Can the church do more to defend undocumented people?

A procession for immigrant rights on July 13 in the streets surrounding St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) A procession for immigrant rights on July 13 in the streets surrounding St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) 

As the Trump administration threatened to round up undocumented immigrants around the country in mid-July, Guadalupe Pacheco (not her real name) of Los Angeles tried to keep focused on anything else. “Of course it was in the back of my mind because I am an undocumented woman. But it was a moment of feeling that I have to choose. I could choose to stay home and watch the news or just enjoy my life, go to Mass.”

But what she found at church disappointed her. “I was hopeful they would include people seeking asylum in the intercessions. And it was not there.”

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Across the nation, bishops and other church leaders have spoken out against Trump administration asylum, detention and immigration policies. Many dioceses have mobilized to provide services for those under threat, from running seminars on how to respond to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement action to offering emergency shelter for asylum applicants. But only a few church leaders have gone beyond statements to confront the administration’s dehumanizing treatment of immigrants.

Some Catholics argue the overall church response has been too muted, given the gravity of the crisis. Bryan Pham, S.J., is a professor of law and canon law at Gonzaga University in Spokane and previously worked as an immigration attorney at the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic in Los Angeles. At Catholic colleges and universities, “you have students take on the issue,” he said, “but the institutions as a whole? I don’t hear it.”

“Parishes and institutions that are directly working with immigrants [speak out]; this affects them. But in other parishes, you don’t hear anything.”

Isaac Cuevas, director of the office of Immigration Affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, has certainly heard these complaints. “We’re a very diverse city. What a priest in Redondo Beach is going to say is very different than a priest in East L.A. or Huntington Beach,” he said. “I would hope that every priest understands how important an issue this is, the impact of this for people’s sense of well-being and how frightened people were” in mid-July.

“Parishes and institutions that are directly working with immigrants [speak out]; this affects them. But in other parishes, you don’t hear anything.”

He noted that the archdiocese sent a letter to all its clergy before the round-up of undocumented people was threatened to begin on July 16, helping them “to understand their responsibility as pastoral leaders” in the light of the president’s tweeted threats to the community.

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“Immigration is an important topic for [Los Angeles] Archbishop José Gomez,” Father Pham agreed, “you hear him talking about it.”

At Mass on July 20, in fact, the archbishop weighed in again on the issue during the homily. He explained later at a press conference for local media: “Beyond law, beyond politics, we have a duty to welcome the stranger, to open our hearts and our hands to attend to their human needs—their fears and their hunger. We need to treat them with the dignity that they have as children of God, regardless of their status.” But could this archdiocese, home to millions of immigrant Catholics do more?

Father Pham pointed out that when legislators in the state of California threatened in June to require priests to divulge information received during confession, “the archbishop wrote a letter to parishes which was read at Mass, asking people to contact their local politicians to oppose this bill, and he was very successful.” The bill was killed in the state legislature before it came to a vote.

“But when it comes to immigration,” Father Pham said, “you don’t hear the same kind of passion. You don’t have letters written to the parishes pushing them to communicate with their politicians…. I definitely think the church can be much more vocal.”

“It’s hard for people to understand the amount of work we have going on behind the scenes,” Mr. Cuevas countered. “As a church we don’t do a great job of promoting it. I know the archbishop uses his platform in strategic ways that maybe aren’t so overt.”
 

Lesson from the past: Speak the faith, speak it often
In his work as a U. S. historian, Sean Dempsey, S.J., focuses on the ways religious organizations serve as societal brokers of human rights. The situation Americans find themselves in today, he said, bears strong similarities to the United States in the recent past. “It’s not an exact parallel, but in the late 1970s and early ’80s, you also have a global refugee crisis.”

“Change only happens when there’s both grassroots activism and pressure put on elites until they side with you.”

Southeast Asian immigrants of the period were often met with openness. “Because many of those refugees had supported the United States’ cause [in Vietnam and Southeast Asia],” he said, “American administrations tended to be more receptive to them.”

But Central American refugees, fleeing nations whose governments were supported by the Reagan administration, faced obstacles to acceptance similar to those experienced by contemporary migrants, many of whom are migrating from the same countries. “The Reagan administration said, ‘We support your government, therefore we don’t accept that your country is an unsafe place,’” said Father Dempsey. “‘Therefore we’re not going to give you the status of asylum seekers. We’re going to say you’re coming for economic reasons and therefore we consider you illegal.’”

In the 1980s, religious organizations in Los Angeles responded in force to the refugee crisis as Central Americans fled death squads, poverty and civil war. “You had lots of actions at the federal building downtown, people physically blocking the trucks from transporting refugees for deportation, the boycotting of airlines that were taking them back,” Father Dempsey said.

That grassroots action was accompanied by a concerted effort to make a moral argument on the national front for the acceptance of Central Americans as refugees. “At an intellectual level the church was arguing that it doesn’t matter if certain people didn’t qualify as asylum seekers, that they were human beings fleeing war and [therefore] we were morally obligated to help them.

