Pro-life groups have an obligation to call out Trump on immigration

  U.S. President Donald Trump gives the keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List 11th Annual Campaign for Life Gala May 22 at the National Building Museum in Washington. (CNS photo/Al Drago, Reuters)

Perhaps the most quoted line from the recent conference at Georgetown on “Overcoming Polarization Through Catholic Social Thought” came from Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

“There are no single-issue saints,” he said.

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Indeed, the saints “teach us that whenever human life is threatened, whenever the image of God is obscured and violated, we are called to rise up and defend it.”

I had the archbishop’s words in mind as I became increasingly frustrated at the complicit silence of mainstream, traditional pro-life organizations with respect to the violations of human dignity occurring on our southern border—including the Trump administration’s decision to radically reduce the kinds of asylum claims it will accept from vulnerable women and using the pain and suffering of children forcibly separated from their parents as a means of deterring undocumented immigration.

Archbishop José H. Gomez: “There are no single-issue saints.”

This past Sunday, I criticized these pro-life organizations for their silence in an op-ed for The New York Times. These groups have such leverage with the president and his administration that it seemed shameful for them not to rise up and defend vulnerable human life at the border.

Though I mentioned several such organizations (including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council—both organizations one might think would publicly stand against children being ripped from their parents’ arms), the only one that I have seen give a formal response was the Susan B. Anthony List, one of the most influential pro-life organizations in the United States.

A significant part of the influence they currently have comes from a close relationship with Mr. Trump. Indeed, their website homepage features a photo of the president with their executive director Marjorie Dannenfelser—along with a button inviting one to “WATCH TRUMP’S SPEECH” at their recent gala fundraiser.

Perhaps picking up on some of the tactics of the president, they used half of their response to my op-ed to attack me personally—suggesting that I do not really believe that abortion is the taking of a human life and instead “exploit the abortion issue” to achieve other political ends.

Whenever the image of God in the least among us is obscured and violated, we have an obligation to call those responsible out.

This aspect of their response is not very interesting, not just because personal attacks are not very interesting but because anyone who reads more than two or three of my pieces knows that I believe prenatal children deserve equal protection of the law and am working both as an academic and activist to try to bring this about. Pro-choice activists often make the same kind of accusation but in the opposite direction. I am not really interested in social justice, they say.

Matthew 25 instructs us how to be pro-life. Whenever the image of God in the least among us is obscured and violated, we have an obligation to call those responsible out. Last week, it was traditional pro-lifers for leaving out the stranger, but at other times it is leftist social justice activists who leave out the prenatal child. (Here, for instance, is a piece I wrote criticizing Sister Simone Campbell for doing precisely this.)

Far more interesting than their personal attack against me, however, was the Susan B. Anthony List’s attempt to defend their silence:

From its inception Susan B. Anthony List has been completely dedicated to protecting the first right without which no other rights matter: the right to life. Our sole mission is to restore that profound right. Therefore, we refrain from public comment on immigration and many other topics, including other policies that impact families. It is not in our purview to speak on behalf of our members on other issues.

Let us leave aside whether it is a good and authentic strategy for a pro-life organization to comment only on a narrow set of issues related to the right to life. And let us also leave aside the fact that the S.B.A. List was willing to use an immigration vote as ammunition in ads it ran in California opposing a pro-choice candidate.

Does the group agree with the Catholic bishops that the Trump administration’s border policies threaten the right to life?

Does the group agree with the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that the Trump administration’s border policies threaten the right to life?

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said exactly this in a statement on June 13:

At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country.... We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life (emphasis added).

In addition, the editors of this magazine recently highlighted that U.S. detainment policies on the border are threatening the lives of prenatal children increasingly lost to miscarriage. This has to be a pro-life issue, even given the very narrow way that the S.B.A. List defines it.

Why have not we heard anything from them about these two matters that threaten the first right, the right without which no other rights matter, the right to life?

