Asylum versus Immigration
Re “Step Up on Syrian Refugees” (Current Comment, 9/19): The editors’ comment on the Syrian refugee issue is certainly needed and welcome, but America continues to miss the important distinction between asylum and immigration. Thus the statement that “few immigrants to the United States will be as thoroughly vetted as these Syrians seeking asylum.” If what they are seeking and need is asylum, why assume that necessarily implies immigration?
Equating asylum with immigration may well be the surest way to limit the number of people helped, at least in the United States. Immigration necessarily involves a permanent relocation to a new country. It poses challenges like language barriers, employability, domiciling, education and—today especially—whatever vetting is necessary to determine compatibility of values and ideals and absence of criminality.
Asylum need not concern itself nearly as much with these matters. Asylum means protection from the ravages of war or political or religious persecution and temporary relocation to some safe haven, preferably not halfway around the world, along with food, clothing and shelter.
Since the requirements for asylum are more easily met and financed than immigration, its benefits will reach far more needy victims than immigration to the United States ever could.
Not Comparably Flawed
I appreciated “Confessions of a Solidarist,” by John Conley, S.J. (9/19), which calls attention to the American Solidarity party. It was thought-provoking, encouraging and refreshing. I must take issue, however, with the tendency in his column and elsewhere in America to treat the two major party candidates as comparably flawed. That does not stand up to the facts. One is a career politician with a familiar set of faults. The other has no relevant experience or interest in learning and is, as America notes, unprepared—not just for press conferences. One could expand the list of particulars on either candidate; but by any accounting, they do not carry shortcomings of similar gravity.
It would be a historic mistake for us as Catholics to think our vote should hinge on these candidates’ peccadillos or on their supposed positions on gay marriage, abortion, immigration or war. We are well advised to reflect on whether a candidate is actually ready, willing and able to carry out the grave responsibilities of the office.
Thank you for “Hillary Clinton’s Gospel,” by Michael O’Loughlin (9/19). As a fellow Chicagoan, it has saddened me that so many do not know about Hillary Clinton’s deep faith and her Midwest values. As someone who has been educated by the Jesuits, I have been grateful for America’s focus on social justice issues. Hillary Clinton's life has, too, been focused on social justice issues. It is time for people to learn about the goodness of Hillary Clinton, and this article will help to open the eyes of some who had a distorted impression of her because of those who do not want to see her succeed.
Define Social Justice
The First Stone
Re Of Many Things, by Matt Malone, S.J. (9/12): I applaud Father Malone for addressing a concern that brings out the spite and even the smallness of some believers. The Catholic Church is a big tent, and to belong to it is to strive to live the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in today's world. The moral issues of abortion, capital punishment, racism, bigotry, intolerance, hatred, poverty and same-sex marriage define our position in the world. For personal, political, legal or unclear reasons, some choose not to accept the church's clear stance on these moral issues. Are they bad, evil people who should be thrown out in the cold? Should they be ignored and scorned as if they did not deserve to belong in the same pew? Who of us should cast the first stone?
We must confront such conflicts not by calling a U.S. senator, or anyone else, evil but by opening our hearts and minds to the mercy and love revealed to us in Jesus Christ. One is not evil because he or she takes a position that differs from the official position of the church. If that were so, how many “evil” ones are in the pews today because they have not followed the official church position on birth control as put forth in “Humanae Vitae”?
We are confronted with major social evils today, and we need to leave our smallness behind and open ourselves to the grace, mercy and love of God as shown in Jesus Christ.
What About the Locals?
In “Weigh the Cost” (8/29), John W. Martens challenges us to think of a saint dear to us and mentions the more famous saints. It seems we often focus on the more famous and well-known saints rather than the many saint-like people we see in our daily lives. It would be wonderful if Catholic commentaries drew our attention to the people in our midst who inspire us to be holy and to live the Gospel more fully.
Those “saints” abound: parents of disabled children, dedicated men and women serving our country, teachers, local clergy, dedicated sisters and health care workers and some of our own peers. The list is endless. I feel that holiness is all around me. It would be wise to draw attention to this holiness that surrounds all of us by mentioning the local “saints” rather than the usual list of canonized saints. The routine list of canonized saints does not do it for me any more; I prefer to use the flesh and blood all around me as my inspiration. We are all called to holiness by virtue of our baptism, and there are many people out there answering that call and inspiring others to holiness.
Re “Saint of the Darkness,” by James Martin, S.J. (8/29): This interview with Brian Kolodiejchuk, the promoter of Mother Teresa’s cause, was very helpful to me because I have had a hard time understanding Mother Teresa. On the one hand, she was doing all this profound work with the poorest of the poor; on the other, as a person she seemed so bland—almost grumpy. Knowing of the dimensions of Mother Teresa's journey, and of her own spiritual darkness, helps me to understand her better. She certainly was not faking piety, and she dared to enter a very sacred space. She made a bridge between the inner and the outer worlds.
Success of SPRED
I am dismayed that Kevin Clarke omitted mention of the SPRED (Special Religious Development) program in “Out of the Shadows” (8/15). Having begun in the 1960s, SPRED is now in 160 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago, as well as in 20 other dioceses in the United States and eight other countries. SPRED provides the experience of God's love to developmentally disabled Catholics at the parish level, in small groups. If Mr. Clarke had made America's readers aware of SPRED's efficacy in providing inclusion to these often neglected Catholics, he would have represented the church's efforts in this area more fully.