Your Holiness, recently, I have been criticized for saying that your advocacy of open borders and the U.S. Catholic Church’s aggressive support for amnesty are as much a response to declining church membership as an expression of sincere humanitarian values.
Pope Francis, I am writing to explain that this criticism of persistent Catholic Church meddling in U.S. political affairs is not directed at you personally.
In April of 2008, in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s criticism of U.S. immigration policies I said, “This isn’t preaching; it is faith-based marketing.” My statements at that time earned me widespread attacks not only from the New York Times but from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, and other partisans of open borders.
Like your predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Your Holiness appears to enjoy giving advice on immigration policy to presidents and parliaments.
Here’s a suggestion from a fellow Christian who, like you, strives to be a humble servant of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To the extent that you feel compelled to enter into the political arena and address the subject of immigration policies, why not focus on the enormous differences that exist in those policies around the world?
Certainly you know that the United States of America accepts more legal immigrants than all the other 196 members of the United Nations combined. The USA has also accepted more refugees for permanent resettlement than any other nation of the world. To take a current example, the United States has accepted tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslim and Hindu refugees from Burma (Myanmar), while Burma’s neighboring countries like India, Bangladesh, and Thailand have largely shunned them.
Did I somehow miss a news release from Vatican City praising our generosity towards those persecuted religious refugees? Likewise, did I miss the one announcing the Vatican’s “open door policy” in this matter?
I also respectfully suggest that you and your Cardinals and Bishops need to be more observant of the important distinction between speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals — where among fellow Catholics you presumably have unique expertise and authority — and expressing your personal opinions on purely political matters, where if I may say so, you have no more expertise or authority than artists, journalists, golfers, or the average member of the United States Congress.
I believe most Americans understand and appreciate the historical record that forced the erection of 50 foot walls around the Vatican. They were built to protect and defend. There was a need to restrict entry of those who meant to do harm and also to insure that the integrity of the city-state. Considering the fact that you maintain both the walls and careful scrutiny of those admitted beyond them, you can see why even in the 21st century border security is still an important and necessary part of maintaining a nation state. The fact that the U.S. attempts to accomplish that task while still being the most immigrant-welcoming nation in the world seems to me, should Your Holiness feel compelled to address the issue at all, deserves praise instead of criticism. It is this dichotomy that creates skepticism regarding the motivation of such criticism.
We Americans of the Christian faith have always recognized that churches have a right to propagate the faith and recruit new members; that is part of our First Amendment freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Yet, the corollary to religious freedom is the separation of church and state, so Americans also understand that those necessary and righteous recruitment endeavors must respect and accept a nation’s natural right to protect and defend itself.