The National Catholic Review

As Pope Benedict continues his pastoral visit to Mexico, bishops in the US are renewing their call for Congress to take charge on immigration reform in light of the severe and inhumane laws that are being passed at the state and local level. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles wrote a letter to Speaker John Boehner reiterating their support for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. From a US Conference of Catholic Bishops statement:

“Passage of immigration reform is more important now than ever, as state laws and local enforcement initiatives are filling the policy vacuum left by Congress,” the bishops wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Minority Leaders of both chambers. “This has created a patchwork of laws and policies throughout the country which has led to discord in our communities.”

Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Gomez expressed concern over the impact that state and local initiatives are having on immigrant families, which become separated because of these policies.

“Children are often the innocent victims of these policies, which leave them without parents and with less opportunity to live a full and productive life in their home country, the United States.”

A few days ago I wrote about the increasingly heated rhetoric GOP candidates are employing against immigration reform, and how this may lead to historic waves of support for President Obama among Latino voters in November. From Busted Halo:

The Republican Party may have a Latino problem on its hands. The remaining candidates seeking the party’s nomination have taken an unusually harsh tone regarding immigration, and the two Catholic candidates are at odds with their Church about the rights of migrant people. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has moved to the far right on immigration, and Latino voters are responding by falling in line behind President Barack Obama. Understanding what the Catholic Church teaches on immigration, and how those teachings might influence crucial Latino communities, may give the GOP nominee a reason to reconsider the harsh rhetoric.

As a Catholic, fair and humane immigration laws are dear to my heart:

Though I identify as a white, non-Hispanic person, immigration excites me because my identity as a Catholic carries with it a rich history of immigration and support for immigrant communities. Like many Catholics in the United States, I trace my roots to a variety of European nations, including Ireland, Scotland, and Germany. Yet many of my ancestors were Catholic (though there are a few Calvinists thrown in just to temper my personality a bit). When my great-grandparents left their homes for new lives here, they faced hostility and xenophobia on these shores. The Church provided a support network that offered some hope and respite from the gruel of daily life. In time, this wave of Catholic immigrants assimilated into American life, culminating perhaps with the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency, a historic moment for Catholic immigrants in the United States.

Today, the Church is an important voice for new communities of immigrants, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Though there are some fractures even within our Church, Catholic leaders have been at the forefront of demanding respect and hospitality for both legal immigrants and undocumented people.

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Michael Barberi | 3/26/2012 - 2:55pm

You are correct again and the Church is needed more than ever today. Unfortunately, while there are specks in our eyes, there are planks in the eyes of our Church.

The issue of deportation is one of them, and contraception is another. You cannot call certain teachings the absolute moral truth, "moral absolutes", then turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the suffering, moral dilemma and conflict of values that those teachings cause in many concrete cases. The laity simply ignores those teachings that are in tension with human experience and reason, and the Church goes on by repeating doctrine in the hope that the laity will come to their senses. However, that is not the answer. It is true that no Catholic should allow disagreement with certain teachings to be an obsticle to their relationship with Christ. Equally important, the Holy Spirtit moves each of us to do our part in seeking the truth and the good, and righting what we believe to be right after adequate education and reflection. This does not mean individualism or relativism. It means to strive to move the conversation forward when the overwhelming majority of our collective reflection, as Catholics, demand it.

As the saying goes, if there is a weak link in a chain that is holding our ship at bay during a storm, then the entire chain is weak and break causing our ship to drift into ths storm. We are adrift in a Crisis of Truth, and unfortunately, the laity has given up hope in the magisterium. You cannot ignore the problem but must do something about it. I only wish the solution to our divided Church was that simple.
Michael Barberi | 3/28/2012 - 2:40pm

Just to be clear. I have no issue with immigration other than it should be reasonable, just and compassionate. The U.S. has immigration quotas that seem reasonable. However, this does not mean that our total immigration "policy" is fair, just, reasonable or that it is administered uniformly and effectively.

The issue I raised was the moral specification of deportation. I qqoted JP II's Veritatis Spendor (VS) and his explication of "intrinsic evil".  VS lists various voluntary human acts that are intrinsically evil, including deportation. If a voluntary human act is morally classified as "intrinsic evil" it is immoral under "all" circumstances, intentions and ends. This is what is referred to as a "moral absolute". 

The ove of neighbor and the courtesy expected to be offered to guests, is not a good analogy or underlying principle governing deportation. Everything we do should not violate or harm ourselfs or neigbor; and we all should have compassion. However, this has very little to do with the moral specification of the voluntary human act of deportation as "intrinsically evil". I disagree with the Church that deportation is the immoral, wihtout remainder. Ditto for contraception. 
Marie Rehbein | 3/27/2012 - 2:16pm

I think you are saying that the "musts" in the Catholic Catechism regarding immigration don't really answer why it should be thus.  For example, "The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him." (Catholic Catechism, 2241)

Why are more prosperus nations obliged to welcome the foreigner in search of that which he cannot find in his own country?  Since when is it a "natural right" to be welcomed and protected as a guest?  Isn't that only a long-standing desert custom that is not necessarily observed?