“They were not radical in their thought,” Father Dempsey said. “They weren’t advocating a violation of the law, but that the law should conform to universal principles. If federal law does not recognize people’s rights, that law is wrong. It’s pretty classic Catholic thought.”

At the heart of the Catholic action then were the women’s religious orders. “Oftentimes it was the women religious that helped organize these interfaith protest actions,” he said. “It was they who were working directly with refugees, shelters and parishes in various neighborhoods, who were building these networks both in the city and across into Central America.”

Today many of the organizations that began in the 1980s, “groups like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, continue to do amazing work,” he added. But overall he finds church efforts “look anemic compared to what they were.”

What may be lacking, according to Father Dempsey, is a persistent, forthright moral voice that typified the response in the 1980s. “Change only happens when there’s both grassroots activism and pressure put on elites until they side with you,” Father Dempsey said. “We have to keep articulating loudly and strongly that what’s happening right now is immoral. All of our social teaching backs that up, and most of [the migrants] are also Catholic. It should be a no-brainer for us.”

“This historical moment we’re living in calls for a more visible, public, dramatic enactment of what our faith is. Our faith is essentially performative. It’s meant to be put into action. It’s something to be incarnated. ”

Bill Canny, executive director of the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that bishops have been confronting the crisis on many fronts. He noted public actions along the border—Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Tex., for example, personally walked a family of asylum applicants into the United States—or gestures like Miami Bishop Thomas Wenski’s decision to send priests to detention centers to say Mass. Other bishops have supported their local Catholic Charities services to migrant people or delivered letters to the faithful and their representatives in Congress about the issue. “Both as a collective and as a committee on migration,” Mr. Canny said, “the bishops have been very clear that the moral line has been consistently crossed by this administration.”

Their stance on the issue has been complicated by divisions among the faithful on immigration. “We know from the polls that about half of Catholics would be in favor of Trump’s immigration policies,” he said. “Bishops are expected to be pastors of their entire flock. Bishop [Joe Vásquez, head of the U.S.C.C.B.’s Committee on Migration and Refugee Services] gets frequent letters condemning his words of encouragement to immigrants.… We need to help them understand the church’s position and convince them to get behind the movement to counter a restrictionist immigrant attitude of this administration.”

Praying with our feet
Melissa Cedillo is a fellow at Faith in Public Life, a national network of clergy and faith leaders who advocate for social justice and the common good. She believes Catholic bishops could have a significant impact on the current dialogue around immigration if they wedded their words to more strategic action. “It’s helpful when the bishops issue statements, like welcoming immigrants,” she acknowledged. “But when you’re thinking about media and what gets attention, when the bishops do something—walking a family across the border, giving communion through the wall—that gets attention.”

It also offers a clear expression of Catholic beliefs, she said. “When we had 30 sisters and Tom Reese getting arrested,” she said, referring to a demonstration at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington in February 2018, “[it’s clear] we’re not messing around: This is what we want, this is what we stand for. It’s a beautiful intersection of faith in action; we are praying with our feet and our bodies.”

A similar demonstration with that intent was held on July 18 in Washington during a “Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children.” The event drew protestors from different Catholic advocacy, service and education ministries from around the country and included an action in the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda that led to the arrest of 65 demonstrators.

Gail Gresser is the director of campus ministry at Mount St. Mary’s University, in Los Angeles. “The majority of our students are from immigrant families,” she said. “Just about everybody you talk to knows someone who doesn’t have documents.”

She, too, praises the bishops for the formal statements they have made on immigration. “But I wish the bishops as a whole would do something more dramatic, more visible,” she said. “All the bishops at one of the detention centers…. That would convey a message.”

“You look at Pope Francis offering these visceral images. He does not say, ‘Visit the imprisoned,’ he goes there himself and washes their feet. He goes to where the refugee crisis is and tells them, ‘God loves you.’” 

Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Tex., recalled “near-universal disappointment with the statement from...the U.S.C.C.B. the first time mass deportations were threatened.”

“I don’t know that I would be so critical,” Mr. Corbett said. “On the issue of immigration, the church is doing a lot. It’s advocating on Capitol Hill. It’s supporting development in regions like Central America.

“But this historical moment we’re living in calls for a more visible, public, dramatic enactment of what our faith is. Our faith is essentially performative. It’s meant to be put into action. It’s something to be incarnated. ”

“I think that’s what’s missing,” Mr. Corbett said, “that visible demonstration of solidarity. I think people are looking for that.”

“You look at Pope Francis offering these visceral images,” Ms. Cedillo said. “He does not say, ‘Visit the imprisoned,’ he goes there himself and washes their feet. He goes to where the refugee crisis is and tells them, ‘God loves you.’ He doesn’t get lost in complex theologies of what do we do, what is the answer. He says, ‘I’ll just show you.’”