Rachel MacNair, one of the founders of the S.B.A. List, offers one answer: “Republicans took over.” But though the organization clearly leans hard to the right, they did succeed in helping Pro-Life Democrat Dan Lipinski keep his Congressional seat in Illinois.

Unless pro-life organizations like the Susan B. Anthony List want their advocacy to be reduced to advancing the political right, then they must be heard on issues that make the right wing uncomfortable.

This is not just a political necessity. The face of Christ in the least ones commands us to do so.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
3 months ago

The author is an open borders Democrats who is on the wrong side of the pro life issue? The real anti life culprits in this debacle are those who are encouraging the migrants to come and risk death and rape and the parents of the children who are putting their children in danger. The children are called "golden tickets" and many are being used by sex traffickers to get themselves and the children into the US. These are not good parents as evidenced by thr Time magazine crying little girl used by an abusive mother to get into the country.

I assume the author is against the social and economic systems of the Catholic countries of Latin America which are so dysfunctional. Maybe he should lead an effort to change them.

Steve Magnotta
3 months ago

Good, thoughtful article. Balanced spiritually.
Right on, Archbishop Gomez and Cardinal DiNardo.
Amen to the article's conclusion.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 months ago

Mr Camosy
Kindly direct me to your article on this topic in2014-2016 when exactly the same separation of families was occurring under The Obama Administration....when Jeh Johnson said it was being done "as a deterrent".
I might add that a little research on your part will disclose that the Migration Policy institute described the Obama border policy in 2016 as ..."approaching Zero Tolerance" . That I believe is the same phrase everyone is critiquing today! Yourself included.
It would appear that you find the face of Christ in the border immigrants revealed by the political party in power rather than ever present .

Mike Fitzpatrick
3 months ago

The Catholic Church has an obligation to call out the Democrat Party for promoting abortion which is the foundation of their party's platform. You cannot be vote democrat and be pro life.

Peter Schwimer
3 months ago

Yes you can.

Andrew Wolfe
3 months ago

And when national Democrat leaders like Keith Ellison say that 9-month abortion on demand is a non-negotiable part of the Democrat platform, just how do you vote Democrat? We've seen for years (very clearly in Massachusetts) that pro-life politicians are blocked by the Democrat party from national office and typically from statewide office as well.

bill carson
3 months ago

Hmmm, nothing to say about parents who break the laws of the U.S. and risk the lives of their children in the risks of travel. We should only blame Trump when Jesuits had NOTHING to say about Obama enforcing existing law. Gee, maybe we could get a follow up article explaining the inconsistencies.

paul@perezam.com
3 months ago

Professor Camosy,

All of what you write is, of course, true and needs saying.

Your critique of the Susan B. Anthony List is particularly odd and so detracts from the important point you are making. THE SBA List is choosing one pro-=life issue for tactical reasons. There logic seems to best what appears to be yours. They cite (indubitably correctly) that there is a logical and moral priority to protecting unborn human life. You seem to be making the evil of brutal treatment of immigrants morally equal to the evil of abortion. They are not. And I am completely certain that the good Archbishop Gomez would have to concur -- as would any person trained in the metaphysics and moral theology of Aquinas.

During the decades when I was a Republican, i would sometimes say that a Catholic cannot be a Democrat -- and only painfully a Republican. Eventually, I came to see that I could be a member of neither party -- and not because anti-immigrant (and healthcare) policies and abortion were equally evil; rather, because I came to understand that in American, a Catholic should not squander his/her witness to the Catholic faith.

It is unfortunate that your membership on the board of Democrats for Life nearly completely destroys your credibility. If a party's platform has any meaning (a point debatable, of course), then a pro-life person cannot be a Democrat. Full stop. Yet you are. Please consider making your brilliant writing more effective by leaving the Democratic Party.

Charles Camosy
3 months ago

No, the Susan B. Anthony List activates often against assisted suicide. This doesn't make assisted suicide as weighty as abortion for them. It just makes it another pro-life issue they care about.

