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The EditorsJanuary 25, 2017
(CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters; CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

This week brought two significant developments in U.S. policy regarding abortion. First, President Trump reinstated the “Mexico City rule,” the policy that bars foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive federal funds from providing or promoting abortion as a means of family planning. In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution to permanently codify the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of taxpayer money for abortion services within the United States. Both the Mexico City policy and the Hyde Amendment provide exceptions for situations involving life-threatening conditions, incest or rape.

Both measures are significant steps in the right direction. As the U.S. bishops have often said, such policies are in line with the views of the American people. In a recent Marist Poll, the overwhelming majority (83 percent) of Americans said they support policies like the Mexico City rule, including 73 percent of respondents who identify as pro-choice. There is no widespread consensus regarding abortion and the federal government should not pretend that funding abortions is value-neutral.

Yet these new restrictions, while necessary, are not sufficient. The culture of life envisioned by Catholic teaching requires substantial investments in the lives and health of women and children as well. Ending the moral tragedy of abortion is only one step toward building a pro-life country that strengthens families and protects the least among us.

By that measure, this week the country took two steps forward and one step back. While President Trump’s actions in defense of the unborn are welcome, his proposals for immigration reform are ill conceived and divisive. On Jan. 25, the president authorized the construction of a wall on our southern border, which will do little to stem the flow of migrants and is contrary to the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger. As Pope Francis famously remarked, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel.”

Catholics who are engaged in public debate must always bear in mind that the church’s consistent ethic of life transcends our partisan divisions. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical, “The Church forcefully maintains the link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that 'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated.”

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JR Cosgrove
7 years 5 months ago

Until any of the editors and authors at America will say who can and who can not be admitted to the United States as an immigrant, it is nonsense that we are heartless or are not pro life by trying to control immigration. Why should someone who enters the country illegally be given preference over those who patiently go through the legal process is beyond most of the country,

This comparison to pro life demeans the real meaning of the concept of "pro life."

Tom Maher
7 years 5 months ago

I have to agree with you, J Cosgrove.

The U.S. de facto open borders policy advocated by some politicians and church people has no merit. The ideas that there is some Gospel or scriptural requirement for open borders makes no sense and in fact has not been formally recognized by the Church. Church formally recognizes that borders and immigration need to be secured and controlled by host nations. Immigration needs to be under the legal control of the federal government and federal law.

The condition of the last 30 years where the nation has been flooded with tens of millions of people illegally entering and/ or staying in the United States is not politically acceptable or permanently viable decades after decade. By allowing illegal immigration we are creating a separate class of people above or outside the law who get benefits such as federal payments for personal support, housing, education, health care and other long term financial including social security and Medicare often without as a group adequately paying taxes. We are creating a political nightmare of a massive and growing political group chronically non-compliant with the laws of the United States and political institutions.

Open borders and immigration policies have nothing to do with pro-life policy. Controlling the borders and immigration are necessary security duties of the federal government. This control is a matter of protecting the nation and limiting the number of people who may enter and stay in the country. This control has nothing to do with pro-life policy within the United States. Pro-life policy seeks to prevent the federal funding and promotion of abortions and limit abortions as a cultural and political institution inside and outside the United States and limit the number of abortions in the United States. It muddles the political discussion to say that the excellent progress that has been made in the last few days in controlling the borders and immigration and limit abortions are not effective in meeting their separate policy goals.

Chuck Kotlarz
7 years 5 months ago

“The U.S. de facto open borders policy advocated by some politicians and church people has no merit.”

Does that apply to billions of borderless dollars funding 10,000 lobbyists in Washington DC? Perhaps it’s time for a wall around Washington DC so that foreign revenue can not delegitimize US voters.

Chuck Kotlarz
7 years 5 months ago

Perhaps you could address why 10,000 DC lobbyists paid by global money be given preference over US voters.

Ryder Charles
7 years 5 months ago

The editors of America were silent when President Obama repealed the "Wet Foot, Dry Foot" policy which effectively shuts the door on refugees seeking to escape from Cuba. This silence is anti-life. Please stop your blatant partisanship.

Rudolph Koser
7 years 5 months ago

The immigration laws already say who can be admitted and how. Refugees often take almost two years to complete the process. If I wanted to terrorize I would come on a visa like the 9/11 highjackers than go through a refugee process. Most of the undocumented (people are not illegal) overstay tourist or student visas. Many come for economic reasons but others are fleeing violence or discrimination in their home countries (very traditional reasons people have always come here). I suggest that unless one is a Native American (who did welcome settlers and look what that got them), one should be a little more circumspect in denying people what their ancestors eagerly sought. The meanness and lack of generosity exhibited by many, including the new President, are not only not Christian (the Holy Family were refugees according to Matthew's Gospel) but it is not American as well.

