Toning Down the Immigration Debate among Catholics

On the heels of the health-care debate comes a potentially more contentious furor over proposed immigration legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who helped secure abortion funding in the health-care bill, is now telling us the bishops came to her and said, “We want you to pass immigration reform.”

But Pelosi wants help from the bishops:

I want you to speak about it from the pulpit. I want you to instruct your, whatever the communication is — the people, some of them, oppose immigration reform are sitting in those pews and you have to tell them that this is a manifestation of our living the gospels.


Matt Smith, writing at Catholic Advocate, was quick to note that Pelosi stumbled over her words (“whatever the communication is”), and he remarked, “Well, we know she confuses feast days and the teachings of the church on the sanctity of life . . . so maybe she just doesn’t pay attention during Mass.”

Smith, who spent six years in the White House handling Catholic coalitions, also noted the irony of a “Catholic” politician who urges bishops and priests to use their pulpits to encourage political action on immigration but resisted every attempt of the Church to communicate its pro-life message to her during the health-care debate.

Pelosi’s occasional forays into Catholic instruction and apologetics earns her Smith’s just rebuke:

Let’s just drill down to the basics — I didn’t realize white smoke came from the south side of the Capitol when she was elected Speaker, so what makes Nancy Pelosi think she can give direction to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church?

The hierarchy, as it turns out, doesn’t need direction from Pelosi. Roger Cardinal Mahony, the outgoing archbishop of Los Angeles, already delivered a May Day harangue comparing Arizona to “Nazi Germany” for its new immigration regulations. New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan also aimed a few barbs at Arizona’s governor and legislature:

Arizona is so scared, apparently, and so convinced that the #1 threat to society today is the immigrant, that it has passed a mean-spirited bill of doubtful constitutionality that has as its intention the expulsion of the immigrant.

If the bishops are to succeed at converting unconvinced Catholics, as Speaker Pelosi has demanded, they will need to turn down the temperature of their rhetoric. In 2005, the immigration issue caused a cultural and political explosion, and we don’t need another replay of those passions — on either side.

Bishop Robert Vasa has published just the kind of argument on immigration I would offer to Catholics who remain unconvinced of the bishops’ position. I would not direct them to the USCCB’s Web site — “Justice for Immigrants” — where the underlying rationale for its immigration policy is deeply flawed.

Bishop Vasa begins his argument with a masterful distillation of the vexing question of how the legitimate human rights of the undocumented immigrant are related to “the right and duty [of a nation] to properly police its borders or protect its citizens.”  

If you read his column, he acknowledges the fears and concerns that many Catholics have about upholding our nation’s laws and protecting our borders. As he explains, Catholics are not being asked to forget legal issues, but also to keep in mind the fact of human solidarity.

Bishop Vasa’s explanation is laudable for its nuance and recognition of the objections that abound among Catholics in the pews:

As Catholics we must try to look upon every Catholic in the world, indeed every person, as “our brother,” and this is a different relationship than a legal/citizenship relationship. Just because something is “legal” does not mean that it is morally correct. There are any number of examples from our own history and the histories of other nations where something “legal” was grossly immoral and needed to be resisted.

Most importantly, Bishop Vasa makes sure that the natural law argument being employed by the bishops does not completely erase the standing civil law:

I am not suggesting that the American “immigration policy” is immoral, but there seem to be some elements of injustice that permeate it, and it is this injustice, whether legally sanctioned or not, the Church opposes.

In short, Bishop Vasa acknowledges the problem of the injustice of illegal immigration while warning against “too harsh a solution.” If Catholics are to be convinced, the crime of crossing the border illegally has to be acknowledged. It doesn’t help when the document being circulated among parishes by the “Justice for Immigrants” program actually portrayed a Mexican family sneaking across the border as if they were heroic.

In his conclusion, Bishop Vasa articulated the immigration dilemma in a way that many Catholics will identify with, as I do:

Very few of the slogans, pro or con, resonate with me. I do find, however, that thinking about real, identifiable people, concrete human persons and human families, makes it much easier to see that those who cross our borders or remain here illegally are not necessarily evil or wicked men or women but simply people with human aspirations and longings and dignity. Crossing a border illegally does not eliminate that person’s right to be treated as a brother or sister. Remaining in this country illegally does not eliminate that person’s human dignity.

Deal W. Hudson

By

Deal W. Hudson is president of Catholic Advocate, an organization which engages and encourages faithful Catholics to actively participate in the political process to support elected officials and policies that remain consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Formerly publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine for ten years, his articles and comments have been published widely in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report. He has also appeared on TV and radio news shows such as the O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, NBC News, and All Things Considered on National Public Radio. Hudson worked with Karl Rove in coordinating then-Gov. George W. Bush's outreach to Catholic voters in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, President Bush appointed him a member of the official delegation from the United States to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of John Paul II's papacy. Hudson, a former professor of philosophy for 15 years, is the editor and author of eight books. He tells the story of his conversion from Southern Baptist to Catholic in An American Conversion (Crossroad, 2003), and his latest, Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, was published in March 2008. He is married to Theresa Carver Hudson, also a Baptist convert, and they have two children, Hannah, 21, and Cyprian, 13, who was adopted from Romania in 2001.

  • Drew
    Remaining in this country illegally does not eliminate that person’s human dignity.

