The U.S. Catholic bishops are, unsurprisingly, angry at the Trump administration’s plan to cancel the DACA program that gave amnesty to minor-arriving illegals. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the decision “reprehensible”; locally, Cardinal Cupich called it “heartless” in a statement. They reference scriptural calls to care for the stranger, as if this is a black-and-white issue, that Catholic doctrine apparently calls for open borders, and open-ended stranger-welcoming should be a matter of law, rather than personal action.
In the meantime, Breitbartian and ousted Trump advisor Steve Bannon gave an interview on 60 Minutes, in which he said, of the Catholic Church’s position,
The bishops have been terrible about this. By the way, you know why? You know why? Because unable to really – to – to – to come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches. That’s – it’s obvious on the face of it. That’s what – the entire Catholic bishops condemn him. … They have – they have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration. And as much as – . . .
As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine. This is not doctrine at all. I totally respect the pope and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine. This is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation. And in that regard, they’re just another guy with an opinion.
“It is preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn’t central to Catholic teaching. It comes directly from Jesus Himself in Matthew 25, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food…a stranger and you welcomed me.’ Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome. This isn’t Catholic partisanship. The Bible is clear: welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith.
Our pro-immigration stance is based on fidelity to God’s word and honors the American dream. For anyone to suggest that it is out of sordid motives of statistics or financial gain is outrageous and insulting.”
So let’s start with the fact that, regardless of their true motives, the Catholic bishops have a clear conflict of interest. They may indeed be motivated by nothing other than pure-hearted desire to “care for the stranger.” But at the same time, according to Crux,
A 2015 study from Pew Research found that “Catholics are more likely than other Americans to be immigrants or children of immigrants.” More than a quarter of U.S. Catholics were born outside of the United States. . . .In his interview with Crux, Dolan said he opposed the rescission of DACA because “a good chunk of the immigrants are our people. They’re Catholics and we love them.”
Bannon is correct that the Catholic church has lost large numbers of members, who grew up in the church, and have left it for other denominations or have abandoned any sort of religious belief or practice entirely, and at the same time, those pews have been filled by new migrants. Granted, they’re not filling the church coffers — they’re simply much poorer than those they’re replacing, and, it seems to me (though this is just a hunch), don’t have that same sacrificial support of the church that enabled immigrants of past generations to build the masterpieces which are now decaying in our cities, despite equal poverty. But they’re keeping the numbers up, and their devotion to the church, perceived or real, is likely a great emotional if not financial boost to leaders, particularly in a time when their successful handling of clergy abuse is questioned.
Fundamentally, it’s simply part of human nature to see things from the perspective of “your” group, and illegal immigrants are a definite constituency, even if only a minority. Would be that celebratory of these immigrants if they were Protestants, if they filled up the pews of declining Lutheran, or Methodist, or Episcopalian churches?
And, yes, I believe that some form of legal residency should be offered to illegal immigrants, of whatever age, who have been here long enough that it would be a true hardship to return to their home countries, if for no other reason than because it was our government’s own failure to deport them in past years that got us to this situation. But we simply cannot do this without putting in place measures (E-Verify, prosecution of employers hiring workers under the table) that will end this situation for the long-term future.
But whenever the bishops speak of immigrants as if they have a “right” to come here, and wholly ignore the violations of law when they obtain false IDs or work under the table, and treat these as those sorts of actions which are “not really wrong anyway” — as if their lives in their native countries were so wretched, and their right to come to the U.S. so compelling, that these laws are really to be treated as unjust laws, in the same way as it was a matter of justice, not criminality, for Jews in Nazi-occupied territory to forge ID documents — well, I’m sorry, but that just makes me want to dig in my heels. They are not being prophetic witnesses when they condone violations of the law. And their incessant pro-immigrant statements rarely, if at all, acknowledge the right of a nation to control its borders. And what, after all, about the bishops in Mexico, and Central America, and all the other sending countries — do they not have the responsibility to encourage their flock to improve, rather than flee, their homes?
So that’s today’s rant.
Image: from pixabay.com; https://pixabay.com/en/border-mexico-usa-united-states-62866/