1/3 of Democrats ID as pro-life. Especially if they are trying to change the party, why don't these millions of people have credibility?

Andrew Wolfe
3 months ago

Because the party doesn't present pro-life candidates for them to vote for.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 months ago

Credibility?
Could be because Perez, Pelosi and Clinton have all declared the phrase "Pro Life Democrat " is an oxymoron!

J Cosgrove
3 months ago

I assume you approve of the Democratic Party policies that have led to family breakdown and dysfunction including high homicide rates. Is that another anti-life policy you are willing to accept in order to support Democrats?

James Haraldson
3 months ago

In part because they don't exist. Why would you make up such a false statistic when the reality is less than ten percent?

Christopher Lochner
3 months ago

There are always many different opinions on many different issues, such is the nature of life. But I'm always suspicious of those who claim to be correct by being closer to God, somehow, someway ( which is a falsehood, of course). Hot button issues of the day and everyone HAS to be in agreement lest they risk being ostracized by the most vocal and, almost always, self righteous individuals. Whether energy issues, climate, politics, immigration...the list is endless and the exhortation is always the same- agree and do what we say or risk being made into an outcast ( in a loving and Christian manner, yet!). Very much human this grasp for political power and little to do with Christ. Again, I say, when the Bishops become a PAC they will, rightfully, lose the following of Catholics. As for the statement of Gomez, I rest my case. The saints in Heaven are not praying, you see. They are political operatives of some sort. What a foolish yet powerful and wily man this Gomez is, utilizing The Cross to push his political agendas and likely never even blinking once. And what is most shameful is those who would use Christ to their own political agendas as this is no longer religion but purely secular, like selling political tracts with an imprimatur.

Lisa Weber
3 months ago

Thank you for pointing out both sides of a divisive issue.

Peter Schwimer
3 months ago

Unfortunately, we have had what 40 years of Catholic bishops supporting the GOP and anti abortion groups. They've suddenly come to understand what thinking Catholics have long understood: that abortion is a small segment if the right to life movement as it ought to be. The truth be told, the Bishops may have finally awakened to the reality, but it will not be preached in any pulpit (except their own perhaps) in any diocese in the country. It's too difficult for the average pastor to figure out the nuances and preach on them. Just won't happen. And as I read the responses to this article, nobody'd believe them anyway.

Mike Macrie
3 months ago

You are correct, the Bishop’s message will never reach the Catholics in the Pew and this is the problem. The pastors had no problem demonizing the Pro Choice Politicians but when it comes to demonizing Republican policies they become mute.

Will Niermeyer
3 months ago

Pro Life groups might do better to call out to their Democratic lawmakers in Congress to work with the Republicans to come up with a fair immigration policy that respects those who enter our Country legally and work very hard toward citizenship by studying and taking the exam. They to are challenged by language barriers but that really is no excuse since English is the primary language of our Country. Do this for equality. Will you support legal or illegal entry into the USA and all the consequences after that.

Andrew Wolfe
3 months ago

It is intellectually dishonest to compare the active murder of people through abortion and euthanasia—which is the problem addressed by the pro-life community—to the handling of refugees and asylum seekers by the government which, as the bishops acknowledge, has a legitimate authority and obligation to control immigration.

Nor can you compare pro-lifers' huge volume of support to women in crisis pregnancies to support of foreign people threatened by despotic governments.

Offering refuge and help to refugees is an act of charity. Opposing the legalized imposition of natural death is an act of justice.

Dennis Hayes
3 months ago

what is the pro-life position on the taking of life in war?

don ttouchme
3 months ago

There's no talking to open borders ideologues. The only way to answer this guy in a way he understands is to reelect Trump and keep driving forward. Eventually even this magazine and the bishops and the pope will have to talk about securing the border.