    Of course viewing other people as dignity-less is wrong, but is that what Arizona is really doing?

    Allowing millions of illegal immigrants to enter and stay in the US–at the cost of our citizens, families, and communities–is a violation of our duties as citizens of a sovereign nation and a sin against our neighbors.

    It is not a violation of their dignity to deport illegals (there are, of course, some exceptions) and prevent them from entering illegally. This is the issue: is our immigration law (the same immigration law Mexico has and nearly all governments throughout all of history have had) immoral? does it, in principle, violate the dignity of the illegals here already and does it violate the dignity of any individual who decides he wants to live here?

    Breaking our immigrations laws (and the burden of proof is on the opposition to prove them unjust) or any law means different treatment, period. If we had some kind of duty to treat all people, regardless of their criminal record, equally, we’d be in a lot of trouble.

    In legislation, we ought err on the side of justice, for misguided charity paves the road to hell. Justice is tempered by mercy (is an exception to, that is), not the other way around.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    http://blog.archny.org/?p=652&cpage=1#comments

    Archbishop Timothy Dolan (D-NY) hardly “aimed a few barbs” at opponents of illegal immigration. He published a sustained, hysterical, bigoted, thoroughly dishonest rant against them. I call, as a witness to the truth of my characterization, Abp. Dolan himself, at the above link.

    Note how the issue is misstated as “immigration.” Note how no acknowledgment is given to the horrific violence that has been taking place in Arizona–home invasions, murders, decapitations, kidnapping and human trafficking, etc.

    With this Following close upon his jaw-dropping description of the pro-abortion Governor of New York as “a Catholic who takes his Christian faith seriously,” and his implausible claim not to know where Andrew Cuomo stands on abortion, Abp. Dolan has a tough row to hoe if he is to establish a reputation for intellectual honesty.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick
  • Paul

    Secure the border.

    Allow more legal temporary workers, make them play by the rules, pay taxes, etc.

    Don’t give preference to Mexico alone, there’s a lot of other countries full of people happy to come here to work. The Philippines comes to mind, great people and very Catholic.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    Anyone, bishop or layman, who promotes any kind of “immigration reform” during this administration, is irresponsible, just as it was irresponsible for the USCCB to participate in promoting “health care reform” when the result was guaranteed to be a monstrously statist law, with windfalls for the uber-wealthy cronies of Obama, with mechanisms for dealing death to the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly.

    No legislation that is going to emerge from the current socialist, pro-abortion regime is going to be anything but another multi-thousand-page, indecipherable power-grab for our Marxist central government.

    And, as with “health care reform,” the “input” and the “debate” will be a charade. As with “health care reform,” any “immigration reform” legislation is already prepared in the bowels of the Soros-funded foundations from which issue all the “ideas” of the Obama regime.

  • Drew

    Yeah, that was a disconcerting post by Dolan. I was at his first Chrism mass in NYC and he did stick up for the Church during the priest-abuse scandal as well as seeming to be pretty conservative politically. But no one is perfect, obviously.

    Thank god they don’t have Mahoney, at any rate. Still, his stance on/lack of understanding of the immigration issue notwithstanding, I think Dolan was a good choice. Judging by the attendance at that Chrism mass back in March, Dolan looks to be a boon to the Catholic community in New York City.

  • Austin

    I suspect, if the Bishops had their way, we would not deport any illegals, including gang members and violent felons. There are many gangs of illegals, MS-13, being the most prominent, who if you add it up, commit literally thousands of violent felonies, murder, rape, armed robbery, every year. I imagine that we, the citizens are not allowed to protect ourselves from these gangs? I wish the Bishops would address this issue, but I doubt that they will.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    I suspect, if the Bishops had their way, we would not deport any illegals, including gang members and violent felons. There are many gangs of illegals, MS-13, being the most prominent, who if you add it up, commit literally thousands of violent felonies, murder, rape, armed robbery, every year. I imagine that we, the citizens are not allowed to protect ourselves from these gangs? I wish the Bishops would address this issue, but I doubt that they will.

    Who do you think is to form the nucleus of Obama’s “Domestic National Security Force”? You can’t have a “Domestic National Security Force” composed of people who won’t fire on Americans. Ergo, it must be composed of foreigners.

    Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Fr. Pfleger–these people have deep ties with the street gangs, which are really armies. Why do you think Cardinal George has failed to deal with Fr. Pfleger, even failing to require that Pfleger obey a direct order–an assignment to a new parish? George wanted to stay alive.

  • Brian

    The question I have been dying to ask persons of Archbishop Dolan’t inclination is, just what would you have us do? Should we open our borders, North and South, and allow an unchecked flood of immigrants to swamp our country?

    I believe the bishops and the politicians have a common interest in the continued flow of illegal aliens. The bishops are hoping to fill their churches and the politicians are looking for votes. If you would argue that they cannot vote, explain to me what stops them.

    The U.S. is broke and headed to bankruptcy. The problem may be solved when there is no longer a reason to come here.