“Is what we’re doing enough?” Mr. Canny asked. “That’s a question that we should consistently reflect on, there’s no doubt about it. I ask myself that. I’m a family man, I have kids, but nonetheless, should I be out here, getting arrested?

“Sometimes when there’s a raid people won’t go to church because their church hasn’t spoken about it. They’re not sure where their church stands.”

“I’m not going to take issue with those who would want the bishops to do more,” he said. “But I think we have to be very careful as lay faithful that we’re asking ourselves the same questions. These are fair questions for all of us.”

Catholics working with undocumented people suggest there are many ways to marry words and deeds in this moment. Louise Martinez (not her real name) runs one of the few Catholic institutions in Los Angeles that offers sanctuary to undocumented people.

Her shelter has chosen to keep its status quiet; because it is one of the only places the undocumented can go, the fear of government action against the shelter or people staying there is high. But “if the archdiocese were to declare itself a sanctuary, [including] all its churches,” she suggested, things could be different for her program. “Nobody would be able to target a specific location.”

Ms. Cedillo agreed: “When there is a raid announced on a Sunday, every church should be lining up to say, ‘If you wish, we’re open to you.’”

Guadalupe Pacheco suggests archdiocesan fundraising as another means of gathering attention and demonstrating intent. “The church in Los Angeles has a great immigration center, the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project. But it’s underfunded,” she said.

Even just showing up at interfaith events—or not—can speak volumes, said Ms. Cedillo. “In Washington, D.C., any time there’s an immigration vigil or protest, I don’t have to worry about Jewish colleagues showing up,” she said. “If I want a rabbi to speak, it’s not hard to track one down.” But “a lot of priests say, ‘I would, but I probably shouldn’t.’”

“If we think of sanctuary as just one place, we’re missing a great opportunity to become living Christians who are temples of sanctuary for others. My home is a sanctuary. So is your home, your business, your car.” 

“We call the sisters and they say, ‘How many of us do you need,’” she said. “I have been amazed time and time again by them. They are out there every day; they know policy, they know who’s voting on what.” When it comes to what the church should be doing, Ms. Cedillo advised, “follow the sisters, listen to them.”

Finding sanctuary
In light of ongoing revelations of buses at migrant detention centers, some Catholics believe the offer of sanctuary has become a moral imperative. “I definitely think we should be doing it,” said Father Pham. “When it comes to people’s dignity, people’s lives—these are questions of faith, of who we are as a people. We can discern, but it’s not a discernment of which side we’re on. It’s a discernment of how we’re going to move forward. If we’re truly Catholic and Christian, what we have to do is very clear.”

“We have to be aware of the legal ramifications,” he added, and he noted sanctuary cannot just be the decision of a pastor: “Everyone [in the parish] is involved.”

Others who support the idea of sanctuary admit to its practical challenges. “Sanctuary is not a one-time thing,” said Ms. Cedillo. “Look at the Mennonites hosting Edith Espinal in Ohio—she’s been there for over a year. She doesn’t need just a bed but food and help for her children.”

And some worry about consequences on their overall ministry. “For us at the Mount, we’re already serving so many people that are economically strapped and facing our own economic challenges,” said Ms. Gresser. “To declare ourselves a sanctuary and violate the law, it would probably harm our institution.”

But Ms. Gresser wonders if the debate over sanctuary sometimes misses the mark. “What do we mean by sanctuary?” she asked. “At Mount St. Mary and most Catholic institutions, we will not cooperate with ICE or law enforcement who want to identify you without a clear court order mandating that we must do this.”

For her part, Ms. Pacheco questions the whole idea of making sanctuary just about churches. “If we think of sanctuary as just one place, we’re missing a great opportunity to become living Christians who are temples of sanctuary for others. My home is a sanctuary. So is your home, your business, your car. We are each called to be a place where the refuge of God is vivid and experienced.

“Don’t make me as an undocumented immigrant run to a church. Please, neighbor, open your door and let me be there.”

Mr. Cuevas agreed. “The church isn’t an entity upon the hill or in a white castle that can issue a statement and things will automatically happen. Anyone that feels like the church should be doing something, they are the church. Rather than demand something from their pastor, I wish they would get more involved.”

He also noted that alongside action, immigration reform is essential. “Immigration has been this can we’ve been kicking down the road for years and years.” It is still possible to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package, a goal long supported by U.S. bishops, he said. “This isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. Both sides have to meet in the middle.”

Today some may think of Los Angeles as one of the safer U.S. cities to be an undocumented person. But that is just not true for the people Ms. Martinez serves. “It took a long time for the city to declare itself a sanctuary,” she said. “And the police say they’re not going to cooperate with ICE, but we have heard that in the past, and then we have shelter residents telling us they were detained [by police].

“The fear is always there.”