Nevertheless, I do not have the impression that it is being argued by the bishops that no deportations occur.  I think they are expressing the idea that in this, as opposed to health care, the Federal government should be in charge of seeing that it gets done.  I think that it might be best for the bishops to stop telling this country how to run things. 
ed gleason | 3/27/2012 - 1:48pm
Mike Evans; amen to your posting and foo to the Fox news enthusiasts.
Mike Evans | 3/27/2012 - 11:58am
The rabid and wild railings against illegal immigrants flood the comments section of every news media, especially on issues relating to taxation, employment, education and welfare/health care. They (immigrants) have become the target of hate and blame for all our economic and social problems. In a nation that prides itself on being the 'exceptional melting pot' of immigrant ancestors, this anti immigrant attitude is a completely devised problem of radical right media and incipient racism against brown, black and yellow skinned peoples. The church needs to address the sinfulness of that prejudice and the complete unfairness of our minimalistic quota system. Finally, we all need to respect the pluck, loyalty, enthusiasm and, especially, the contributions of the immigrant folk to our economy, taxes, increase in talents and variety of folk traditions they bring to us. We are richer, not poorer, because of them.
William Atkinson | 3/27/2012 - 11:43am
Check FBI reorts on surge of Islamic immigrants over last 20 years, wont be long and America will cease to be a Christian majority, and Islam and Koran will replace our social structure.
Michael Barberi | 3/26/2012 - 1:54pm
Your are correct that for most illegal immigrants, the road to citizenship is very difficult. In the case of my house keeper, she had a green card that permitted her to work in the U.S. for a certain period of time. She also had a SS card, which I undersand many illiegal immigrants can get. I forgot all the details, but she had lost this status for some reason. It was a complicated mess. She and her mother both entered the U.S. illegally. I think her mother had become a U.S. citizen at some point, but her daugther did not. The father remained in Mexico and abandoned them a long time ago. Therefore, there was a penalty and legal fees. She now has a green card, and if I understand it correctly, she will have to wait a number of years, then apply for U.S. citizenship. The good news is that she is on the right tract.

I agree that we must find a solution to those illegal immigrants with families that have been living and working in the U.S. for many years, some of them most of their lives.

My point is over my disgreement with the Church about acts that they call "intrinsic evil", such as deportation, slavery and contraception. Intrinsic evil means that such an act is immoral and grave under all circumstances, intentions or ends...full stop....this is called a "moral absolute". Certainly some human acts are intrinsically evil, such as murdering the innocent. However, deporting an illegal immigrant who committed a felony is not immoral. You may argue that such individuals should be incarcerated in the U.S., but that is a separate issue. The question is: "Is deportation under all circumstances intrinsically evil?" The answer is obvious and the Church will never admit to any error, or any inference that there may be an exception either to the moral absolute or to the ethical context the moral issue points to. Thus, they become intransigent and deaf to the real moral dilemmas their own teachings cause.
Marie Rehbein | 3/25/2012 - 10:16pm
Hi again, Michael.  I think your point that deportation of criminals has not wrong is correct to a point.  However, I live where it is a rather simple thing to cross the border into Mexico, and I would feel a lot safer if an illegal immigrant who committed a violent crime were incarcerated in this country rather than deported.  I would tend to agree that deportation generally is not evil, but if it takes parents from their minor children or sends children who have lived all but a few of their early years in the US to a country where they do not know the culture, customs, laws, and people, then it is heartless at least.

I am a first generation American, and the impression I have is that legal immigrants have less tolerance for illegal immigrants than those of us who are natural born citizens do.
Michael Barberi | 3/25/2012 - 8:51pm
I have a house keeper that was born in Mexico, but as a very young child illigallly entered the U.S. vis-a-vis her mother, who also was an illegal alien. During the past year, I assisted her to gain a road to citizenship. This included paying a $1,000 fine and another $1500 for legal fees, filling out many complicated forms and following archaic procedures. Her 3 children were born in the U.S. and her husband abandoned them many years ago. She barely survives.

There is much saddness and discrimination with our current immigration policy. Apart from the stalemate in Washington over immigration reform, and the Church's occasional letter or two, I profoundly disagree with the Church that deportation is "intrnsicaly evil" and a moral absolute. Clearly, deportation can be immoral under certain circumsances. However, to make deportation a moral absolute whereby it is intrinscially evil under any circumstance, intention or end, is absurd. Who among us would declare immoral and intrinsically evil the deportation of an illegal alien who committed, and was convicted of, a felony?

ed gleason | 3/25/2012 - 5:26pm
See... David and I agree!!!! that the laity need to volunteer more.
 seniors need more volunteer work  and less cruise meals....  St Vincent de Paul is ubiquitous, at least in all cities. What is needed is parish staff to have recruiting skills and then they need to know how to the nourish volunteers. A job for deacons is  to recruit more, train and nourish volunteers. Preaching is nice, justice is better.
Jesus called his disciples remember? .there  no scriptural account of apostles raising their hands... go do likewise.
ed gleason | 3/24/2012 - 10:12pm
David S asks... How are things done there? now in my parish!
And SF was the center of the sanctuary movement late 80s
Bill Mazzella | 3/24/2012 - 10:06pm
Interesting that David has a different experience than us bookend coasts. I guess David is in redneck teritory where the bishops pastors seem to follow than lead. But it is refreshing to see the bishops come out for the persecuted and disadvantaged. That is unarguably what Christ is all about.
ed gleason | 3/24/2012 - 2:34pm
David S. says  "to try to alleviate the misery. So far, sadly, I've seen very little of that, from Catholics or anyone else.'
I Suggest you look at every parish in every city that serves Latinos. all kinds of ministries, housing, jobs, relief money and sanctuary etc etc . Where do you live that you are missing it?