In a recent interview with the Daily Beast that focused on the “bigotry” and “xenophobia” of Americans who are opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants, Boston archbishop Cardinal Sean O’Malley said, “Obviously, the fear is not rational, and I think we are dealing with it in an irrational way.”
The Daily Beast‘s Christopher Dickey lead up to his discussion with O’Malley about the thousands of illegal immigrant minors flooding the United States following President Obama’s decision to relax their deportations:
The fear and hatred of foreigners is nothing new in the United States, nation of immigrants though it is. O’Malley said he’d been reading up on the Know-Nothings of the 19th century who wanted to limit severely the immigration of Catholics, require them to wait 21 years for naturalization, and allow only Protestants to teach in public schools.
There is a reason there are few stained-glass windows in the Philadelphia cathedral, he said: “Because they knew they would be broken with bricks.” (Indeed, the building was designed during Know-Nothing violence in the 1840s with no windows at all at street level).
Dickey reports O’Malley told him that, in the 20th century, the same sort of xenophobia was turned against immigrants from Latin America and Asia, with the added factor of racism.
The “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants, O’Malley said, is absolutely essential.
“If anything, the United States should capitalize on people’s desire to become part of this country,” the cardinal said. “They become great contributors.”
O’Malley added that if children grow up with the perception that their parents are “aliens,” they will become resentful.
“What used to be called ‘the Protestant work ethic’ is now better understood as an immigrant ethic, and it is not just about work,” Dickey writes. “O’Malley sees it as ‘about the family and the common good and the values that have been eroded by our extreme individualism in this country.'”
“The reason we have 11 million undocumented workers here is because we need them,” said O’Malley.
O’Malley was appointed by Pope Francis to serve on a council of cardinals that will advise the Pope on Curial reform. In addition, he is the chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and has played a key role within the conference on advocating for immigration reform and the needs of illegal immigrants.
Frustrated with obstacles to the passage of immigration reform legislation, O’Malley went to the border, to Nogales, Arizona, in April with fellow bishops where they celebrated a Mass to urge immigration reform.
There, the bishops distributed communion through the slats of the border fence to those gathered on the other side of it.
In an interview on EWTN’s The World Over with Raymond Arroyo, papal biographer George Weigel said O’Malley and the other Mass celebrants were politicizing the Mass.
It’s not clear to me how holding a Mass in these circumstances can be anything other than politicized… and I’m not sure that that is the kind of discussion we need in the Church or the country about a problem that everyone is concerned about. No one is unconcerned about this, people have different views as to what the ultimate resolution of this should be, but to turn the Mass into an act of essentially political theater is something I thought we had gotten over in the Church no matter how noble the cause might be.
“I’ve said for years that the bishops of the United States should clarify whether they believe borders have any moral meaning, or whether they wish to take the position, for example, that the Wall St. Journal has taken for years, that there should be simply open borders,” Weigel said. “If you want to make that argument, you can make it… but it’s not clear to me that the principles behind a Catholic approach to the problem of immigration reform have been well articulated at all.”