The mainstream media recently sang the song once again about Pope Francis criticizing President Trump. This time it was about the President’s handling of DACA, a program which Trump discontinued and left in the hands of Congress to legislate.
“The President of the United States presents himself as pro-life and if he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that family is the cradle of life and its unity must be protected,” Pope Francis said.
I’ve had the privilege of speaking to Pope Francis regarding pro-life matters on five occasions, and I have spoken about the same to President Trump as a member of both his Pro-life Advisory Coalition and his Catholic Advisory Group. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that both the Pope and the President are indeed pro-life.
At the heart of that commitment, they both want to protect children from the worst holocaust in human history, which is abortion. In fact, after the President’s visit to the Vatican this year, both the Vatican and the White house issued statements that referred to their solidarity on key issues like these.
But is it fair for anyone to call into question President Trump’s pro-life commitment or his support for family unity because of the way the President addressed DACA? Trump’s action of putting the responsibility to legislate immigration policy, rightfully, back into the hands of Congress is neither immoral nor contradicts pro-life commitments.
Donald Trump is a father himself and understands with deepest compassion the need children have for family unity. But that does not excuse him from his responsibility as president—or anyone else’s responsibility—to follow the law. It is his duty, and ours.
What President Obama did with DACA was not only illegal but also unconstitutional, and exceeded his authority. The fact that Trump is trying to re-establish the Constitutional order does not disqualify him from being pro-life. Contrary to the narrative the Left wants us to believe, Trump is not waiting for the first chance to rip families apart. Once again, some in the media jumped the gun on this one.
Pope Francis is not bound by the U.S. Constitution, but Americans are. Yet we can respect the law of the land and still maintain compassion and justice for the immigrant and the poor. How we go about implementing those kinds of policies can be up for debate and is not mandated by the Catholic Church. In other words, Catholics can disagree about how to go about that in practice, and still remain pro-lifers in good standing. We cannot, however, disagree about opposing abortion and still call ourselves pro-life.
If Catholics are not bound by any one specific immigration policy, then the President is even less so! Therefore, if one wonders whether Trump is truly pro-life, what should come to mind is the question, “Who am I to judge?”
I recall a certain pope once saying those words.
Inversely, if some think they have the “right” position on DACA and immigration, but fail to oppose abortion, their advocacy regarding immigration is false and illusory.
As Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”
Pope Saint John Paul’s words remind us that there is a hierarchy to defending life. Some rights depend on others. Unfortunately, the term “pro-life” has been stretched so thin—even by some bishops and popes—that it has lost much of its meaning. The “pro-life” movement is centered on the fact that children in the womb have been deprived of the most fundamental right, which is the right to life. “Pro-life,” in its expanded meaning, in other words, refers to being “in favor (pro) of restoring the right to life to the children from whom it has been deprived, namely, those yet in the womb.”
Does being “pro-life” impact other issues? It does, but in different ways. We recognize the immigrant as our brother, our sister. But there is no specific immigration policy in the Catechism.
A person’s first right to emigrate is from inside the womb to outside the womb. Let’s hear an outcry demanding the right of all people to cross that border freely, and to protect and welcome those who do cross it. The freedom to be immigrants across the border of the womb is absolute and foundational, and all other rights depend on that one.
If we cannot protect immigrants from murder while they are still in the womb, how will we even begin to defend them outside the womb?
Fr. Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life