  • Ahard

    Bend, Ore., May 14, 2010 / 06:04 am (CNA).- In recent column, Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon spoke on the controversial topic of immigration, saying that although a nation has the

  • Ahard number 2

    perhaps even sanctuaryNO, THEY ARE NOT ASYLYUM SEEKERS NOR REFUGEES. THEY HAVE A HOME TO GO BACK TO IN MOST CASES AND A FAMILY THAT LOVES THEM AND NEEDS THEIR PRESENCE. because that is what the church does,

  • Bill Sr.

    Fr. Fitzpatrick…
    like many astute Americans who take the time to catalog and connect the ratings and actions of Obama and the hundreds of carefully appointed Czars and special administrators specifically positioned to, at the time of need, arise and join the government controlled media in subduing isolated pockets of dissent among his subjects.

    Anything as big as the

  • Ahard

    I really apologize for not editing my post before submitting it. I commented on the article in a hurry last night and just copied and pasted to you forgetting to review.

  • Avignon Days

    Would the Catholic Bishops be interested in this issue with such passion or at all….if it were 12 million Chinese Jehovah Witnesses coming down from Canada and sending cash back to Canada in some cases while they raised our taxes and our medical insurance by using our emergency rooms for medical?
    Would our bishops say a word in favor of them?

  • Mark Brumbaugh

    To the extent that these leftist organizations and people have principles, they most often are not principles I can support.

    As a conservative, I am certainly not against immigration. I believe visitors to other countries, need to respect the laws of that land, and the culture, or risk paying a price. I certainly do when in another country.

    The US has allowed…even supported the ease of illegally entering our country. It should not be so easy to get here illegally and difficult to get here legally (for work). What to do with the millions already here is a tough question, for which I admit, no easy answers come to mind. But until we address our border security and have a guest working program for lower level jobs, the problem will compound itself.

    The fact that Arizona has chosen to enforce existing Federal law is not the problem, nor are they the culprit.

  • Ryan Haber

    as well as seeming to be pretty conservative politically

    I don’t want conservative bishops. I want Christian bishops. Catholic, preferably.

    If there is one idea that I could beat out of the heads of every Catholic in this country, it would be that “conservative” or “liberal” is a good thing, a goal toward which we should strive, or the test of someone’s adherence to Christian faith and morals.

    It is ideology and a distraction from Christ and the law of God. It keeps us bottled up in the bipolar dualities constructed by the powers and principalities that rule this present darkness in order to neutralize the threat of the Gospel. It is the stuff that makes us susceptible to demogoguery and false messiahs of every sort, and the stuff that makes us reject Jesus Christ when he does not say what we want or presupposed that He would. Anyone who buys into this rubbish, sells his soul for this nonsense of “conversative” vs. “liberal” has very likely missed the point of the Gospel entirely and has never known – or has forgotten – Jesus Christ.

    Do you think Jesus Christ was a nice conservative, someone holding down the status-quo, or who just went about blathering about lower taxes and personal responsibility (both very good things)? Do you think the Gospel so puny, so cheap? Is this sort of pettiness the best that we Christians can offer America in the 21st century? No wonder the outside world thinks we are so flipping irrelevant.

    We will we, the Church, break free of this tripe!?

  • Mark

    Politicians such as Pelosi do not have a genuine charity
    in mind when they insist on bringing illegals in. She further
    proves her lack of charity when she insists on guiding the church instead of listening to her.
    Are American catholics so much more charitable than catholics south of the border that only we can take care of illegal immigrants? I would hope our catholic brothers and sisters elsewhere are able to take care of themselves where they
    are at.

  • Mark

    His Excellence Bishop Vasa states that “some elements of injustice permeates (US immigration policy).” I read the article and nowhere does he list even a partial list of these injustices.

    US Immigration laws do not split up families. People who enter the U.S. illegally or remain in the U.S. illegally make a conscious decision to break U.S. laws. If a child is born in the U.S., that child is a US Citizen. Should the illegal alien parent be arrested and removed from the U.S., the U.S. citizen child can return with the parent. It is the parent

  • Aaron B.

    Of course American immigration policy is permeated by injustice, because it’s based on a lie. We have a border, with laws stating how and for what reasons people may cross that border, and armed men guarding it; but when people cross the border illegally, our political and corporate class looks the other way and showers benefits upon them. Law-abiding people will tend to obey the laws, while the less law-abiding and those who are more savvy about the lie will not, but once here, they are dependent on those political and corporate overseers to maintain the lie for them. How could all this not lead to injustices?

    But the injustice is not that someone might get deported or that someone else may not be able to get into the country. The injustice is that some people (at the top and bottom of the system) aren’t being held to the same laws and standards that the rest of us are. Deporting someone doesn’t violate his human dignity; it respects it by holding him accountable for his actions. His human dignity is violated when he’s hired with a wink and a nod at wages and conditions that we Americans claim are immoral, or when he’s driven to a polling booth and handed a fake ID and $20 and shown which circles to fill in on a ballot he can’t read.

    Bishop Vasa is right that every person in the world is “my brother.” But that’s not an argument for a porous border or amnesty for illegal aliens. A Mexican is “my brother” whether he’s in Mexico or the USA, and if I have a Christian duty to feed or clothe him, I can do that in Mexico. His breaking the law by crossing the border illegally doesn’t make him any more my brother (less, if anything), but it does make it possible for me to pass his care along to my government and social services, letting him be their brother rather than mine.

