The Real Seamless Garment

Last week, an earnest Catholic commentator over at the Catholic Key Blog mourned the fact that House Democrats had spoiled the chances for “immigration reform” by linking the issue to unrelated matters that scared off supporters, tainting the sacred cause of extending amnesty to illegal immigrants by wrapping it up in a rainbow flag, then hanging it out to dry on a wire coat hanger.

The “Dream Act,” which would have given legal status to many thousands of illegal aliens whose parents snuck them in as children, was attached, as this blogger reported, to “the Defense Authorization bill. At the same time, Democrat leadership attached a provision repealing the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and another allowing for abortions at military medical centers.”

The final bill, now a mish-mash made from the far-Left’s wish list, was voted down on September 21. Then, on September 29, two pro-abortion Catholic senators, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (S. 3932), which (along with some cosmetic gestures aimed at border control) would offer amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. As the Catholic Key Blog reports:

It is a bill that would have the strong support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But it does not.

Utterly superfluous to immigration reform, Senator Menendez has attached the “Unite American Families Act” to his Immigration Reform Act. The UAFA would treat the “partners” of bi-national couples as married persons.

So today, Menendez got a very nice letter from Salt Lake Bishop John Wester in his capacity as US Bishops’ Migration Chair commending Menendez for his “ongoing leadership on achieving immigration reform,” but lamenting “that a controversial provision, which would confer marriage-like immigration benefits to same-sex couples, will preclude the U.S. bishops from supporting S. 3932 as introduced.”

Bishop Wester also quite reasonably observed that including UAFA “in a comprehensive immigration reform bill will make it far more difficult to achieve the compromise that will be needed in order to enact a fair and balanced comprehensive immigration reform bill.”

At this point, I am tempted to kick back and chuckle, “Ya think?” It gladdens my heart to see my opponents overreach this way, grabbing items off the shelves like a sticky-faced, gluttonous two-year-old in the candy aisle. In their misguided attempt to form a Coalition of the Victims, the Democrats are indeed making it less likely that any of these destructive bills will pass, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment’s glee in that.

 

But this victory may prove fleeting, unless Catholics come to understand the underlying issues involved and shake off the toxic scrupulosity our bishops have tried to foster among us on the subject of immigration — a potent winning issue for the Right, whose victory offers the only hope of defending fundamental human goods such as the sanctity of unborn life and the integrity of marriage. By pretending that prudential arguments over how to handle illegal immigration (or promote health care for the poor) are in any way comparable to black-and-white, doctrinally unambiguous issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage,” bishops like John Wester are dividing faithful Catholics and giving aid and comfort to the enemy — much as Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s “seamless garment” provided a shroud for pro-abortion Democrats like Ted Kennedy. “Sure,” they were free to say, “I may differ with the Church on one or two issues, but so does my Republican opponent. Unlike him, I stand with the bishops’ conference on Medicaid and U.S. policy toward Neeka-RAO-gu-WAH.”

Most Western bishops are eager to keep their liberal bona fides on every issue they can — aside from a few “hot-button” topics where irreformable Catholic doctrine ties their hands. As I wrote back in 2003,

The broadly leftist positions identified with “social justice” by the Catholic Left have no basis in Catholic tradition. Most were adopted by America’s bishops’ committees, I believe, to counterbalance the seemingly “right-wing” stances on life issues which the Vatican pressured them to maintain. It didn’t hurt that the bishops’ staffers were largely drawn from Democratic hiring halls — for instance, ex-employees of the Carter Administration.

On a deeper level, many grandchildren of Catholic immigrants to our overwhelmingly Protestant country still cling to the pretence that they are outsiders — excluded and marginalized enemies of the existing American establishment. As fellow “outsiders,” they are bound to make common cause with every other “outside” group, regardless of the justice of its claims. This “outsider” illusion made it easier for us to be right about Civil Rights . . . and then poisonously wrong about feminism, gay liberation, and socialist economics. (Years before, this cultivated sense of alienation led Catholics in the 1950s to join secular Jewish groups in petitioning to throw out prayer from the public schools; they wanted it removed because it was Christian, while we opposed it because it was Protestant.)

 

But I want to go further, because decent people (such as the Catholic Key Blogger) really do seem to be confused, and I’m not here just to pelt them with holy water balloons. Many Catholics have been fooled by unprincipled attempts on the part of prelates to pretend that the Church favors effectively open borders, at least for wealthy countries like our own. I have refuted this myth comprehensively in dozens of articles (Google my name and “immigration”), taking on leading spokesmen for the Catholic open-borders myth such as Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles — so far, with no real response. The Catholic B. S. Generator works best when it hums silently, unexamined and out of sight.

Why is it, do you think, that men who are wrong about so many deep and fundamental issues, like Senators Leahy and Menendez, just stumble onto the truly Catholic stance on issues like immigration and economics — while the solidly pro-life, pro-family Christians who are lining up to join the Tea Party have blundered into selfish, narrow, ugly, and exclusionist positions? The answer is that they haven’t. There’s a good reason that the same people who support open borders and massive wealth redistribution also support gay marriage and legal abortion: These positions rightly go together, and flow from the same philosophical premises. Likewise, those of us who defend national sovereignty and property rights also defend the integrity of marriage and the sanctity of innocent life — because they all fit together. There is a seamless garment out there that we Catholics can rally behind — and on it is printed the motto “Don’t Tread On Me!”

