inalienable dignity and value of every human being from conception until natural death is the bedrock personalist principle from which Catholic thinking about public policy begins. That dignity does not confer an absolute right on anyone to live wherever he or she chooses. A proper Catholic understanding of limited and constitutional government grasps that the state–which in the American case means the national government–has a right to enforce its citizenship laws and a duty to conduct that enforcement in a just way.
With the exception of our Native American brethren, every Catholic in the United States today is the descendant of immigrants (in my case, from Germany in the early- and mid-19th century). This demographic fact, which reflects the national tradition of hospitality to the stranger, should create a predisposition to be pro-immigrant within the Catholic community in America. That the vast majority of Catholics in the United States today are law-abiding citizens whose economic and social well-being is made possible by living within a law-governed political community should incline us to live that pro-immigrant predisposition through the mediation of the rule of law.
He points out that last year the United States naturalized one million new citizens, most of them from Mexico, and that over the past ten years we have naturalized another ten million people who have come through the legal immigration process. Weigel states emphatically, “The canons of justice dictate that people should not be rewarded for law-breaking, and that is what illegal immigrants do: they break the law.”
Leaders of the Catholic Church have many internal issues that must be addressed in order to reverse the trend of secularization and to cope with past financial and moral scandals caused by “law-breaking.” Pope Francis, and Pope Benedict before him, determined that the doctrine of the Church–its laws–must be preached, taught, and followed in order to preserve family as the basic God-given human structure.
For Catholic leaders to become politically involved in encouraging policy that dismisses the need for sound national boundaries that will support the nation’s laws and the liberty and justice of American families–both those who are native-born and those who have gone through the legal naturalization process–suggests a conflicted message about the importance of the rule of law.