“I haven’t been as prayerful these last two years as I used to be,” Ms. Pacheco said, “and I’m sorry for that. It’s not God; it’s people making this difficult. But this feeling of not belonging, it makes me question my understanding of how I can belong to God.”

But she has also gained an unexpected sense of mission from her circumstances. She noted the Sunday’s Gospel on July 14, the parable of the Good Samaritan: “We can spend time criticizing the priest who didn’t stop...and we lose track of the kindness that made a difference. This time and moment is a great opportunity to choose: Who do you want to be?

“Being an undocumented person,” she said, “is a blessing as well. It makes you empathetic. I feel like the blind person that is touched by Jesus. He gives you a new sight.”

Correction July 30 12:44 pm EDT: The Most Rev. Mark Seitz was mistakenly referred to as the bishop of Austin; he is the bishop leader of the Diocese of El Paso, Tex.

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

Till the Catholic Church admits it’s culpability in the economic conditions in Latin America, it has little credibility on this issue. Remember, they are fleeing Catholic countries.

Despite the tears of Ocasio-Cortez, the people are being treated fairly well. Doesn’t fit the narrative does it?

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 3 days ago

A little over 200 years ago about 98% of the world lived in abject poverty afraid to protest their bleak life or else it might become even shorter. Now the people of Central America live several levels above that state of existence. Are they better off? Yes, but they see a lot of the world several levels above their existence in material terms and in safety. They all cannot attain this level of material goods so what is to be done? None of the authors here address this. It is ironic because one of the reasons for their lower economic status is the Church.

Monica Storozuk
3 weeks 3 days ago

J. Cosgrove - you have so many negative comments in the comment section of the America publication. Why do you subscribe I wonder? Have you EVER once made a favourable comment to one of the articles?

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 3 days ago

Many favorable comments. But rarely on politics. Mainly because politics is the obsession here not Catholicism. The politics is very left of center, relatively new for Jesuits. The head of the order, from Venezuela endorsed the communism of Chavez. So my guess that orientation reflects most of the order currently. Also the immigration migrant issue has nothing to do with the welfare of immigrants. It has to do with how they will vote. I had an ultra liberal lecture me last week on how they will take over the US using Hispanic voters.

Opting Out
3 weeks 2 days ago

J. Cosgrove - you have so many negative comments in the comment section of the America publication.
People who are unhappy, like most of the far Left and far Right on these and other forums, get their egos massaged by denigrating, demeaning and excluding others. Hillary’s “deplorables / irredeemable” and Trump’s “sh1tholes” comments are no different. We can forgive Hillary and Trump since wealth is their god. As for the rest they lack inner conversion just like you and me. So we pray for God’s Grace to be manifest in us and humility.
All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. - Flannery O’Connor

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 2 days ago

I put the liberal left into three categories, uninformed, misguided and malevolent. I have never seen one able to defend their position on evidence and logic. Though I am sure most would not agree with me on that. Most here are uninformed or misguided and a large percentage are intransigent while accusing others of close mindedness. I have run into a few in other places who I would classify as malevolent but not really here.

Judith Jordan
3 weeks 2 days ago

J Cosgrove---
Your comments about liberals are interesting. This is how most liberals think about Trump supporters.

Stanley Kopacz
3 weeks ago

Yes. How can one disagree with Trump's constant appeals to reason. Crooked Hillary. Little Marco. Dummy Tillerson. The Republican propaganda machine has been programming the electorate for reflex reactions for the past forty years. Trump merely moved in and took advantage, like a phony car warranty robocaller hooking an old person in the early phase of dementia.

Robert Lewis
3 weeks ago

Faithful Catholic Christians only need one definitive guide for appropriate treatment of refugees: it's in the Beatitudes, and I suggest you read that Scriptural passage carefully and then quit your vile and un-Christian obfuscations.
Meanwhile, we "liberals" will support hiring an ARMY of immigration lawyers and judges (using your and my tax dollars, rather than spending them on a grossly over-staffed and equipped military industrial complex--after all, didn't the racist fascist in the White House say we have a "national security" problem at the border?)--and deploying them where every legitimate asylum-seeker can be processed quickly, rather than set loose among the general public, and so that every one whom the America government is not bound by international treaty to accept as an asylum-seeker can be accompanied humanely and expeditiously back to his or her country of origin.
Of course, this would mean giving up the "wall" as one of the Right's cause celebres to facilitate their politics of divisiveness and racial disharmony, and it also might mean cooperating with South and Central American governments to promote greater socio-economic justice (rather than the "crony capitalism" that American corporations batten off down there), and it might mean promoting efforts to help alleviate the social and economic stress caused down there by the global warming that the fascistic Latin "populisms" that America supports inflict upon poor and indigenous people, in order to grow the wealth of the class that collude with "developers" to strip mine and deforest the landscapes.