Vincent Gaglione
3 months ago

Mr. Camosy makes some cogent arguments. I don’t agree with them all. I presume that he wants anti-abortion legislation. I do not agree. His and my religious prescriptions should not be imposed on those who do not so believe. I don’t want “Sharia” law imposed in the USA! I don’t want “Catholic” law imposed in the USA!

However, as he argues, pro-life is a spectrum of beliefs, not merely on the sole topic of abortion. And any Catholics who refuse to acknowledge that spectrum reveal themselves to be stultified in their moral reasoning. Apparently the lack of Catholic “pro-life” opposition to the separation of children proves that many “pro-life” Catholics need some moral instruction that has been lacking.

J Cosgrove
3 months ago

So I assume you approve of the abusive parents using children as tickets to get into country and sex trafficking of little children of non parents. The "stultifying" Catholics are against this and don't approve. A prime example is the fake Time magazine cover of a crying little girl. This phony issue has nothing to do with caring for children.

Vincent Gaglione
3 months ago

When I read your comment about my alleged approval of the abuse of children, I was angered and disappointed. It was a disrespectful remark. I’ll presume that was not your intent.

I have strong opinions about “legalizing” my religious beliefs and imposing them on others. Given Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim histories of such, I rely on historical judgment to bolster my opinions, in spite of USA’s Catholic Bishops to the contrary.

There is a spectrum of "pro-life" positions and attitudes, whether you agree with that or not. I'll go with a statement that I made in a comment previously, I wait to hear the Almighty's judgment on that issue.

J Cosgrove
2 months 4 weeks ago

I was pointing out the ironic nature of your comment. You are the one who are calling others "stultifying" for opposing the abuse of children. That is tantamount to supporting the things that are happening. So isn't your remark the one that is really disrespectful? A suggestion: make your point without denigrating others and patting yourself on the back. Maybe the stultifying Catholics have a more Christian point of view.

There is no way to solve the poverty and dysfunctional nature of Latin American countries in a short time. Until the problem is recognized no solution can take place. And it will take years if they embark on the right path

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 months ago

Vince
"[I] You don't want Catholic Law to be imposed in the USA" (. Viz abortion) .... But Mr Camosy is arguing precisely that: Catholic Pro Life law concerning immigrants right to freely cross borders should be the USA law.
Once again you are picking and choosing exactly which Social Justice issues you think should be made law. And you are on a lot shakier ground choosing the Open Border issue over Abortion since the latter involves taking a life whereas the former just involves how life is lived.

Despite your assertion, a person can be wholly in favor of not separating children from their parents AND not in favor of Open Borders. It is Congress and the 9th Circuit which have created the problem: Not the Executive Branch. At the behest of the ACLU and other Social Justice Warriors the 9th Cir Court has decreed that if you enforce the immigration law as written then you MUST separate any accompanying child from the detained parent. To fail to note this source of the problem you are (to use your words)" stultified" in understanding the problem and how to solve it.

Vincent Gaglione
3 months ago

Stuart,
I wonder how you think you know what I think. I do not agree with an open border. You sound like Trump, pretending that all those opposed to his policies want an open border.

I oppose his denial of the legal right to appeal for asylum by any person who enters the United States, no matter where they cross the border.

I oppose the detention of people who cross the border for inordinate and illegal periods of time, as I do for any USA citizen arrested and held without trial.

I oppose the separation of children from parents/guardians for the purposes of both detention and deterrence.

I oppose the dissemination of information that are deliberate fabrications.

I oppose the generic descriptions of refugees and asylum seekers as racists, murderers, welfare fraud seekers, etc. ad nauseam. It degrades political discussion and debate.

That’s just some of what I oppose, some based on USA law, some based on the law of God. When he separated the children from their parents it was obvious that there was no USA law to prevent it and it was obvious that the law of God holds no importance to Trump, Sessions, and all the other sycophants who supported the policy. That anyone would have to consider such for a law makes me suspect of the moral foundation of the nation! So much for the Judaeo-Christian foundations of the USA, eh?