Gabriel Marcella
7 years 5 months ago

There are facts about the wall which are missing in the public debate. The border stretches 1954 miles from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Some 650 miles of the border have walls, paid for by funding from the US Congress. In some areas walls include floodlights for night time reconnaissance, a no man’s land, and parallel roads for surveillance by the Border Patrol. They are located at the end of the most densely traveled routes into the US, which enter cities like El Paso, Nogales, and San Ysidro. The latter, between Tijuana and San Diego, is the busiest land border crossing in the world, with more than 30 million entries coming from Mexico each year. The Sonoran Desert is a natural wall, where survival in the extreme high heat is impossible without water. Moreover, the Border Patrol conducts 24 hour surveillance with sensors, Predators, manned aircraft and vehicles. In 2014 there were 229,000 apprehensions of undocumented Mexicans, down from 1.6 million in 2000. Non-Mexican, coming mostly from the tragic violence and poverty of Central America, counted 257,000.
Building a wall to cover the entire border would be a waste. Costs could go beyond $10 billion for the entire job, with some estimates of over $25 billion, plus annual maintenance. Mayors in American border cities fear that more walls would hurt legitimate cross-border commerce, which contribute to the six million American jobs generated by trade with Mexico, the second largest market for American products, totaling more than $230 billion in 2015. There are also legal and environmental concerns that invite delays and litigation. The federal government would have to acquire private property by eminent domain in order to build and maintain the wall. A 1970 US-Mexican treaty prevents construction that would affect the course of rivers, the lifeblood of agriculture and communities on both sides of the border. Environmentalists fear that many species of wildlife--57 alone between Arizona and California-- would be endangered. A wall would also need to be deep enough, at least 10 feet, to prevent tunneling. Sandy soil would require even deeper foundations. This adds immeasurably to the cost of construction.
A wall may seem appealing. But it’s not as good as a comprehensive strategy of border security based on deterring and apprehending illegal entry. This means more resources for the Border Patrol: the best technology, the best intelligence, and enough personnel. In addition, the wall would not catch the estimated 417,000 visitors from all over the world that overstay their visas each year. Our nation must also address the difficult question of the drivers that cause desperate people to leave the violence of Central America and risk everything to come to this country. Much of the criminal violence in the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras is the result of guns coming unimpeded from the United States, while the consumption of cocaine by Americans feeds criminal gangs and corrupts police in those countries. Border security goes both ways.
Distinguished Fellow, United States Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, writes on Latin American security.

Stuart Meisenzahl
7 years 5 months ago

Father Sawyer needs to review America's history of applauding what it perceived as the Obama Administration's "social justice" activities and policies. Each time the Obama Aministration did something that America believed deserved its endorsement , did America's editors "call out " the Obama Administration for also sponsoring a litany of Pro Choice/anti Life Policies. I think not!
Did Americas Editors claim that those approved Obama social justice policies "were not what social justice policies look like !" because they didn't include "pro life policies"? No ...they were applauded as a great start!

As a product of 11 years of Jesuit Education I am very accustomed to "the evolution" of Jesuit thought and views. The Editors' position on Trump betrays an agenda other than just "social justice" writ large! Yet another evolution that harkens back to the Jesuit Latin America Worker Priest movement and its unintended consequences. It took a Pope Saint to end that disaster!
If my long years of Jesuit Education taught anything , it was not to expect policy consistency from the Jesuits other than the redistribution of wealth....originally by preaching voluntary giving and now by demanding government policy.

lynn lowry
7 years 5 months ago

I certainly dont agree with all said, but will not add to those comments. I'm also a product of Jesuit education and so many of us seem to be so certain of ourselves. With that in mind, I want to thank you for continuing to stand for your practice of making people think. Think about their positions vis a vis their values AND the context. Also...thank you, thank you for stepping up and saying not all policy decisions should be made based on transient polling, but rather based on values. Shout out to you.

Michael Barberi
7 years 5 months ago

I don't agree some but not all that has been said in this article, especially this 'assertion':

"On Jan. 25, the president authorized the construction of a wall on our southern border, which will do little to stem the flow of migrants and is contrary to the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger."

The above claim is pure nonsense and I am disappointed that the editors choose to make the issue of a border wall a violation of the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger. Do the editors think that we should welcome every and all strangers, in particular, those who enter this country illegally without proper vetting? Do the editors think the US should have an open border policy?

Stretching a biblical mandate, such as welcoming the stranger, is 'proof texting' taken to irresponsible levels to support your objection to building a border wall. You can disagree with the wall idea, but to assert that it will do little to stem the flow if illegal migrants, and a violation of hospitality, is intellectually unpersuasive as it is unsubstantiated.

Trump's wall building is only one part of securing the border. He also is hiring 10,000 new border agents, not to mention all the modern electronic surveillance equipment. A 'border wall' does not mean it will not contain 'bridges or doors' that will permit immigrants to enter the U.S legally! Yet, there was no mention of any of this in this article. Unfortunately, this article lacks all the facts and a convincing argument.

I do agree that once our border is secured, the existing illegal immigrants who have been living here for years, do not have a criminal record, been working and paying taxes, and raising families, should be given a path to citizenship. I also believe that the number of immigrants who may enter the U.S. should be increased.

Leonard Villa
7 years 5 months ago

Your claim that the Wall will do little to stem immigration is a gratuitous remark with nothing to back it up in your editorial. Is the present border-situation working a sieve made more porous by the former President which endangers the common good. A nation has a right to protect its borders and provide for the common good of its citizens. Mexico protexts its borders. Canada protects its borders. Why is the U.S. the only country to which this does not apply. Trump is not saying no immigration at all but he could and the U.S. did this before 1965 to allow those immigrants already here to assimilate. He is providing for LEGAL immigration.

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