Steven Mckenzie
3 weeks 1 day ago

Mr. McDermott how about a story on the millions of dollars that Catholic(Church) Charites is making on the immigration crisis. None of the Catholic publications ever what to publish an article on the financial windfall that the church receives?

Christopher Lochner
3 weeks ago

As always, we must begin with the inherently dishonest intellectuality evident in referring to individuals as migrants or immigrants, as the people are more properly addressed as unauthorized migrants. This dissemination of the original concept (no person is illegal!) is only created in order to win an argument by unifying everyone under the same canopy. The individuals in question are not seeking asylum in a legal and justified manner. Some of their supporters are requesting preferential treatment. The Hispanic community is not a monolithic block, regardless of what might be read. Many people have migrated in a justified manner and have worked very hard to gain citizenship. They desire the same for others and this is not unchristian. A rule of law is not unchristian.
Now this does not mean we may act with cruelty. The supporters and the people under their loving guidance, while sinners, must be treated with respect- love the sinner and not the sin. Christ does not allow for hatred. To both sides one might admonish to now go and sin no more.
What I find to so very reprehensible is the means by which the people at the border have become a cause célèbre for those interested in political issues. One respondent brought up the Beatitudes. Yes! And yet what of the the homeless population of, say, Los Angeles County which numbers around 60,000 people? Not only do they not drink from a toilet but they do not even have easy access to a toilet with which to use. They sleep but not in a bed. And why are these people invisible? Why is their plight not adressed from the pulpit? Of course, because there is no earthly glory involved for their supporters. This is the selective reading of the Beatitudes and the Parable of the Good Samaritan which the U.S. Bishops are infamous for and is often witnessed in their proclamations. It is not a love from the heart but the desire to assist a political block which has very powerful support. They would, with great fanfare, clothe the migrant before they would even acknowledge the suffering of those on the ground right at their own feet, as would so many of the self-righteous organizations. And THAT is vile. Selective love IS vile,
Perhaps, I am wrong, though. Perhaps the Bishops DO fly in to visit those on skid row, to walk with the poor, to offer Communion to them (especially as a photo opportunity!) , to bear witness to their suffering but I doubt it. Perhaps the very wealthy Jesuit institutions share the wealth with those less fortunate but I doubt it. Perhaps Canisius College, recently mentioned on this site and providing 5-star accomodations for migrants, will also provide this service for those in need and indigenous to their city but I doubt it. Please correct me if I am in sinful error!
For concerning this issue the responses are not from any goodwill, are not from the heart, and are not Christian in nature but are politically motivated to assist one group over another. If the Bishops referred to themselves as just another PAC with an extremely narrow issue of concern then I might not be so bothered. But they invoke Christ and in doing so have failed miserably. Christ only appears to exist as a means of justification for their wordly beliefs. Perhaps the Bishops should themselves read Scripture and try not to fabricate a meaning which supports their political leanings and instead try to be much less the politicians which they have become and much more the Sheppards of all people.
And only towards the end of the article do we find the statement of real value in the article; "...immigration reform is essential..." What a pity
Please understand the issue which so annoys me. For so many people show love for people who are thousands of kilometers away when they do not know the name of, much less care about their own neighbor, the lonely old woman down the street. And as for this preferential love issue I present Matthew 5:46 "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" This is the type of "love" I am noticing as relative to the issue at hand, a celebration of cause and not people.

John Barbieri
3 weeks ago

Thank you for casting light and not heat on this important subject!

Joan Hill
2 weeks 5 days ago

Both/and, not either/or. Humane treatment of migrants (and according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights they are not crossing illegally, whatever the location) does not preclude humane treatment of those Americans who are homeless or living in poverty. We have enough money for both.

Joan Hill
2 weeks 5 days ago

Both/and, not either/or. Humane treatment of migrants (and according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights they are not crossing illegally, whatever the location) does not preclude humane treatment of those Americans who are homeless or living in poverty. We have enough money for both.

Mike Macrie
3 weeks ago

This was a great Article on can “ The Catholic Church do More” on protecting Undocumented Immigrants. The answer is Yes. But the very first thing the Church needs to do before they even start is to convince Catholics themselves that loving the Immigrant is “ Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself”. Until Catholics come to believe that Loving the Undocumented Immigrant is a core principle of Catholicism, they will continue to spin their wheels. Until Catholics believe that the Commandment of “ Loving thy Neighbor “ is no less or greater than “Thou Shall not Murder” (Abortion), the Church will remain in quicksand on the issue.

Mike Macrie
3 weeks ago

Looking forward of seeing ideas among Catholics themselves of what a Comprehensive Immigration Plan would look like and where Compromises can be made. I would also like to see the Conference of American Bishops to put out a plan on Comprehensive Immigration. It’s time to put up or Shut Up.