First, let’s dispense with red herrings. None of this, on either side, has to do with Christian charity. Even leftist Catholics realize that this virtue, like faith and hope, cannot be imposed by the state. When they call for massive amnesties, cheap in-state tuition, welfare benefits, bilingual education and affirmative action quotas to favor illegal immigrants, pro-immigration advocates never whisper the word “charity.” What they demand is “justice,” which is all that the state is authorized to use its deadly force to ensure. So let’s take them at their word: Do illegal migrants have the moral right, such that it would be sinful to deny it to them, to move into our country and remain here against our will? Do they have the right to enter en masse, enroll their children on public assistance at our expense, impose their culture and language on our institutions, and demand that we adapt to accommodate their needs?

In all charity, I say, Hell no. It is wholesome, good, and above all natural for an existing community to defend its existing mores, culture, and institutions from such an attack. (Would Mexicans stand for a massive influx of nationalistic Japanese?) Likewise, it is natural for a community born of basically Christian mores to refuse a radical alteration in what it means by marriage — whether that means homosexual unions or polygamous Muslim families. It is equally wholesome, good, and natural for hard-working citizens to resent and resist the massive confiscation of their wealth by a government that squanders it on counterproductive social programs, massive bureaucracy, and futile foreign wars. (I wish the Tea Party people would pay a little more attention to the third element in this unholy trinity.) It is also natural to protect innocent, unborn children from being murdered merely to meet the feminist goal of leveling the playing field between the sexes. (This way, we all can escape the consequences of promiscuity.)

On all these issues, Tea Party people are following inborn, God-given human impulses to protect one’s family first, neighbors second, and countrymen third. They are standing up for community, while insisting on the real rights, in justice, of the most vulnerable among us — the millions of unborn children it is currently quite legally to kill at our whim. Leftists, for their part, wish to undermine these healthy impulses, to replace them with a twisted, pseudo-Christian conscience based on manufactured guilt and misguided compassion.

This post-Christian crazy quilt is, in its way, far darker and sicker than anything ever known in pagan Greece or Rome. We can see its logical outcome in our Mother Continent, Europe — where in some countries abortion is perfectly legal, but speech against Islamic immigration is not. By flouting these wholesome instincts on issues like immigration and economics, while trying to rouse them on others such as abortion and marriage, our bishops are proving intellectually incoherent and politically impotent. And that’s why no one much listens to them anymore, or probably ever will.

 

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John Zmirak

By

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • Gordon Zaft

    Wow. I had previously enjoyed much of Zmirak’s writing… but this is beyond the pale.

    I think I speak for many of us who actually LIVE on the border when I say that our culture has a heavy Hispanic influence because a) we are close to Mexico and b) UNTIL 1853 SOUTHERN ARIZONA WAS PART OF MEXICO. There is no “invasion” so much as normal crosspollination.

    It is quite normal to compare the reaction to Mexican immigrants to the reception the Irish received 150 years ago, because it’s similar. The difference is that the Irish could come legally because the US had almost no immigration restrictions. Those restrictions came in reaction to another wave of (gee, mostly Catholic) immigrants post-WWI. What’s the result? Mexicans find it almost impossible to legally immigrate here. The more desperate of them break the law, and our deserts show the result — hundreds of deaths in the desert every year. Where us the Christian charity for them? Or for the children who were brought here by their parents and then raised as Americans but without citizenship (the ones the DREAM act is aimed at)? Should they be deported to a land they don’t even (in many cases) remember? Would Jesus do that?

  • James G

    John, you

  • JZmirak

    I appreciate your thoughtful and magnanimous intervention. I have, in past articles, called for the U.S. to stop relying on “impassible” deserts as barriers to immigrants, precisely because of deaths in the desert. Any border fence should include those areas, so we don’t end up funneling people into waterless regions where they might perish. Controlling the border does NOT include the death penalty for those who cross it illegally.

  • Julie W.

    “Those of us who defend national sovereignty and property rights also defend the integrity of marriage and the sanctity of innocent life — because they all fit together. There is a seamless garment out there that we Catholics can rally behind — and on it is printed the motto ‘Don’t Tread On Me!’ ”
    Excellent thought-provoking article. We need to hear “personal responsiblity” taught by Bishops as part of “social justice.” Thanks John.

  • FX

    I too was a little disheartened by the article’s tone, especially because I’m usually such a fan of Zmirak. I guess I throw my lot in with the article’s “faux outsiders”: namely, those second generation Irish who apparently need to wake up and smell the assimilation. For my part anyway, the historical and systematic attempt to whitewash Irish cultural, linguistic, and especially religious has played a significant role in shaping my own Catholic identity. It’s also important to remember that at the height of Irish immigration there were more of those priest-riddled bog trotters in New York City than Dublin. I can’t imagine a 19th Century Tea Party liking those stats too much (the Know Nothings certainly didn’t).

    Hordes of illegal Japanese storming the playas of Mexico? That’s just lazy. There’s more cultural, linguistic, and familial similarity between the southwest and Mexico than between, I don’t know, Boston and Boise?

    And “Don’t Tread on Me” as a Catholic rally cry? Seriously? Don’t get me wrong, I might even ultimately defer to Zmirak on the immigration issue. I think the article does an excellent job at highlighting what we already know: that the Left has no real answer because they are already operating from the default position of anti-humanism (at least ideologically). But I’m hardly comfortable with “protect one’s family first, neighbors second, and countrymen third” if it is an excuse to pretend there’s not a serious crisis happening at the border. Because Mexican immigration is really what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about rooting up some first-generation Quebecios from their parent’s trendy brownstone in Brooklyn as much as we’re talking about sending children back to a country where cartels kill journalists because they just happened to notice their backyard is imploding.

    If we’re going to flirt with xenophobic tendencies, I just think we could do it with a little more wit and nuance.

