Think about this:
If a fellow shows up at your door, penniless, starving and thirsty, and beaten by thugs, the Catholic Church says you have a normative Christian duty to help him. Consider the rancher in Arizona who gives drink to the thirsty illegals who cross his path in the desert.
But if the same fellow shows up at your door with 25 relatives and demands food and water and threatens you if he doesn’t think you provided enough, then you bolt the door and grab your rifle.
You have a greater duty to protect your family. The Church says they are your primary obligation.
The latter, not the former, describes immigration, legal and particularly illegal.
Of course, to hear the Catholic Left tell it, Church teaching demands that you surrender your house to the mob—i.e. throw open the borders, regardless of the effect on the federal and state treasuries, crime rates and American cultural coherence. They quote biblical texts, from the Infant Savior’s flight to Egypt with Mary and Joseph to the teaching of Christ on welcoming “strangers,” in a way that resembles the irrational fundamentalism of erroneous Protestant scriptural exegesis. And they ask the clichéd question: WWJD?
As a Catholic myself, I say: bunk. Whatever the radical left and their feminist nuns, collarless priests or mitred mandarins in the sexually corrupt Catholic chanceries may say, Catholic teaching does not demand, and has never demanded, that a country open its borders to limitless numbers of immigrants.
Nor does it confer upon “migrants” an unfettered right to travel wherever they wish, whenever they wish.
Far from suggesting that a nation must throw open its doors, the Church says political authorities can control and even stop immigration if they judge it necessary.
Here are the relevant passages in the Catechism—the official text of the Church’s teaching:
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. [Emphasis added]
Similarly, the U.S. Catholic bishops in their official teaching (as opposed to what they lobby for) outline three principles of immigration. The first is that “People have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families.” The third: “A country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy.”
But the second principle we don’t hear much about. Here it is:
‘While individuals have the right to move in search of a safe and humane life, no country is bound to accept all those who wish to resettle there. By this principle the Church recognizes that most immigration is ultimately not something to celebrate. Ordinarily, people do not leave the security of their own land and culture just to seek adventure in a new place or merely to enhance their standard of living. Instead, they migrate because they are desperate and the opportunity for a safe and secure life does not exist in their own land...
Because there seems to be no end to poverty, war, and misery in the world, developed nations will continue to experience pressure from many peoples who desire to resettle in their lands. Catholic social teaching is realistic: While people have the right to move, no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized.
For this reason, Catholics should not view the work of the federal government and its immigration control as negative or evil. ‘[Emphasis added]
When was the last time you heard that “[m]ost immigration is not something to celebrate”?
But the U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign website does not even mention “respecting the law”—let alone “the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them”. Nor do the bishops stress it in their endless public pontifications.
Authentic Catholic teaching on immigration is not leftist. Rather, it is rooted in human reason and reality, meaning the way things are versus the way we wish them to be —as is all Catholic teaching, which is conservative by its nature.
Indeed, in noting that “no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized,” the U.S. bishops themselves acknowledge the right of a nation to defend itself—as well as the duty of the state to provide for the common good of its own citizens.
Thus, we may rightly and justly send illegal aliens home, not least because they have not obeyed American immigration laws.
Yet when the U.S. bishops discuss “justice,” they don’t often mention that—or this item in Catholic teaching on justice: the state’s duty “to protect its subjects in their rights and to govern the whole body for the common good.”
That segues into the duties of citizens, where I have recourse to the Catechism again:
Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts… "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution. . . . Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God."[Pet 2:13,16]Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community.
It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one's country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.
Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country. [Emphases in original].
Upshot is, citizens are enjoined to be patriots. They must love and defend their country, and are obliged to pay taxes, vote and rectify unjust laws and living conditions.
That raises a few questions about the millions of Mexicans who simply abandoned their country, not because they didn’t have work but because they wanted to improve their living standards, and even worse, endangered the lives of their children by dragging them across the desert.
Were they not obliged by Catholic teaching to stay in Mexico—to become active politically and to fight for economic justice from the ruling kleptocracy?
What of the Mexican authorities who never cease lecturing Americans about their duties to illegal aliens? Is the Mexican president and his legislature governing the country for the “common good” in surrendering to the depredations of the drug cartels?
Certainly, Mexican political authorities sin in permitting citizens to live in squalor, thus encouraging them to cross the border in defiance of American law. Certainly, they sin when they provide instructional manuals on how to evade the authorities. Certainly, they sin by instructing Mexican-Americans that they are Mexicans no matter what their citizenship.(“You're Mexicans — Mexicans who live north of the border," President Ernesto Zedillo told Mexican-American politicians in Dallas in 1995..[Mexico Woos U.S. Mexicans, Proposing Dual Nationality, by Sam Dillon, NYT, December 10, 1995]
All these acts, whether by omission or commission, violate Catholic teaching.
As for the duties of illegals who are here, apropos of the Catechism and the teaching Pope John Paul II, they are obliged to obey the law—which just might mean surrendering to authorities and returning home.
Catholic teaching does not entitle them to stay forever as illegals. Catholic teaching mandates obedience to the law.
Most American Catholics, regardless of what they think of immigration, are unaware of these fine distinctions because of the way the U.S. bishops and their leftist allies systematically misrepresent Catholic teaching on immigration. (A notable exception, to my mind, is Catholic apologist blogger Jimmy Akin)
Which brings us back to Christ.
WWJD? He would tell the alien: Render unto Caesar. Obey the law. Go back home and work in your own country. If you wish to come here, get in line with everyone else.
And, if Americans decide that they don’t need even legal immigration, respect that decision too.
A.W. Morgan [Email him] is fully recovered from prolonged contact with the Beltway Right. He now lives in America.