  • Charity in Truth

    Thank you Fr. Fitzpatrick for your comments. After watching the health care reform bill rammed through Congress and signed into law, I would be suspicious of any comprehensive immigration reform; Cap-and-Trade scam a.k.a. American Power Act etc.

    Governor Jan Brewer has an excellent information website and petition:

    SECURE THE BORDER – SUPPORT ARIZONA

    You can read on this website: Border Facts & News; the Law; the letters from Governor Brewer to Washington that were never answered, etc. Sounds like a pattern emerging from our present government.

    I have been reading from the Catholic Advocate; American Thinker etc. that the Obama administration wants to take control of the internet, too. I guess that is one way to silence any opposition.

  • David Buzzell

    On April 18, under the inaccurate title of “ARIZONA’S DREADFUL ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAW” Cardinal Mahony compares the new law to “German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation.”

    To begin with, the new law in Arizona is not “anti-immigrant” as the title states. Actually, the law is “counter-illegal immigrant.” Apparently, the cardinal makes neither a distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, nor does he seem to understand the difference between an “anti-” measure and a “counter-” measure. Furthermore, the law contains absolutely no stipulations that require persons to do what he claims.

    But especially distressting is his proclivity to use gross hyperbole in characterizing this law as if it was an edict from Hitler or Stalin. This absolutely astonishes me inasmuch as Pope Benedict grew up in Nazi Germany and Pope John Paul II grew up in Communist Poland. I wonder how they feel about Mahony trivializing real Naziism and real Communism by equating Arizona to those evil systems that they themselves experienced first-hand?

  • Prefer not to say

    While there may be individual circumstances outside the norm, the current situation is essentially that the U.S. has become a safety valve for the corrupt and ineffective Mexican government. How many Mexicans are trapped in their dysfunctional state for every one that manages to escape to the U.S. illegally?

    That is the real injustice – that Mexico will remain a cesspool for those who can’t leave and the U.S. has become the enabler.

  • Austin

    Does the ruling, wealthy Mexican oligarchy have any responsibility to the poor of Mexico, or are the poor of Mexico the responsbility of the US? Apparently the the American people are stuck with this problem?

  • Avignon Days

    I haven’t seen “toning down” like this since the barbershop scene in “High Plains Drifter”.

  • Jobs4Americans

    I support the Arizona Illegal Immigration Law because the Federal Government has failed to ENFORCE the law! First I dont care what race anyone is. Im one of 14 kids, I have nieces and nephews that are Lebanese, black and Cousins that are Hispanic. To me its not about race, it isnt just Hispanics that are crossing the border. Did you know that some of the 9/11 terrorists learned to fly in AZ?
    Some of the Border Patrol agents have said that where there is a two layer fence less illegal immigrants cross, so why did our Government defund the fence. We need fences that arent built like ladders. Some of my questions is where is the compassion for the victims and their families that are harmed by illegal immigrants? How do we know which person who came over the border illegally is a good person? Did they cross the border with drugs? Drug cartels are using illegals that cross the border to bring the drugs into the US. What about the 100,000s of human trafficking victims?

    If this law is really racist then the Federal Law is also racist. The Arizona law has even been reworded to say that persons have to be stopped for another reason before being asked for proof of citizenship. If the Federal Law was being enforced by the Federal Government their would be protests against that to.

    Ive read good reviews on a book about Illegal immigration, cant afford to get it to read:
    On The Immorality of Illegal Immigration: A Priest Poses an Alternative Christian View C.S. Patrick J. Bascio http://amzn.to/bdlKPr

    For some Catholics Jn 10:1-2 has been reference about illegal immigration:
    1 “Amen, amen I say to you, whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. 2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

  • Christopher Manion

    Because of my longstanding admiration for, and gratitude to, Bishop Vasa’s leadership of the Church, I point to only two passages in his thoughtful text that raise troubling issues.

    First, Bishop Vasa writes that, “unless we know all of the reasons and factors that led a person to the decision to come to this country or to remain illegally, I suggest that it is very dangerous for us to judge that person as a

  • Robert Brennan

    Every night, before I go upstairs to bed, I check the doors to my house and make sure they are locked. Does this put me at variance to Catholic moral teaching? Maybe there is a homeless person out there who is hungry, or just needs a place to stay that will find my door locked and not be able to avail themselves of what I have.

    The reason I lock the doors at night is not to be cruel and heartless to a theoretical person in need. It is to protect my family. Am I wrong? If I am not, then the United States of America has the same right to know who is coming and who is going through its doors.

    I live in Los Angeles and have been likewise living with the consequences of the leadership of a man like Roger Mahoney. It’s interesting to note, that when he finishes his May Day tirades and bluster for the media with the most dubious of reasoning, he retires to his cathedral in downtown L.A. which, irony alert – irony alert – has a WALL around it and large metal gates and guards. At night, this space is secured and the locks attached. If it’s good enough for his eminence, then it’s good enough for me and for the U.S.A.

  • Jeff

    According to news at ConservativeStates.com, about a dozen states are preparing to adopt the same law as Arizona.

    That will pretty much settle the issue permanently. If the federal government won’t do its job, the states have no choice but to take action to defend themselves from open-border-related crime.

  • Minimus

    It seems that Vasa’s ideas are just more of the same. Why does Deal Hudson feel that they are different? He could have saved his pains praising Vasa if he had simply read some of John Zmirak’s articles.