  • JZmirak

    Dear F.X.,
    Ah, you’re trying to wound my vanity with the remark about “wit,” but my half-Irish hide is thicker than that. If my tone here is more somber than usual, it’s because I love this country, am grateful to it (yes, to the Protestants who founded it, and those who let my ancestors in–as a privilege, not a right), and intend to defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That’s how I read the virtue of patriotism. If I wanted to be an Irish or Croatian patriot, I should bloody well MOVE back to Cork or Istria.

    Now, as to the Irish: Yes, the nativists were nasty and bigoted. They attacked the immigrants for being Catholic, among other things. They used the intolerance of Catholic states at the time to falsely charge that desperate Irish planned to set up a Catholic theocracy in America. They even invented a theory that Irish were members of a semi-humanoid subspecies. If you have any evidence that such motives underlie the consensus of the majority of Americans who want a reduction in both the legal AND illegal of unskilled workers at a time of growing unemployment, please adduce it–or stop with the innuendo, which is nothing more than slander.

    All that said, the Irish who did arrive in America did present enormous practical problems, not least to the Church. And it was the Church, not the State, that rehabilitated them, as historian William Stern documented in his famous article “How Dagger John Saved New York

  • Gian

    If the Americans turn apostate and are not fruitful and do not multiply then should the land go waste?

    To what are you so attached that a land fly American banner?

  • Deacon Ed

    great article. It provided much food for thought in many different areas.

    On a personal note, I am the descendent of Irish immigrants in the late 1840’s who settled in NYC. Your comment about the rampant hooliganism and alcoholism among this group was instructive. Three generations are sandwiched between my immigrant ancestors and me and it has taken that long to extirpate the alcoholism from our family tree. But I must say that your observation about the Church’s role in socializing these Irish seemed right on the money – at least in the case of our family.

    On another note, you comment: “Likewise, if the Church wants millions of Catholic immigrants admitted to the country every year, the Church should pay, through privately donated funds, for their assimilation, education, health care and other public benefits. If the bishops want to pony up that kind of money, then they’ll earn a place at the table. Till then, they’re ordering drinks and sticking innocent third parties with the tab. There’s a word for that: It’s stealing.”

    Here, again, I think your observation is a keen one. The bishops don’t put their money where their mouth is. I see this all the time in terms of our Church’s sending missionaries and the like who could bring material aid to those same Central and South American countries sending their people here to the USA. Catholic groups routinely going on mission to help people in these countries is a rarity. In my own diocese, I have taken great flack from some liberal priests who, when I initiated medical missions to Guatemala asked aloud “why we would ever want to go to Guatemala when we had so many poor people here in the USA.” No, the work of caring for the material needs of the poor in Latin America is left by US Catholics to the Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals and other Protestant groups who are in Latin America in droves and, parenthetically, converting people OUT OF the Catholic Church. (Brazil is now said to be 40% non-Catholic). No, we in the US Catholic Church have institutionalized charity towards the poor in THEIR OWN COUNTRY by assigning the task to Catholic Relief Services.

    The bishops are great when they weigh in on some of our most pressing social issues – believing that government solutions are the way to go. If our bishops had to earn a living in order to support a family they might just think differently on the best way of generating capital other than taxing people to death to support yet another government program that doesn’t work. Yes, it’s true, more and more people simply ignore the bishops on these social issues.

  • Dan Deeny

    Excellent article. I once had my high school English class write an essay on what they would do if they were President and a large group of people was ready to cross the border on Easter Sunday. These people would be looking for jobs, would not be violent, and would be families (grandparents, parents, children, etc.). Lots of different ideas. At the end I told them my plan would be to occupy the northern states of Mexico, make them U.S. states, and install the U.S. system of government. Effectively, my plan would be to invade Mexico. I once read that Mexico was a country of Indians governed by a small group of very, very corrupt Iberian whites.
    I suppose Archbishop Gomez is frustrated at the incompetence of the Mexican government, and he very unfortunately blames the U.S.. A human error. Archbishop Gomez might do well to investigate the abortion rates in the U.S. According to a pro-life leader I once talked to, they are 60% for Black Americans, 30% for Hispanic Americansm, and 18% for White Americans.
    Thanks again for a good article on an important subject.

  • Brian English

    “if the Church wants millions of Catholic immigrants admitted to the country every year, the Church should pay, through privately donated funds, for their assimilation, education, health care and other public benefits. If the bishops want to pony up that kind of money, then they’ll earn a place at the table. Till then, they’re ordering drinks and sticking innocent third parties with the tab. There’s a word for that: It’s stealing.”

    That sums it up very nicely.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Folks, it is never primarily about tone.

    Truth comes first. Rule of law comes first. Right and wrong comes first.

    After that, one can adjust one’s tone-of-voice a bit, within the boundaries of not falsifying the truth. But one cannot start out with a first priority of having a pleasant tone-of-voice, and adjust truth to suit the intended audience-reaction.

    John Zmirak has here offended a couple of folk with his tone-of-voice. And indeed, he was presented a difficult challenge in the realm of tone-of-voice: Should he seem courteous and politely disagree with the sleepy murmur of compassionate-sounding platitudes which seem to have anesthetized the Body of Christ in America? Or should he sound a clarion call at the risk of irritating the sleepers thus awakened?

    The latter is often mere preaching to the choir, because one doesn’t usually win over one’s listeners by irritation. On the other hand, the ears of sleepers are stopped up.

    John opted to wake people the hell up. And some of you are grumpy at having your esteemed repose so rudely disturbed.

    I am normally more courteous than this, but in this case, to the awakened, I say: Get over it. “Wakey-wakey, this is your nine o’clock alarm call.”