Vincent Gaglione
2 weeks 6 days ago

This is a great article which publicizes some important issues and reveals some disturbing realities about the Catholic Church, Bishops, priests, and Catholics in the USA. It is an effort to be persuasive on issues about which, I would guess, at least half the USA’s Catholics, nominal and otherwise, oppose the social teachings of the Catholic Church. The article has its purposes but unfortunately it will not be disseminated to ordinary Catholics, nominal or otherwise.

The article makes reference to Catholic social teachings without ever making the statement that these are moral teachings. They were never taught in Catholic schools nor discussed in pulpit homilies with the same moral rigor as was sexual morality. They impinge on the economic, cultural, and social comfort level of Catholics, nominal or otherwise. Bishops and pastors are reluctant to disturb contributors. For all its vaunted successes (they all go to college!), our Catholic schools have produced generations who in many instances are bigots, are people without any moral empathy for the poor, suffering and the displaced. You can claim all you want that your political agenda is better for the poor, suffering, and displaced, but what are you doing for them right now, in the here and now. It’s a question as pertinent to the Bishops as it is to the Catholics in the pews or their beds on Sunday mornings.

Robert Lewis
2 weeks 6 days ago

Mr. Lochner's comment above is just as useful and pertinent as the article itself.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 5 days ago

Vince
Just what does it mean “ to DEFEND the undocumented” as a moral matter?......To take some political action? Or to contribute to their economic needs? ........To protect them from physical deportation by providing sanctuary or to contribute to their legal defense?.
One can have empathy for the poor ,suffering, and displaced without being in favor of specific political action. You want the pulpit to be used. But should the Church be preaching political action or personal action in the form of housing, clothing ,food and monetary support to those agencies providing such services?

Robert Lewis
2 weeks 5 days ago

Both, in the context of the Beatitudes, it seems to me. Political agendas should be informed, and, in some cases, strictly guided by Christian values.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 4 days ago

Robert
I doubt that Vince was advocating that the pulpit be used for all issues involving the intersection of politics, law, morals and Church teachings. Imagine the Bishops instructing the Pastors to hit the high places to “bell, book and candle “ Catholic politicians and reprove the Faithful who are “ pro choice” . Imagine the result if the pulpit took on the many Union’s who donate millions of dollars each year to Planned Parenthood. Imagine what would happen if the pulpit was used to point out that “subsidiarity” requires that parents be able to have a school choice for their children including charter schools.

Vincent Gaglione
2 weeks 3 days ago

Hey Stuart,
It's been a while since we have chatted. I haven't seen your name on the site in quite a while. Hope all is well for and with you.

From the civic point of view several ways to be empathetic and still uphold the law:
for those requesting asylum according to our and international laws, provide ready and immediate adjudication of the claim; in the meantime, house them appropriately and humanely (given the fact that we don't do that for our own citizens, I have little hope to see it); if there's 2 and half billion for a wall, use some of it to hire judges and build decent transient housing!
for children separated from families, work on reuniting the children with their families ASAP;
for the undocumented in this country, give them a path to citizenship; the economy of the nation is booming allegedly, they are not taking jobs away from anyone apparently.

from a moral point of view:
stop referring to them in rhetoric that is demeaning and offensive;
contribute to their personal welfare - food, clothing, housing, etc.;
DEFEND the human and lawful rights of the undocumented - as human beings, as refugees, some even as co-religionists.

If that'spolitical action, then I want the Church to preach about it, just as we saw clergy in Communist countries preach against their nations' immoral practices. Evil deeds are evil no matter where and who commits them. If we teach anything, then railing against evil deeds is the Church's obligation. We do it for a few things and ignore a whole lot more.

Be well.

Vinny

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 3 days ago

Vince
I 100% agree that the Pulpit should be used to engender financial and physical means support for the illegal immigrants I personally use Catholic Charities because they have minuscule overhead. Were I 60 years younger I might even be able to provide more than monetary support.
But when it comes to what “the border laws should be” I believe that the Church has no expertise in solving the problems of the multiple constituencies ,and innumerable affected/effected parties or the parameters of and the capabilities of the available support at a state,local and federal level.

In formulating new law, I certainly have no objection to the Church pointing out issues that should be addressed and commenting on the moral implications of what ever course of action is ultimately decided upon but it should have no part in the original design or implementation of such legislation
As for hiring more judges see my comment below to Robert Lewis. There is simply no way you can hire enough people to clear the 1,000,000 case backlog and handle the current influx of 100,000 additional claimants per month. We just appropriated $45,000,000 for hiring and training JUST/ONLY 30 new judges WHO WON’t makes dent in the problem.
There needs to be a complete review of the Flores Settlement and the current legal distinction in the handling of Mexican and Central Americans must be eliminated. As a public matter the current politicization of the deportation of individuals whose cases were heard and adversely decided simply must end or the judicial process is for naught !