    I think immigration is going to continue to be a huge issue, and, sadly, because all of the bishops are of the same faulty mind on the issue, they are going to lose credibility YET AGAIN with the people in the pews who, according to CIS, oppose the bishops’ sentimental arguments to the tune of 70+%.

    Political action on the issue will be what it will be. Arizona’s actions are an example that will not be atypical. Bishops and media will howl about its heartlessness and the like. Nevertheless, this is how things get done in our polity. Catholics should let the bishops know that they do not appreciate their forays into policy that is best debated on the level of prudence.

    The bishops really do seem to be in La-la land. AS IF the sex scandals never happened, AS IF the native Catholic population of the US did not defy them on Obama (and health care), AS IF our Catholics were not themselves in dire need of evangelization, AS IF 70% of Hispanic Catholics did not for Obama, pro-life issues be damned. And the bishops cannot see the picture! Truly sad!

  • Ender

    I came across an article recently reporting on a 2007 study that estimated there were 280,000 full time jobs in Arizona held by illegals. As of 2010, the unemployment rate in that state was 9.6% … that is, there were about 300,000 Arizonans out of work. Now I know that there wouldn’t be a 1:1 replacement of illegals with citizens, but there is no doubt that Arizona’s unemployment rate would be drastically reduced if those jobs held illegally were freed up for out of work Arizonans.

    In about six months we should know the impact this law has had and if the unemployment rate is significantly reduced the pressure on other states to follow suit will be enormous. Jobs for Americans indeed.

  • RBrannan

    Every night, before I go upstairs to bed, I check the doors to my house and make sure they are locked. Does this put me at variance to Catholic moral teaching? Maybe there is a homeless person out there who is hungry, or just needs a place to stay that will find my door locked and not be able to avail themselves of what I have.

    The reason I lock the doors at night is not to be cruel and heartless to a theoretical person in need. It is to protect my family. Am I wrong? If I am not, then the United States of America has the same right to know who is coming and who is going through its doors.

    I live in Los Angeles and have been likewise living with the consequences of the leadership of a man like Roger Mahoney. It’s interesting to note, that when he finishes his May Day tirades and bluster for the media with the most dubious of reasoning, he retires to his cathedral in downtown L.A. which, irony alert – irony alert – has a WALL around it and large metal gates and guards. At night, this space is secured and the locks attached. If it’s good enough for his eminence, then it’s good enough for me and for the U.S.A.

    We have a very lot in common.
    Robt.

  • Mary

    The question I have been dying to ask persons of Archbishop Dolan’t inclination is, just what would you have us do?

    How very true.

    “They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.”

  • Aaron B.

    Bishop Vasa writes that, “unless we know all of the reasons and factors that led a person to the decision to come to this country or to remain illegally, I suggest that it is very dangerous for us to judge that person as a

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=37001

    Kevin Appleby, a spokesperson for the USCCB, said the organization works with who they can on each individual issue. aid Appleby.

  • Jeff

    “I don’t want conservative bishops. I want Christian bishops. Catholic, preferably.”

    But “conservative” in today’s political climate simply means pro-Christian, pro-life, pro-states’ rights, and pro-religious freedom. From the religious perspective, it usually means orthodoxy in Christian doctrines, ethics, and morals. So, yes, we want conservative bishops.

    As for political conservatism that embraces the above, check out ConservativeStates.com

  • Ryan Haber

    Jeff,

    I have to disagree, friend, for a couple reasons.

    Firstly, if we tie ourselves to any ideology, we will sink with it when its season passes. The Church learned this lesson the hard way in Europe during the 1960s when the various Christian/Catholic political parties felt out of favor because of scandals. The Church, wedded to those causes, found itself very quickly, dramatically deflated.

    Secondly, there are plenty of “conservatives” who are pro-choice, or detest religion even if they’d permit religious expression, and have no use for Christians but how they can use us.

    Thirdly, conservatism isn’t very coherent as far as intellectual pursuits go. It is mostly a mish-mash of positions about maintaining status quos. It’s perpetually fighting a rear action. That’s why conservatives in Canada and the UK, who call themselves so without any irony, can be both pro-choice and support nationalized/socialized healthcare. That’s the status quo in those places, and conservatives aim to conserve it rather than “let things get worse.”

    So, yes, we want conservative bishops.

    So, no, Jeff. You might be content with conservative bishops, but I am not a member of the Church of Yesterday or the Church of How-Things-Were or the Church of No-More-Pushing-Envelopes. But I am a member of the Catholic Church, and I want Catholic bishops who stand with Jesus Christ wherever He stands. If He stands with illegal immigrants’ right to cross borders illegally or to squat, then that’s where I want to stand. If He stands with crisis pregnancy centers, then that’s where I want to stand.

    I’m sorry, but I’m just not willing to pidgeon-hole myself or stake my fortunes to anything or anyone but Jesus Christ. I hope the same of my bishops, and if that means they or we come off as “liberal” at some point or another to you, or “conservative” to others, fine. But those aren’t my goals, my litmus test, or my standard. Jesus Christ is.

  • Jesse

    Vasa, Chaput, Gomez, Finn among others are our shepherds and authentic teachers. (Cough, cough Canon 753.) They are not imposing legislative regulations but proposing prudential applications of principles of Catholic teaching e.g. welcome the stranger to the topic of illegal immigration as society debates the issue.