    These are the facts:

    It is not only morally licit, but a moral duty of government, to set boundaries and enforce borders for the good — first and foremost, the good of its citizenry.

    For we are each of us, individually and at the corporate level, surrounded by concentric spheres of influence wherein we may do good: First to our families, then to our friends, then to the community, then to the world at large: But in that order of priority.

    When both your wife and a poor tribesman you don’t know on the far side of the planet are starving, you acknowledge that you have a moral duty to help both if you can, and that both have value in the eyes of God, but the person you immediately help is your wife.

    In the matter of unenforced borders, the priorities are obvious: Enforce the borders first, and then give charity as charity; alms as alms. You see to your own household first, set everything in order, and then help your neighbor.

    What you do not do is let your own house rot in order to assist your neighbor. You have moral priorities which govern your moral obligations.

    Thou shalt not do evil, that good come of it.

    “We are a nation of laws, not of men” and “this country is planted thick with laws” for a reason: The rule of law comes first because safety and freedom are found in justice — including the safety and freedom to exercise charity, almsgiving toward the needy here and abroad.

    In the matter of our southern border, then, the objectively correct moral duty of the government of the United States is to enforce the rule of law and prevent all illegal entry into the United States now, and even to prosecute known violators of this law. When illegal entry is stopped the poor in Mexico and elsewhere will once again have the moral high ground which they have lost through stooping to criminal activity.

    Thou shalt not do evil, that good come of it.

    The heart of America is a great compassionate heart: Americans (especially on the conservative side of the political aisle) give voluntarily to the poor here and abroad vast multiples of what governments normally give. There is no hint of racism, no hint of xenophobia in these sacrificial and voluntary acts.

    But…!

    America, especially on the conservative side of the aisle, also values the rule of law. We stop at rural stoplights at three o’clock in the morning when there’s no other car around for miles. That is who we are. (And if some of us are hypocrites and give in to temptation and run the redlight, we know it’s a temptation and a sin to give into it. And if we get stopped a block down the road by a policeman we didn’t see, but who saw us, we recognize “it’s a fair cop,” and that we deserved it.)

    …continued…

  • Cord Hamrick

    …continuing…

    This is why I don’t mind in principle having exactly the same number of Mexican-born persons in the U.S. as there currently are, provided we replace the current population of illegal entrants one-for-one with legal ones.

    John Zmirak correctly asks about the status of an objective moral principle:

    Do illegal migrants have the moral right, such that it would be sinful to deny it to them, to move into our country and remain here against our will? Do they have the right to enter en masse, enroll their children on public assistance at our expense, impose their culture and language on our institutions, and demand that we adapt to accommodate their needs?

    The answer is, of course, no. There is no such moral right. None of the above is intrinsically required by their human dignity.’

    Do we, so far as we are able, have a moral obligation to assist the poor in other countries? Yes! Of course! But not by encouraging the violation of our own laws.

    Thou shalt not do evil, that good come of it.

    The sad truth is that on this subject, everyone has equally soft hearts, but some folks also have soft heads. They have abandoned clarity of thought in order to wallow in false compassion.

    God asks more of us. He loves us not as a senile grandfather, all tolerance and candy for the children, but more as a father: He wants us to mature. He expects us to use our intellect and to obey the Moral Law even when it is hard as nails. We must mature into the fullness of righteousness: And while lawfulness is not the sum total of righteousness, it is the first part. After that, and within its boundaries, one may exercise compassion to one’s heart’s content.

    I knew a married man once who took compassion on a woman (also married, but not his wife) and her children, because they were in dire economic straits. He took compassion by abandoning his own wife and children, helping her leave her husband, marrying her, and taking care of them, partially using funds he’d acquired from his previous wife, which she’d inherited from her parents.

    That is the kind of compassion which the Catholic left would have us exercise, in every direction, whether it’s by legalizing “marriage” between two men (don’t you have compassion on gays, after how they’ve been mistreated?) or by unconstitutionally arrogating power to government to create nationalized health insurance (don’t you have compassion on the uninsured?) or by willfully leaving the borders unsecured (don’t you have compassion…?).

    But the answer is clear from the voluntary giving patterns of conservatives, which are double those of left-liberals at every level of income. Those who oppose gay marriage and nationalized health insurance and unsecured borders are twice as compassionate as their political opponents. But they also believe in objective moral truth and the rule of law, which their opponents do not.

    It is not that the Catholic left have bigger hearts.

    It is only the atrophy of their heads, that proportionally makes their hearts appear so.

  • Brian English

    “The bishops are great when they weigh in on some of our most pressing social issues – believing that government solutions are the way to go. If our bishops had to earn a living in order to support a family they might just think differently on the best way of generating capital other than taxing people to death to support yet another government program that doesn’t work. Yes, it’s true, more and more people simply ignore the bishops on these social issues.”

    Abdicating its charitable role to the government has been a disaster for the Church. If the government does it, God can’t be at the center of it; if God is not at the center of it, it is dommed to failure.

  • JZmirak

    Thanks for unpacking and making explicit much of what was implicit in what I was saying. We need a rebirth of such disciplined, adult thinking if Catholics (or indeed, Christians) are to have any impact on the course of our society. Sentimentality is fine for cuddling with your beagle, or writing fund-raising letters, but when it comes to making decisions as citizens, we need the kind of distinctions you make here. It’s easier, and more emotionally rewarding, simply to switch off one’s frontal cortex and EMOTE. When one’s fellow Christians LAUD that kind of laziness, the temptation is almost irresistible. It’s a kind of MORTIFICATION (to resurrect another old word) to think otherwise, but it’s the only way to see reality rather than fantasy.