Vinny

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 months ago

VINNY
I make no assumption on what you think...I have relied on what you wrote and it's resulting import under the law.
As to your appeal to the application of the law of God to this issue , you yourself have unequivocally stated that you do not believe that our Catholic beliefs should be imposed by law on others

As to the subject US law respecting separation of children from parents charged with a criminal violation of law , I suggest you finally read "Flores vs Lynch" which was decided by the 9th Circuit against the Obama Administration and then determine if you are quite so sure about the state of the law as you profess.
Indeed since the Trump Executive Order is now back at the District Ct level in the 9th Circuit I believe you will find that Court is stuck with the Hobsian choice of modifying its earlier decree against the Obama Family detention policy or voiding the Trump Executive Order as violating its earlier command to "release " the minors...separate them from the detention of their parent! The unfortunate truth is that Trump was in fact perfectly correct in stating that if the immigration law is enforced with a parent charged then the 9th cicuit has required the minor child to be separated fromthe parent's detention.

The conclusion is inevitable that 1) if the law is not changed, or. 2) if the existing law is not enforced then the result is anyone with a child can enter the country with impunity.......that result is by any name an "Open Border".

Vincent Gaglione
2 months 4 weeks ago

Stuart,

If the nation considers its foundations and values as Judaeo-Christian, then there is no need to impose those values as laws. If it doesn't, then let's stop the myth-making on the issues.

All your other points are blather to justify the fact that you apparently have no problem with the separation of children from parents as a device to protect the borders, an opinion to which you are entitled in this nation, an opinion that I do not believe to which you are entitled as a Christian.

Vinny

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 4 weeks ago

VINNY
I believe Congress must act to solve this issue:
Though the Trump Executive Order this issue is now squarely back before the same Progressive 9th Circuit Court which first required The Obama Administration to separate children from parents. You keep skipping over this critical point: the separation started under the Obama Administration by Court Order . I realize that is an uncomfortable fact for you to deal with but it is not "blather".
I fully recognize that Jeh Johnson ( Obama's Head of Homeland Security) didn't chose this result...after all he tried to set up the Obama Family Detention facilities only because he recognized that "Catch and Release" created incentives to illegal immigration....See USA Today...."Close Family Detention Centers" by Ken Roth , April 11 2015 which quotes Johnson as stating the Obama Family Detention Centers were set up as a "deterrence". I don't impune his action or his motives as "unchristian".

Finally...You are no more entitled to invoke Christian values to determine what the immigration law ought to be than I would be in requiring the law to reflect my Christian views on abortion. Once again you are picking and choosing which Christian Social Justice issues should be created as US laws!

J Cosgrove
2 months 4 weeks ago

I do not agree with an open border

But yet everything you recommend is tantamount to open borders.

Mary Therese LEMANEK
3 months ago

Truth. We cannot pick and choose those "life" issues. The protection of human dignity and living out of Matthew 25 does not prioritize nor does it excuse anyone or any political party from doing so.

Harvey Milk, MD
3 months ago

Charlie I like your passion. If only all Americans had your passion for Christ.

NB: The “Right” is as much a bad word as “liberal secularist”. Please preach Christ et unum sint. We will forgive you this once since you were born in the cornfields of Wisconsin but only this one time.
;-)p

“While there is jealousy and rivalry among you,* are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way? Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?”

AMDG

E.Patrick Mosman
3 months ago

The hypocrisy of these so-called pro-life groups that remained silent about the same or similar treatment of immigrant children by the Obama administration which was well documented but was ignored by the progressive media and these same pro-life groups is noteworthy. Where is the pro-life outrage for parents who turn their children over to vicious gangs and pay them to smuggle their children into the USA? This faux outrage today is purely political against President Trump who is enforcing the law and the judicial decision covering the treatment of immigrant children.

S. Marie
3 months ago

Re: the title, no, they absolutely do not -- nor on any issue that is not the legal legitimization of murder.