JOHN GRONDELSKI
2 weeks 6 days ago

There is no "Catholic position" on "defending the undocumented," because it is not immoral to defend one's border or demand that immigration occur in a legal fashion. So this Catholic agrees with the efforts of those who want to demand LEGAL immigration and holding ILLEGALS accountable (including removing them). And please stop trafficking in euphemisms: it's not like these "undocumented" left their IDs at home, oops--they are illegally here and so they are ILLEGALS. Finally, when bishops can march around and spend money for ILLEGALS but can't fund my parish church or school, there is something grossly wrong with "Church" priorities.

Joan Hill
2 weeks 4 days ago

But there is Catholic doctrine, very clear and explicit, on cruelty to children and inhumane treatment of people. Both Amnesty International and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights have called us out on our treatment of migrants in custody. Children taken without notice from their parents and not properly documented. Babies drinking from the same unwashed bottle for days. Toddlers living in the same clothes for days. Adults held in standing room only cells. It does not take a degree in theology to know that these things are sinful. Just basic humanity.

Joan Hill
2 weeks 6 days ago

A very helpful and informative article. I would take the argument one step further. I read about adults held for days in standing-room only cages; infants in cold rooms, sleeping on concrete floors; toddlers, separated from their mothers and held in conditions so awful they would get a kennel closed. Where in the name of God is the Catholic outrage? When both Amnesty International and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights calls us out for inhumane treatment of migrants, where is the USCCB? There is room for debate about immigration policy. There is no room for debate that holding people in squalor, with lack of adequate food and medical care, and doing lifelong damage to children by family separation, violates the most basic human values. Where is our outrage? Where is the leadership of the Church?

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 5 days ago

Joan
When you are suddenly faced with housing 10 to 20 times the number of people for which your facility is designed, then one can be outraged but not surprised that conditions rapidly deteriorate. The issue is why are there 10to 20 times the number that could have been reasonably expected? What do you do about this surge? Just ignore the law and let everyone pass unimpeded? Should just bringing a child with you give you an exemption from the immigration laws and Rules?

You are looking at nothing less than the liberal and progressive implementation of a core Saul Alinsky principle: You break a social welfare system by overwhelming it with use so that it will collapse. THEN you can rebuild it along liberal/Progressive ideals. In this case the Progressive Ideal is “Open Borders”.
No matter its subtle qualifications, the Catholic Church is firmly in favor of Open Borders and is knowingly assisting in the implementation of this core Alinsky teaching. This article is produced precisely for that purpose.....if you doubt it then wait until you see the official Church position on Immigration Reform, when, as and if it ever occurs.

Robert Lewis
2 weeks 5 days ago

No, of course not, you FUND the hiring of more personnel, in order to deal expeditiously and humanely with the so-called (by Drumpf), "national security issue" at the border. When will you right-wing folks wake up to the fact that "hot-button" symbols, like a stupid, ineffectual "wall" are meant by politicians to cause the kinds of divisiveness that keeps ALL of them (right or left-wing) in power? An ARMY of immigration judges and lawyers could deal with the problem relatively easily, so long as safe, clean and humane transport back to their places of origin be provided to those who are not eligible, under international law, to a right of asylum. Also, of course, the local problems in Central and South America (many of them CAUSED by Global--meaning American-funded--capitalism) must be solved carefully and gradually. We live in what is fast becoming a "global village" and the droughts, epidemics, terrorism and infestations that occur in one country are inevitable going to affect the people in neighboring countries. This is inevitable, and must be accepted. Nationalist "populism" is a formula for the return to the genocidal warfare of yesteryear.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 5 days ago

Robert
BINGO..your .Standard is.INTERNATIONAL LAW!...nonsense the US has its own laws as do Mexico, Canada, Etc etc...There is no International Law except as agreed upon by all nations which is clearly not the case for immigration or asylum.

Your solution “more Immigration Judges”......there are already approximately 1,000,000 cases currently waiting to be heard and new arrivals have been numbering over 100,000 per month. It is physically impossible to have a sufficient number of Judges to meet this backlog and the avalanche of new arrivals. For six months the Democrats in Congress refused to even admit there was a real problem.....it was called a “manufactured crisis ”. The current problem/crisis was predicted to occur as far back as in 2014 by no less than Jeh Johnson under the Obama Administration and yet Congress failed to act to get ahead of the issue (60 votes were needed in Senate).

Robert Lewis
2 weeks 4 days ago

"..It is physically impossible to have a sufficient number of Judges to meet this backlog and the avalanche of new arrivals..."