  • Mary P.

    I too live in a border state, over 300 miles from the border. Until we are willing to JAIL those who hire the undocumented, then all this immigration talk is a “blame and punish” strategy for the most vulnerable. Where I live, it would take me all of 10 minutes to find undocumented. They are living and working in the community. Contractors hire them as day laborers. Where is the outrage there? Somebody will watch your kids and clean your house and you won’t have to pay their social security. Where is the outrage there? Until we talk about multi-year jail sentences for anybody hiring (that is luring the undocumented here), then let’s not talk about punishing those who are breaking their backs on our behalf to support their families. I’m a parent. I would not let a border stand in the way of feeding and educating my kids. God expects that of me as part of my vocation. I would never let a man-made law keep me from doing my job as a parent. If you wouldn’t do that for your kids, I hope they never that out about you.

  • FX

    To be fair, I really do agree with most of what you’re saying, and I wasn’t accusing you of being xenophobic in any serious way. You’re absolutely right in pointing out that the Church was largely responsible for reigning in the Irish population.

    I guess my question is: So what then? How can the Church as an institution operate in such a way as to be both practical and humane? I mentioned the disintegration of the Mexican state in my last post: I’m not lost to the fact that there is serious cartel border-osmosis and that many illegals are engaging in criminal activity this side of the Rio.

    But when the Church dressed the Irish in the their Sunday best, it wasn’t through assimilation as much as it was through the Church Herself: through the parochial school system, Church organizations, and the Sacraments. Ultimately I think that if there was more time spent cultivating a Catholic culture for these 21st century immigrants and less time deporting them or sending them to the nearest Planned Parenthood we might stand a chance.

  • Mike in KC, MO

    http://fredoneverything.net/TacImmigration.shtml

    “If you want to see a reasonable immigration policy, look to Mexico. You automatically get a ninety-day tourist visa when you land. No border Nazis. To get residency papers, you need two things (apart from photographs, passport, etc.) First, a valid tourist visa to show that you entered the country legally. Mexico doesn’t do illegal aliens. Second, a demonstrable income of $1000 a month. You are welcome to live in Mexico, but you are going to pay your own way. Sounds reasonable to me. “

  • Kevin B.

    It is wholesome, good, and above all natural for an existing community to defend its existing mores, culture, and institutions from such an attack.

    Immigrants themselves are quite conscious of this truth. They often take great pains to ensure their children retain knowledge of the mother country’s language and cultural mores. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but when it’s combined with multiculturalism and the false compassion so eloquently described by Cord, it isn’t good for them or for us. Ellis Island nostalgia is no way to run an immigration system.

  • Samuel

    This has to be one of your best articles ever Dr. Zmirak. Right on! Right On!! RIGHT ON!!

    here’s one of my favorite parts:
    There’s a good reason that the same people who support open borders and massive wealth redistribution also support gay marriage and legal abortion: These positions rightly go together, and flow from the same philosophical premises. Likewise, those of us who defend national sovereignty and property rights also defend the integrity of marriage and the sanctity of innocent life — because they all fit together. There is a seamless garment out there that we Catholics can rally behind — and on it is printed the motto “Don’t Tread On Me!”

  • Owen Sweeney

    Thank you, Mr. Zmirak, for you article. Thank you, too, Mr. Hamrick, for your comments.

    Abdicating its charitable role to the government has been a disaster for the Church. If the government does it, God can’t be at the center of it; if God is not at the center of it, it is dommed to failure.

    Indeed, Mr. English. Leo XIII made this very point in Rerum Novarum.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Mary:

    I think you have some excellent ideas there, though I take exception to your remark about letting a man-made law get in the way of feeding your kids, et cetera. But before I address that, let me mention where I agree with you:

    Yes, the rule of law also (indeed, especially) applies to the citizens of the country. The Mexicans have long lived, sad to say, in a society where politics and government is rife with corruption. To them it may be that the phrase “rule of law” sounds like a trite fantasy. But we, who have lived in a nation less corrupt and more attuned to the importance of the law have no similar excuse.

    Therefore, I agree with you. We should certainly prosecute those who knowingly hire illegal aliens.

    The catch in that plan, of course, is the word “knowingly.”

    It may seem like excuse-making, and it probably often is, but consider this complaint: “But officer, how could I know he wasn’t here legally? Sure, his English is a bit broken, but that’s small distinction: Have you seen how bad our American public schools are? Half the teenagers in town have worse grammar. And if I’d made an unusual effort to check his immigration status merely because his skin is darker-than-average, I’d be up to my eyeballs in civil-rights violation lawsuits! I dared not check too closely!”

    The answer is to provide a reliable way of checking the immigration/visa status of a person based on biometrics and the like. It is not impossible; various proposals exist; and a system for doing it — I forget the catchy name the bureaucrats came up with — is partially implemented already.

    In any event, once the ability to check exists, then the excuse is gone.

    Furthermore, I don’t know that much jail time is necessary, provided that the fines bite hard enough to make the hiring of illegals cost-prohibitively expensive.

    I would propose, as an alternative, a fine to be paid which is equal to a multiple of whatever was paid to each illegal immigrant you hire over the course of that illegal’s employment. Let’s start the multiple at, say, ten: Hire an illegal for $200 of yard work on a single day, pay $2000 ($200 times ten)if convicted. But if you hire him at $200 a day, for five days a week, for fifty weeks a year, you’ll pay $200 times 5 times 50, or $50,000.