    It is a welcomed change to see a respectful reading on this site of what the bishops are teaching. It would also be intellectually healthy to charitably debate these prudential matters i.e. what to do with the illegals who have been here long term, how secure must our borders be, and best practices for assimilation of our immigrants. Two authors from the opposing camps should be invited to exchange ideas and see what middle ground could be tread.

    At The Public Discourse , Professor Michael Scaperlanda has some suggestions based on his natural law approach to rights and human dignity:

    Second, we must have some mechanism to legalize the vast majority of those who have come here illegally but who have put down roots, laboring diligently while raising and/or providing for their families. Tollefsen calls this ‘the virtue of generous forgiveness.’

  • Jeff

    Wish I knew how to use quotes.

    Ryan said: if we tie ourselves to any ideology, we will sink with it when its season passes

    Jeff: Here, the “ideology” is really just “orthodox catholic teaching on theology, morals and ethics.” We call that “conservative,” even though it also has political intersections.

    Ryan: There are plenty of “conservatives” who are pro-choice, or detest religion

    Jeff: Not on a percentage basis. You see, on a percentage basis we see that “conservatives” are pro-Christian influence and pro-life.

    Ryan: Conservatism isn’t very coherent as far as intellectual pursuits go. It is mostly a mish-mash of positions about maintaining status quos.

    Jeff: When the “status quo” is Christian dogma, tradition, and moral codes, it’s right and good to maintain it.

    Ryan: It’s perpetually fighting a rear action.

    Jeff: Some *principles* and morals are timeless, so that fighting for them equates to fighting for the past and future well being at the same time.

    Ryan: That’s why conservatives in Canada and the UK, who call themselves so without any irony, can be both pro-choice and support nationalized/socialized healthcare

    Jeff: I’m speaking of U.S. use of “conservative” only. I realize that elsewhere the term could get applied to other platforms/agendas/ideologies. But in the U.S., “conservative” means pro-christianity, pro-christian morality, pro-life, pro-states rights/limited federal government.

    Ryan: I am a member of the Catholic Church

    Jeff: So am I, and I should remind you that the Bishops act as a sort of preservation society. They do NOT create new dogmas and new teachings. Rather, they preserve the timeless teachings delivered by Christ and the apostles.

    Ryan: If He stands with illegal immigrants’ right to cross borders illegally or to squat

    Jeff: No one is against immigration. Every American I know is PRO-immigration. The debate therefore is over the process of how many people can flood a small territory in a certain time period without radically breaking down the system or permanently changing the national status/culture in a non-military takeover. It also has to do with the DUTIES of migration. If I move to Canada, I have DUTIES to Canada that I MUST fulfill to be a decent good person and citizen.

  • Jeff

    I forgot to add, Ryan, that the reason Arizona was forced to enforce the neglected U.S. Federal Immigration Law was because a very high percentage of the illegals flooding Arizona were actually criminals with dangerous goals. Arizona is facing emergency-level kidnappings, Mexican drug cartels, child-sex slave trade, murders, and other criminal operations that threaten the safety of its citizens. And yes, sadly, it’s coming from the open border situation.

    We wish it wasn’t so, but it is so. We must respond to reality as it is, not as we wish it was. If an open border is allowing high percentages of foreigners with criminal records to come to the U.S. to do crime, then we must close that border, even if the bad guys are “ruining it for the good immigrants” so to speak. It sucks that the bad guys are ruining it for the good guys, but LEGAL immigration processes solve that problem, so that the GOOD immigrants can come live with us and among us.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    We must respond to reality as it is, not as we wish it was.

    Which reminds me of how the USCCB always comes out for the Democrats’ legislation, with this proviso: “This legislation should go forward without being politicized, and without any provisions that violate the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life or the Church’s understanding of matrimony as the union of one man and one woman…”

    In other words: “We bishops are sure the Democrats will set aside their forty-year jihad against babies in the womb, and produce a bill enabling all Americans to live on lollipops that fall from the sky…”

    The result: “The bishops” spend a couple of million dollars pushing the Democrat legislation, then pull out five minutes before the vote (“WE didn’t do anything to help pass this pro-abortion bill!”) with “clean hands.”

  • Ryan Haber

    Jeff,

    The quotes are cool, aren’t they? To use them, highlight the area you want to enclose, and then click the icon of the quotes above the text entry box. Inside the funky text codes that appear, where it says “someone,” you can change “someone” to be the name of the person you want to quote. Then put your response before or after the tags, each of which is noted by starting with [ and ending with ]. Enjoy!

    Now, for business. [smiley=wink]

    “Conservatism” really isn’t “orthodox catholic teaching on theology, morals and ethics” at all, friend. It’s just not. There are intersecting values; but there are intersecting values with the older, authentic liberalism as well – though the number of intersecting values diminishes rapidly as liberalism descends into a mire of totalitarian impulses and purely secular aims. But back when liberalism had to do with liberty, well, there was stuff there that the Church could agree with. Conservatism can and will go the same way because it is bubbling up from the same, spiritually bankrupt culture.