No, it's not, not if what Drumpf says is true, that "there is a national security crisis at the border." Certainly, it's more sensible than building a stupid wall, which the Palestinians of Gaza have shown to be permeable, on both the Egyptian and Israeli side. It would be a ridiculous waste of money, but it certainly does serve the Right-wing agenda, to keep the gullible Americans divided.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 4 days ago

Robert
Try doing the math....for just the present backlog ...without regard to the current increase of 100,000 per month.
If a judge handles 4 cases a day (the minimum required for a fair hearing and a decision) it would take well over 250,000 man work days which at a 40 hr work week results in 6,250 work weeks (remember a max of 50 work weeks in a year).....that is just for the backlog! Now add 100,000 additional cases per month ...
There are not even enough qualified people who would accept the pay of an administrative law judge to meet this need Further the cost would exceed anything Congress would ever approve: Consider that the recent Immigration Humanitarian Relief Bill contained $45,000,000 to to train and hire JUST 30 new border judges!!!

As for the Israeli Wall, I think you will find that the Israelis would rather have it

Robert Lewis
2 weeks 3 days ago

Then I should very much like to know how you propose to deal with THIS:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/audio/2019/aug/02/running-dry-water-crisis-driving-migration-central-america-us-podcast

Please note that the problem is being largely caused by global warming--and you DO know, I suppose, which country is the biggest "global warmer," right?

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 2 days ago

Robert
What becomes increasingly clear is that if you are going to deal fairly with just the backlog of 1,000,000 cases claiming asylum you are going to have to stop the inflow.
The huge amount of resources required to handle the new arrival claimants are diverted from applying such resources to the oldest cases. The facile answer is “just increase resources” but as a factual matter they are not available except at the expense of other programs——we have been and are still running Trillion dollar additions to the National Debt through our annual deficit. This is one of the reasons I have referred to this as a Saul Alinsky goal: “overwhelm and bankrupt the social service and then reconstruct it on Progressive lines”.....In this case the Alinsky goal is “Open Borders....just drop the requirement for claiming and adjudicating asylum claims!”

Joan Hill
2 weeks 4 days ago

When we

The sudden influx is only part of the problem. When we are faced with a sudden influx of people in a flood or hurricane we manage -- the National Guard, the Red Cross, etc. And we call on local charities. I have seen photos of volunteers bringing diapers, formula, toys, only to be turned away. The problem is that Trump refers to these people as "animals." The Border Patrol refer to them with contempt. They have no incentive to treat them otherwise. "What you do to the least of these..." Many organizations are caring for folks once they are released. I can't believe they would not rush to help in the detention centers if asked. The BP will not even let Members of Congress visit without prior notice. What are they hiding?

Joan Hill
2 weeks 4 days ago

When we

The sudden influx is only part of the problem. When we are faced with a sudden influx of people in a flood or hurricane we manage -- the National Guard, the Red Cross, etc. And we call on local charities. I have seen photos of volunteers bringing diapers, formula, toys, only to be turned away. The problem is that Trump refers to these people as "animals." The Border Patrol refer to them with contempt. They have no incentive to treat them otherwise. "What you do to the least of these..." Many organizations are caring for folks once they are released. I can't believe they would not rush to help in the detention centers if asked. The BP will not even let Members of Congress visit without prior notice. What are they hiding?

Joan Hill
2 weeks 4 days ago

When we

The sudden influx is only part of the problem. When we are faced with a sudden influx of people in a flood or hurricane we manage -- the National Guard, the Red Cross, etc. And we call on local charities. I have seen photos of volunteers bringing diapers, formula, toys, only to be turned away. The problem is that Trump refers to these people as "animals." The Border Patrol refer to them with contempt. They have no incentive to treat them otherwise. "What you do to the least of these..." Many organizations are caring for folks once they are released. I can't believe they would not rush to help in the detention centers if asked. The BP will not even let Members of Congress visit without prior notice. What are they hiding?

Joan Hill
2 weeks 4 days ago

When we

The sudden influx is only part of the problem. When we are faced with a sudden influx of people in a flood or hurricane we manage -- the National Guard, the Red Cross, etc. And we call on local charities. I have seen photos of volunteers bringing diapers, formula, toys, only to be turned away. The problem is that Trump refers to these people as "animals." The Border Patrol refer to them with contempt. They have no incentive to treat them otherwise. "What you do to the least of these..." Many organizations are caring for folks once they are released. I can't believe they would not rush to help in the detention centers if asked. The BP will not even let Members of Congress visit without prior notice. What are they hiding?

Joan Hill
2 weeks 4 days ago

Sorry, hit the button too many times.

Vincent Gaglione
2 weeks 4 days ago

If only our Bishops and priests had the same guts that these Franciscan Sisters have!

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/01/us/politics/immigration-indiana-oldenburg.html

Michael Starks
2 weeks 1 day ago

I was astonished to see this article. A few minutes reading about what Catholic nuns, Jewish leaders and laity, and Quakers are doing to defend undocumented people will tell you emphatically that the Catholic clergy and laity can and should be doing much more. How many bishops in the US Catholic Church? You can count on two hands the number who have spoken out against the immigration policies of the US government and the treatment of migrants and refugees by American authorities. Compare that to the church's lobbying, public statements, and public protests against abortion. It is obvious that the church is not doing enough to defend undocumented people.

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