    Or perhaps the multiple should be determined by the ratio of illegal work done to illegal work successfully prosecuted. So if for every $1000 of work done by an illegal in the U.S., our best statistics show that we’re only successfully prosecuting $100 of it, then the multiple is 10-to-1. But if things have gotten so far out-of-control that we estimate we’re only prosecuting $1 of illegal work for every $1000 performed, then the multiple is 1000-to-1, making the potential fines enormous, promising instant bankruptcy for firms so foolish as to not carefully check a person’s immigration status.

    Under a system like that, the worse our problems of enforcement get, the more harshly we punish offenders: Not a bad idea.

    And you could always add additional multipliers for later offenses: Double the fine and add 30 days in jail for the second offense; triple the fine and 60 days in jail for the third offense; and so on.

    Anyway, the principle holds: Preserve the rule of law in these matters, first and foremost. After two years of solid success on such matters, when rule of law is re-established, one can begin permitting guest workers in at increased levels (excluding those who have a prior conviction for being here illegally, of course).

  • Cord Hamrick

    Mary:

    In my last post, I agreed with something you said. I wanted to establish that first, before disagreeing (partly) with another statement you made.

    You said,

    I’m a parent. I would not let a border stand in the way of feeding and educating my kids. God expects that of me as part of my vocation. I would never let a man-made law keep me from doing my job as a parent. If you wouldn’t do that for your kids, I hope they never that out about you.

    First, I’m glad you stipulated “man-made law,” not just “law.”

    (Otherwise your argument would have been plainly false, and subject to such retorts as: “If you wouldn’t be a prostitute to feed your kids, I hope they never that out about you” or “If you wouldn’t murder a friend to feed your kids, I hope they never that out about you” or “If you wouldn’t deny Christ to feed your kids, I hope they never that out about you.”)

    But you said “man-made,” and are thus partially insulated against such criticisms.

    “Submit To Authority”

    But only partially. The New Testament commands us (St. Paul specifically, Romans 13:1-7) to submit to just government authority. This pertains, albeit to a lesser degree, even in the face of unjust laws, which is why when people conducted “sit ins” in the civil rights movement, they submitted non-violently to arrest. Even unjust laws do not give us carte blanche to resist law enforcement, even when our conscience requires us to violate the laws.

    How much more, then, are we obligated to obey laws — even if they are merely the laws of men — which are not, in fact, unjust? As I stated once before, securing a nation’s borders is one of the first duties of government.

    But I’m making this all sound as if I thought the moral obligation stood only on the shoulders of the illegal immigrants. I don’t think that at all.

    The Pushers

    I agree that narcotics abusers should be punished for their illegal activities for as long as those activities are illegal. That’s intrinsic to the rule of law.

    But I’m very much in favor of punishing “the pushers” far more.

    And it is the employers of illegal aliens here in the U.S., who do it willingly and knowingly, who entice illegals to come here. Every profitable job that could “feed the children” of an illegal alien is a “free sample” from a pusher: “Here, violate the law…you know the results will feel good.”

    So that is where your view meets mine, Mary. In the midst of all this discussion of the rule of law, let us not forget to punish the tempters more harshly than the tempted.

    So, in my last post, did I say that jail time was not required, that a fine would suffice?

    Well, perhaps I should reconsider that. A fine might suffice to discourage a bottom-line driven employer from hiring illegals, it is true. But for justice’ sake, the pusher should be punished more stiffly than the taker. Hmmm. How about one day’s jail time per day the illegal worker was hired?

    Anyway, Mary, I’m flexible on the details of such plans. But I think we should all be inflexible on standing up for the basic moral principles. We must uphold the rule of law. There are plenty of ways to be compassionate within the boundaries of lawfulness.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    There is a bill that has been languishing in Congress for decades that would require, as a preamble to every piece of legislation, citation of the precise words in the Constitution by which The People have granted Congress the authority to enact that legislation.

    An equivalent test ought to be employed for every public statement by “the bishops” (the USCCB), and, indeed, all bishops and priests: Can you say, truthfully, that it is sinful to take a contrary position?

    As John Zmirak has made perfectly clear, this test is not employed by “the bishops” because to employ it is to unblur a line they very dearly want to keep blurred.

    Moreover: the moment one says that it is sinful to oppose the Church’s teaching that, for instance, it is strictly unjust to deny the protection of the homicide laws to the unborn, the question of the reception of Communion in the state of mortal sin (or, as Canon Law puts it, while obstinately persisting in a situation of manifest grave sin) arises.

    Which means that attention might be drawn to the indefensible position of the vast majority of American bishops–that, in their dioceses, Canon 915 is to be disobeyed.

    No bishop in the world (or in Washington, or in New York, or in Boston, or in Chicago, or in Los Angeles) has ever refuted Archbishop Burke’s conclusive demonstration that it is gravely sinful to give anyone Holy Communion in defiance of Canon 915:

    http://tinyurl.com/canon915

    Thus the “Seamless Garment,” and innumerable other rhetorical tricks by which a politician’s (and Catholic voters’) positions on Federal Funding for Abortion and Federal Funding for More Fuzzy Puppies for Day Care Centers are mashed into one undifferentiated public policy goulash. And the federal dollars continue to buy consecrated Hosts for the Kerrys, Pelosis, Dodds, Leahys, Kennedys, Cuomos, Daleys…

    Me? I wouldn’t want to be caught selling Holy Communion.

  • TheOldCrusader

    “…and futile foreign wars. (I wish the Tea Party people would pay a little more attention to the third element in this unholy trinity.)”

    Thank you for that. I wish more regular conservatives would wake up to the ruin that Wilsonian progressivism has wrought in this country.