    Ryan: There are plenty of “conservatives” who are pro-choice, or detest religion

    Jeff: Not on a percentage basis. You see, on a percentage basis we see that “conservatives” are pro-Christian influence and pro-life.

    That’s the slow creep, friend, that leads all human ideologies into the gutter eventually. You can see it creeping into the Republican party in the form of a growing acceptance of pro-choicers in GOP ranks – Giuliani is the big name that comes to mind. I was stunned last summer to listen to a radio interview in which Michael Steele, GOP chairman and a practicing Catholic of my archdiocese, went on at some length about how he is pro-choice. The GOP did a clean-up about it, and he clarified that he did not mean what he seemed to mean when he said, “I believe a woman has a moral, and should have a legal right, to choose whether she carries a pregnancy to term. I just don’t believe, legally speaking, it is a federal issue. It’s a states’ rights issue, a woman’s issue.” He’s a liar. That’s the problem again, spiritual bankruptcy.

    Political platforms, however many values they have that intersect with those of our holy religion, cannot solve spiritual problems. They can’t even touch them.

    Jeff: When the “status quo” is Christian dogma, tradition, and moral codes, it’s right and good to maintain it.

    Firstly, Christian dogma, etc., is hardly the status quo in our culture. It is the past tense and the fading background of our culture, but our culture is distinctly no longer interested in Christianity. We have 150 million Americans going to church on a regular basis and hearing exactly what they want to hear, and then going out and divorcing, aborting, and so on at exactly the same rate as the general population. Something is not working. Even those who think they are Christians are very often deluding themselves. Sad as it is, we have to work from the ground up, starting in a weirder place than scratch.

    Jeff: Some *principles* and morals are timeless, so that fighting for them equates to fighting for the past and future well being at the same time.

    Absolutely, and that’s why timeless principles and values need to be re-proposed in every time and place. But make no mistake, when we talk about “family values” in a meaningful way that is inspired by the Gospel, we are not talking about holding on to the last of the 1950s. We are talking about something terrifyingly revolutionary to the powers that dominate our society. If you don’t think so, only ask why they are fighting so hard and why their screeches are so shrill.

    Jeff: I’m speaking of U.S. use of “conservative” only. I realize that elsewhere the term could get applied to other platforms/agendas/ideologies. But in the U.S., “conservative” means pro-christianity, pro-christian morality, pro-life, pro-states rights/limited federal government.

    I included reference to Canada and the UK because their conservative parties were pro-life, too, once upon a time not so long ago.

    Jeff: So am I, and I should remind you that the Bishops act as a sort of preservation society. They do NOT create new dogmas and new teachings. Rather, they preserve the timeless teachings delivered by Christ and the apostles.

    Right! That’s because Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:smilies/cool.gif. Political landscapes and ideologies aren’t though – they change and shift all the time. That’s a big reason that our church and its leaders must not latch onto some ideology or political affiliation.

    No, Jeff, I didn’t say “immigration.” I said “illegal immigration” and I meant that, pal. If the Church were to teach that the rights of a person to a livelihood transcend the rights of a nation’s leaders to set and patrol boundaries, then I would stand with the Church. If the Church were to teach, against the authorities, that persons must not be discriminated against or subjected to cruel treatment on the basis of their race, then God help me, I pray I would stand with the Church against ideologies that say contrary.

    As for the stuff about a high percentage being criminals, yadda yadda. No offense, but nothing new there. Of course criminals are coming in. Is it a conservative value to tag humans like cattle? To require free men in a “free country” to carry ID at all times, just in case? Or not “require” one to carry ID, but to give benefit of doubt only to those who do so – if that’s not doublespeak, I don’t see what is. Don’t you see how easily ideology is manipulated? This ploy is a perfect one to get conservatives onboard with REAL-ID and related schemes.

    My broader point is that I stand with the Church, wherever she stands, and I walk with the Church wherever she walks, because where the Church is, there Jesus Christ is – and He is the solution to our problems in a way that no political platform or agenda can be, however populated by Christians or seemingly compatible with Christianity.

  • Ryan Haber

    Jeff,

    I apologize. My “yadda yadda” was impolite.

  • Markbrumbaugh

    I wish you would share some of your thoughts on Catholic Answers Forum. Social Justice and Politics 2010 could use your perspective.

  • Jeff

    Ryan said: “My broader point is that I stand with the Church, wherever she stands”

    Jeff: The Church has no dogma on national immigration policies. It’s up to us to use reason and general christian principles to formulate an orderly plan to receive immigrants in a way that is fair, just, and safe to the public. Arizona’s law, which is merely an enforcement of the U.S. Federal law, is fair, just, and in the interest of public safety. The U.S. has the most open embrace of immigration anywhere in the world.

    Arizona was forced to take action due to a state of emergency. The State asked Washington five times to enforce the law. When Washington acted recklessly and did nothing, Arizona had no choice but to defend its citizens from a tsunami of drug cartels, kidnappings, human-slave trades, and home invasions at the border. God supports cracking down on such criminal anarchy.

    Did you see L.A.’s boycott of Arizona? Apparently Arizona may respond by turning off electricity to L.A. See ConservativeStates.com

  • Ryan Haber

    The Church has no dogma on national immigration policies. It’s up to us to use reason and general christian principles to formulate an orderly plan to receive immigrants in a way that is fair, just, and safe to the public.

