Dolan throws down Trump cad, cites a modern nativism in Op-Ed

In an op-ed piece published on July 29 in the New York Daily News, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York took issue with the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump without explicitly naming him.

He recalled teaching college students about nativism—the policy of protecting the interests of native-born inhabitants against those of immigrants—and telling students it was "a continual virulent strain in the American psyche, which would probably sadly show up again."


The cardinal said the students back then disagreed, telling him: "Who could ever believe now that immigrants are dirty, drunken, irresponsible, dangerous threats to clean, white, Protestant, Anglo-Saxon America?"

"I wish I were in the college classroom again, so I could roll out my 'Trump card' to show the students that I was right. Nativism is alive, well—and apparently popular!" the cardinal wrote. 

Trump struck a nerve during his presidential campaign announcement when he said "murderers" and "rapists" were among those crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cardinal Dolan said American historians describe two approaches to the immigrant: The nativists "who see the unwashed, ignorant, bothersome brood as criminals and misfits who threaten 'pure America,' and are toxic to everything decent in the United States" and those "with the more enlightened and patriotic view" who see immigrants "as a gift to our nation, realizing that the only citizens whose ancestors were not immigrants are the Native Americans. All of us here are descendants of newcomers."

The cardinal also noted that those who support immigrants also realize the "need to control our borders, fairly regulate immigration and be prudent in our policies and laws."

Cardinal Dolan said he is "not in the business of telling people what candidates they should support or who deserves their vote. But as a Catholic, I take seriously the Bible's teaching that we are to welcome the stranger, one of the most frequently mentioned moral imperatives in both the Old and New Testament."

He also wrote that as an American, he takes "equally seriously the great invitation and promise of Lady Liberty," noting that it's one of the reasons why he is "so eager to share with Pope Francis the wonderful work being done by our Catholic Charities to assist immigrants who come to New York, and look to the church for assistance and a warm welcome."

"I guess, as a Catholic American, I'm a bit biased," he added.

The cardinal also pointed out that the poet Walt Whitman called New York Archbishop John Hughes a "mitered hypocrite,' because the prelate defended his poor Irish immigrant flock—the Mexicans of his day—from the nativists."

Cardinal Dolan said Whitman also described immigrants as "dregs of foreign filth, refuse of convents, scullions from monasteries."

"Thank God Walt Whitman stuck to poetry, and did not run for president," the cardinal wrote.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
norman ravitch
2 years 8 months ago
The biblical admonition to welcome the stranger, in context, had nothing to do with immigration. Everyone, including cardinals, uses the bible for his own purposes.
norman ravitch
2 years 8 months ago
Many, even some Catholics, believe the Catholic clergy support immigrants, illegal or not, in order to increase their parishioners. This could be old fashioned anti-Catholicism or it could be true. I remember nuns in southern California who boasted about smuggling Mexicans into San Diego country. But the clergy might be fooled. Mexican and other Latino immigrants put nothing into the collection plate; they expect the church to support them since in their experience in their own countries the church was rich and they were poor. Beware of accepting burdens you cannot afford.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Ivette Escobar, a student at Central American University in San Salvador, helps finish a rug in honor of the victims in the 1989 murder of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter on the UCA campus, part of the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Jesuit martyrs in 2014. (CNS photo/Edgardo Ayala) 
A human rights attorney in the United States believes that the upcoming canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero in October has been a factor in a decision to revisit the 1989 Jesuit massacre at the University of Central America.
Kevin ClarkeApril 20, 2018
Journalists photograph the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In California, Catholic opponents of the death penalty are trying to protect the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the Western Hemisphere.
Jim McDermottApril 20, 2018
Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago
Bishop McElroy said that Catholics must embrace “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”
Young demonstrators hold a rally in front of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Patrick Blanchfield on the history and future gun control in the United States
Ashley McKinlessApril 20, 2018