  • Jeff

    This is an interesting, thoughtful and forcefully argued essay.
    One point that is not much mentioned: How is it just or charitable to import cheap labor which displaces the most vulnerable amongst us? The majority of legal and illegal aliens(and they are not Mexican alone)that come to the US for jobs take jobs that the less educated and the disadvantaged would otherwise fill. This doesn’t just effect the unemployed. The glut of cheap labor drives down wages for those who manage to stay employed in those jobs.
    So if justice and charity are our guides why do we ignore it in regards to poorer Americans?

  • Brian English

    “So if justice and charity are our guides why do we ignore it in regards to poorer Americans?”

    An excellent question that never gets answered.

  • Darin Leblanc

    Brian this is because the poor has never been the focus or the intent of liberals, progressives etc. As long as those who wish to engage the other side don’t understand what progressives are really about you will debate and reason yourself silly. Libs are not driven by something they love they are driven by things they hate which is why much of their conversation borders on delusion. Think about what hatred does to the mind; it creates a serious disconnect with reality. They hate authority, they hate the church, they hate the rich, they hate the ten commandents being posted in public places, they hate prayer in school, they hate discussions of personal responsibility, they hate anything that places a measure or standard they are not willing to meet like marriage between a man and a woman. Of course they can’t say this so they have to say they “care for the poor”, for “seperation of church and state”, for “privacy”, for “freedom of speech and freedom of expression” (pornography)all are matters of which they really DO NOT care for or know jack about. I grew up in one of these households and I know what hatred is and the destructive power of it. Not wanting the same for my own children I decided on a different course which I must say has not been easy to overcome. Do not kid yourself thinking that this is isolated or not what the majority of progressives are about. It is always about the lowest common denominator and making them “feel good” about their lack of personal responsibility in whatever many flavors they come in. Like Mr.Zmirak points out, all of the issues seem to go together but you have to wonder why “caring for the poor immigrant” falls under the liberal umbrella of abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, stem cell research etc. The poor help them “legitimize” their claim to victimhood and their great cause of bringing down the privileged class, the self righteous, the holier than thou, the simple minded, the orthodox, those stupid people living in the past. It is all hatred and yes I understand that there are a very few exceptions to this; many of which I am sure follow Catholic websites making some attempt to truly understand. Progressives in the Church, in politics, in matters of morals or any topic you want will always oppose loftier standards and there will always be politicians and bishops telling them what they want to hear while they themselves live totally different lives. It is amazing how these same people want the government to enforce the great biblical standard of preference for the poor, but wants the government to stay the hell out of the non negotiable bibilical standards like killing the unborn and marriage. The enemy is not as benevolent as they say they are and any attempt to reason with them will get you and answer like; Mr. Zmirak just wants Mexicans to die. Truly delusional.

  • Susan

    ” Likewise, if the Church wants millions of Catholic immigrants admitted to the country every year, the Church should pay, through privately donated funds, for their assimilation, education, health care and other public benefits.”

    And likewise, if the USCCB wants health care for all, we should pay for it. As we have done since the middle ages. Which should also allow us to define what is health care (ie, NOT abortion or euthanasia).

  • Katie

    As always, a great thought-provoking article!

  • Midwestern Mom

    I am automatically skeptical of anything coming from the USCCB. They use subtle means to leverage less important issues (i.e. immigration reform) to confuse Catholic voters into thinking that these social justice issues are at least equal or take precedence over fundamental human rights such as a right to life and the protection of marriage. The USSCB needs to be disbanded. The sooner the better!!!!

  • Jaha Arnot

    John:

    You argue that certain bishops have distorted questions of prudential matters by constructing a facade of morality, using the language of justice, regarding the question of immigration. I will not debate that this distortion has occurred – I think that is evident. Neither would I attribute this to malicious intent on the part of the bishops, or represent it as a pure distortion of Church teaching. You create a caricature of the question which fails to acknowledge that the Church does, indeed, insist on the right of the individual to emigrate in pursuit of freedom and economic opportunity (Laborem Exercens is a good starting point). I think your rhetoric only distracts from this unavoidable point when you conjure the specter of helpless Americans confronting some sort of coordinated attack on our culture and institutions. You must address the question of the rights of immigrants, as well as the obligations of states (both those of their birth and those to which they emigrate), and this ought to be done on its own ground, without hyperbole. The question of prudence pertains not to these underlying rights, upon which the Church insists, but upon how societies can respond to them in a way which also protects the rights of its own citizens. On this matter, as in many others, the Church points to our final destination and model, but does not necessarily describe the application in particular circumstances. The Social Justice encyclicals are not a mandate for complete laissez faire immigration policy. If that is how they are being used by some, that is an injustice to Church teaching. On the other hand, neither can we simply discard their solicitude for the poor, the protection of the immigrant

  • JZmirak

    At last someone takes my challenge seriously. I have written on most of the points you raise elsewhere, but will cheerfully answer your points in detail next week. Obviously, there are principles of morality that must be respected in these matters, on which the Holy See has competency to judge. The Church sets limits to the policies we can rightly undertake. Those limits, as laid out over time by various pontiffs and set out in the current Catechism, are rightly quite broad. Their application is a matter of prudence. Nothing I wrote should be taken otherwise. Churchmen (up to the level of cardinal) routinely and intentionally speak as if the Church taught that wealthier countries have the duty to accept virtually limitless numbers of migrants, regardless of their impact (for instance) on the poorest Americans or America’s social cohesion; bishops’ conferences routinely oppose all attempts to enforce immigration laws, as vigorously as they do intrinsically evil practices such as abortion. It is not hyperbole to loudly call attention to this dishonest attempt to hijack Church teaching. It is my duty as a citizen and a Catholic. Again, more on this next week.