Charlie is too educated a man to write off his many errors of conflation as mere ignorance (though based on my every experience with Fordham, this may be indicative of the quality of education one can expect there). Maybe it is the projection of his complete political impotence to make the smallest dent in the Democratic Party's bloodthirsty platform, in spite of dozens of op-eds and unprovoked attacks on other pro-lifers.

Mike Macrie
3 months ago

It was hard to watch the Catholic Pro Life Groups praise Trump and Pence at the Pro Life rally in Washington. They praise them in the very same week Trump had expressed his Racism toward non-white countries. Many Republican Politicians just mouth the words Pro Life simply for Votes. The hypocrisy of Trump, Giuliani and Romney is stunning, all who were Pro Choice before running as a Republican President.
Most of the Pro Life Groups put the Republican Party ahead of their Faith. I refer to them as Half Christians. When Jesus was asked by the Jews what is the Greatest Commandment, Jesus answered to love the Lord you God with your whole heart, soul and mind. Then Jesus answered without hesitation said the Second Greatest is to Love Your Neighbor as Thy Self.
Will the Pro Life Groups stand up and be full Christians remains to be seen.

James Haraldson
3 months ago

What a level of moral idiocy and moral degeneracy that would characterize a pro-lifer as "single issue." Morality is a coherent whole, which is precisely why pro-lifers should continue to commend Trump for the moral good of separating pimps from their sex slaves. Granted, this might upset the sort of priest or bishop who see no moral wrong in sexual sins, not even when it comes to raping a child, but to a morally sane human being, this policy is a moral good no matter how pervasive the tide of a perverse moral sentiment that can find no fault at all in human trafficking.

Ashley Green
3 months ago

Charles Camosy: Thank you for this column, and please continue to speak out for the truth on behalf of all people who are victimized by anti-life/anti-family laws and policies. As you know, many people will cheer you on For speaking out for the vulnerable when doing so aligns with their own political or ideological agenda, only to accuse you of hypocrisy, political correctness or worse when it doesn’t. Ironically, the charge of hypocrisy is often leveled against those who are the most consistent in their principles. And these charges are often made by those who put political allegiances ahead of pro-life principles in their own priorities. They will obfuscate and deflect to no end in order to justify their own inconsistencies and defend policies and laws that can never be reconciled with the message of the Gospels. Keep up the good work.

Edwin Hess
3 months ago

It is time for more people to understand that most of the Democrats in Washington, and many of the Republicans as well, hate President Trump because he got to the top without sweating through the ranks. Many of them got to where they are by “cutting corners” and are trying to stay there by using unsavory tactics, some of which are finally coming to light in the new documents that are starting to be reluctantly released.

Regarding the border/immigrant problem, almost everybody seems reasonably accepting of the orderly process that is required for people arriving by air or sea (though they may differ about numbers, etc.), but many seem to think that by land it should be a free for all situation. If we had better control over the land situation (yes, a wall), the money and manpower now spent trying to deal with the situation at the border could be transferred to increasing an orderly process for accepting legitimate immigrants via land.

Many of Obama’s statements regarding immigrants from years ago which can still be seen and heard, sound exactly like Trump (well OK, maybe he used prettier words). Both admit there was and is a problem. It is time to accept a sensible solution. The long term solution requires helping some of the countries to our south to become more liveable.

As for our bishops, let them concentrate on getting their own house in order first.

Crystal Watson
3 months ago

People hate Trump because he lies, cheats, and appeals to the very worst in people, preaching hate as he dismantles everything good in our country, from environmental protections to civil rights.

Dolores Pap
2 months 4 weeks ago

His supporters are OK with trump's bald-faced racism, callousness and disregard of the Constitution. OK with baby jails. OK with calling our allied friends 'enemies', and our enemies 'friends'. OK with attacks on the Judicial system and attacks on our Free Press. OK with an even deeper coarsening of our moral values. NO line they would not cross..

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