    Just so. We use Christian principles – not conservative principles. That’s kind of the distinction that perked my ears up in the first place.

    Did you see L.A.’s boycott of Arizona? Apparently Arizona may respond by turning off electricity to L.A. See ConservativeStates.com

    That’s hilarious. Another instance of California stupidity, and no doubt some good ol’ fashion pandering to the demographic.

    First thing that comes to my mind that I do not like about Arizona’s law is that, by shifting the presumption away from legality of presence, as it clearly does by requiring ANYONE to have documents, it shifts the presumption away from liberty. And the only way to do it fairly will be to require EVERYONE to carry documents.

    Of course, the Federal government’s policy of non-enforcement is one that enables our entire society to continue taking advantage of cheap laborers – everything from cheap fruit and cleaning services, to spoiled children that don’t cut their own grass, to a middle class buffered in its lifestyle by cheap service industries – it’s all dependent on letting them all through and keeping them illegal.

    Freedom-loving people cannot tolerate such things.

  • Drew

    I would disagree that “conservatism” is, in all forms, ideology. The Church is a separate entity from the state for a reason (render unto Caesar and whatnot). A political expression of Catholicism is necessary to help guide and protect society. That expression is, I would say, can come from conservatism.

    I would say that it is possible to have a non-ideological conservatism. We need to understand that ideology is anti-religion, in its truest form. In fact, ideology as first conceived during the enlightenment and later perfected by Marx, is a kind of secular religion. It tried to offer people a secular, non-transcendent, answer to their needs and desires.

    Conservatism, in the true and best sense, is about a political program and attitude that conforms to reality (creation) and shapes society according to that reality. By putting tradition before progress, respecting reason and faith, and being anti Utopian, conservatism (again, in the best sense) is anti-ideology. Ideology invents new realities to serve its own, flawed human ends.

    See Kenneth Minogue’s “Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology” for a good explanation of ideology.

    Here’s a brief interview on youtube (it actually has multiple parts but in 10min increments): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CIOSkrfRC4

    Also, here’s a longer interview from this decade (long video, but worth it): http://vimeo.com/7861363

  • Lynn

    Christians who oppose humane solutions to illegal border crossings should blame themselves for the overpopulation/unemployment/drug trafficking and fascist violence problems that force the desperately poor to flee their dangerous countries. Since the Catholic Church forbids reliable family planning, and arm twists politicians to keep it unavailable to the poorest and unhealthy, the very least that better-off Catholics can do is provide needed services to these poverty refugees. Providing such relief is not socialism — it’s moral consistency. American Catholics can also not vote for conservative “pro-lifers” who vote for dictator-supporting foreign policies.

  • Jean

    Deal, Please help educate me. What authority does the USCCB have and where did they get it? Are they obligated to following the Magisterium? The press seems to think they are the official word of the Catholic Church on all issues, yet many Bishops have divergent views. Thanks for your help.

  • Ryan Haber

    Jean,

    The USCCB is intended to be a collaborative body giving bishops a way to work on common problems and for the common good of the Church in the US. It has no binding authority on its own, and can only make decisions binding upon US bishops with the consent of the Holy See. Every Catholic (bishops included) is obliged to accept with religious faith infallible teachings of the Church, to submit to ordinary teachings of the Church, and to show filial respect for the prudential decisions of the Church.

    The media look to the USCCB as a sort of local Vatican because the USCCB does have a legitimate teaching authority in as much as it is a body of bishops with legitimate teaching authority. I sense they also feel the USCCB is more “reasonable” than the Vatican – which is not necessarily the sort of vote of confidence we Catholics want to be getting.

    My two cents, anyway.

  • Dienekes

    If there ever was an issue that exposes the consuming ignorance of the American public, the festering corruption of politicians, and the fecklessness of religious leaders, immigration is it. It was NEVER about people–it’s about cheap, docile labor and pandering to ethnic blocs. The seamy underside side of illegal immigration and the cost to society over the decades has been ignored. Politicans have been “Kicking the can down the road” through make-believe amnesties and legislative fixes for years, and until recently it has worked. Who the hell ever cared about truth?

    How do I know this? 22 years of trying to enforce the law as an INS agent, that’s how. Never once did I see a bishop or politician comment on Mexico’s failure to treat its poor fairly, or the impact of illegal immigration on either country, or for that matter get his shoes dirty walking through a migrant labor camp where kids toddled around through the trash.

    All this was right in front of all of you thirty and more years ago–but you chose to see nothing, hear nothing, and DO NOTHING.

    Now you can learn the hard way.

  • Victress Jenkins

    Nancy Pelosi certainly likes to “have her cake & eat it, doesn’t she! Immigration is a “very sticky” subject these days[especially here in AZ][Our governor tried desperately / continuously to get the president and homeland security to do something about our border issue to no avail.]

    The bishops have no business discussing politics from the pulpit but could/should encourage their flocks to approach/contact the elected representatives both Federal & State on issues that affect their flock and other important issues. Any priest or bishop invoking political positions from the pulpit can run amuk with the IRS. [They're not just here to collect our taxes.]

  • Catholic Momma

    For those people who refuse to listen the Holy Father and the bishops on this issue, I’d like to ask how you are different from Nancy Pelosi when you present yourself for communion and say “Amen?”

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