  • Jaha Arnot

    John: Thank you for your gracious response. There are a few intertwined threads, and I see few who have been capable of carefully and deliberately isolating each. The first is the question of what, in fact, the Church teaches, in matters of immigration and social justice. Many of us are in ignorance of these teachings, and when we encounter them, especially to those of us who are advocates of free markets, the language sounds alien (pun intended) and problematic. It’s important to put aside our visceral response and allow our minds to “macerate” in this content. The second issue is the intended application, which is not clear. As you rightly point out, there are those on the left or the right who read what they wish into the Social Justice encyclicals, and carry them as banners for their pet causes. My personal opinion is that few of us who identify ourselves as conservative American Catholics are adequately prepared to carefully trace this second thread, because we have spent so little time on the first. The third thread is the context and environment in which all of this occurs. This is always important, in any inquiry, because it clouds our minds and ability to differentiate knowledge and opinion. This is always a problem in matters pertaining to “the moral sciences,” because they address particulars, and the actions of men. The arguments aren’t going to be demonstrative, in a Euclidian sense. Given unemployment rates and wage reductions over the last 3 years, there is a sensitivity at the popular level to the question of illegal immigration. It’s important to be aware of the effects of these conditions on our position. For the last 20 years, the orthodox “supply-side” conservative position has been “yes, immigration creates wage compression on the bottom, but ultimately that frees up capital for more productive investment, and accelerates GDP growth. Immigration law needs to support competitive growth.” Now, the narrative is inverted. Formerly, there was inadequate attention paid to transition effects, the importance of consumption to the economy, and wealth distribution that could support those consumption levels (banners largely carried by Democrats and unions, and of paramount importance to Keynesian economists). Now, those very concerns are registering within conservative circles, and arguments about market growth, business competitiveness, capital reinvestment, etc., seem somewhat out of tune. It’s probably also the case that the assurance that we will all move up the chain to more skilled sectors seems increasingly uncertain as China and India move into sophisticated manufacturing and services. None of us know that there is any “safe place.” We all feel vulnerable, and this is the context of the discussion. Awareness of that disposition will provide more clarity about whether we are looking at the issue in a clear light, and whether there are influences which might be shifting the dialogue in one direction or another.

    Hope you are enjoying the fall colors.

  • Jaha Arnot

    I have noticed a trend for the use of the term “Churchmen.” Thomas Woods uses it, frequently, and I would encourage everyone to avoid it. I believe it actually implies an intrusion of clerics in secular matters, where they have no authority or competence. It reminds me of Descartes’ use of “Schoolmen.” Although I don’t believe you intend any contempt, the frequent use of the term in conservative circles has developed an actual hostility or contempt, to the point where someone can say, “I am automatically skeptical of anything coming from the USCCB.” Sure, bishops can err in pastoral guidance, but the fact that they make all of us uncomfortable, on both sides of the political spectrum, is probably just as indicative of our fallen natures as it is of any sort of bias on their part in the application of Church social doctrine.

  • JZmirak

    the fact that they make all of us uncomfortable, on both sides of the political spectrum, is probably just as indicative of our fallen natures as it is of any sort of bias on their part in the application of Church social doctrine.

    This is generously intended on your part, but I think mistaken. I used to twist my reason into knots trying to pretend that what sounded to me like watery modern liberalism, dressed up with selective quotes from encyclicals, must on some deeper level be true in this instance, because bishops were saying it. Those same bishops were disastrously wrong about the economy, how to win the cold war, how to implement the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, how to manage their seminaries, and–it turns out–how to keep children safe from pedophiles. Sorry, but I do not trust these men to wisely apply Catholic teaching even to theological matters, much less to practical politics. They are, in the main, a deluded elite that has soaked in as much of the culture’s suicidal liberalism as they can without lapsing into formal (rather than just material) heresy. We can and should regard them not just with skepticism but outright suspicion. “Private judgment” is essential nowadays even to keep the Faith. Remember that the U.S. bishops–who corporately have NO AUTHORITY, according to then-Cardinal Ratzinger in The Ratzinger Report–were the ones who authorized and sponsored the openly heretical “Call to Action” conferences, which are still sputtering along, albeit without the bishops’ backing (thanks to Vatican intervention).

    Sorry, but I won’t play Rex Mottram to these men (“It must be kind of spiritually raining, only we’re too sinful to see it.”), to whom I would not entrust the safety of my nephews. If they want our trust, they’ll have to spend the next 30 years regaining it, as they spent 30 years squandering it.

    I will NOT address the bishops’ conferences’ statements, as they have absolutely no authority. They are the corporate opinions of men whose judgment is profoundly suspect, and nothing more. I will address, in my response, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and papal encyclicals. All the rest is flatulence in a bathtub.

  • Jaha Arnot

    John: that’s fair. You aren’t obligated to listen or respond to any source, other than that which the faith requires. The material in the encyclicals, alone, provide more than enough opportunity for reflection. I am looking forward to your comments.

    I would say, however, “be of good courage.” John Paul II and Benedict XVI have given us so many good bishops who are doing their best to apply the Church’s teachings in a prudent fashion. We can reserve the right to exercise our independent judgement on how well they are doing this, but you can feel the change happening all around. Good bishops need the help and support of sincere Catholics. What is most important, however, is that we go back to the encyclicals, themselves, and try to understand what the Church is teaching us.

    PS – I notice that I am now getting “negative” votes. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to the -5 or -6 range, or even take the lead on the negative votes. One can only hope.

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