When The Pope Speaks To The U.S. About Humanity, Is Mexico Listening?
April 18, 2008, 05:00 AM
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As a boy growing up in Los Angeles, I had two dreams. One was to roam center field for the New York Yankees; the other, to become a Roman Catholic priest.

My first dream quickly faded into fantasy when I realized that my baseball skills were, even among my Little League peers, no more than average.

The second dream, however, died hard.

For years, I carried my Missal, studied Latin and stood before a full-length mirror pretending to celebrate a Mass.

As an example how deeply committed I once was to Catholicism, I offer this slice of life story. After my family moved from California to Puerto Rico, I was sent to a New Jersey boy`s boarding school that had mandatory, non-denominational 11:00 Sunday chapel.

But fearful of committing, as it was then considered, a mortal sin by missing Mass, a small group of other faithful boys and I waited, often in the dark and the cold, for a public bus to take us up the 20 miles up the road for a 7:00 A.M service. We returned to the school to fulfill our chapel obligation on a 9:00 A.M. bus

So deep was my faith that I gladly sacrificed my precious free Sunday hours—classes were held six days a week— to stay in the Church`s good graces.

Yet during that exact same period, despite my unquestioning compliance with the Church`s teachings, inside me grew misgivings about the Catholicism.

Living in poverty stricken Puerto Rico opened my eyes. Until then, I had seen Catholicism from the perspective of an altar boy serving Mass at the Church of the Good Shepherd where movie stars mingled and spoke kindly to me while slipping me a couple of dollars after the service.

Why, I wondered, did so many suffer so much while others wanted for nothing? How could there be so much pain if God is all loving?

Soon, my general uneasiness about the Church`s teachings turned more specific. When I traveled through downtown San Juan, I saw penniless families with as many as six children. The families I knew had no more than three children. Yet the Church preached harshly against birth control.

Since I could never provide myself with satisfactory answers, Catholicism gradually became less meaningful to me.

Now, I rarely think about the Church—except of course when it preaches to patriots sanctimoniously and unrealistically about open immigration.

In one of life`s interesting twists and turns, VDARE.COM has provided me with a vehicle to write columns venting my frustration and, yes, disgust with Roman Catholic immigration views.

Pope Benedict XVI trip to the United States brings angry sentiments once again to my mind`s forefront.

But there is good news about Pope Benedict and his views on immigration.

  • First, to date Benedict XVI is, despite his de rigueur private comments to President Bush "to promote humane solutions to illegal immigration" and his public statement that "I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home." considerably more moderate than his predecessor, John Paul II. [Pope Hits Iraq Violence, Immigration and Sex Scandal, Jon Ward and Julia Duin, Washington Times, April 17, 2008]

The two comments cited above were completely predictable and could have been written by any of us well in advance of the Pope`s trip. They are essentially meaningless.

More important is to compare Benedict to John Paul.

An excellent 2002 essay titled The Pope`s Left Turn On Immigration by Catholic convert and Turnabout blogger Jim Kalb summarized John Paul`s immigration radicalism.

Kalb, in an e-mail exchange I had with him, pointed me to a double-speak 2006 quote about immigration from Benedict that leaves indicates he may be less strident.

Speaking from Clementine Hall in Vatican City, thousands of miles away from the political correctness of Washington, D.C. Benedict said in tones more delicate than anything ever uttered by John Paul:

"Single believers are called to open their arms and their hearts to every person, from whatever nation they come, allowing the authority responsible for public life to enforce the relevant laws held to be appropriate for a healthy co-existence."

Open your arms and hearts but enforce the law! (Read Benedict`s entire speech here.)

  • Second, whatever Benedict may say now or in the future, here or abroad about U.S. immigration policy, the pope has little influence in American politics or among American Catholics. And, carried further, over the last few decades, the Roman Catholic Church`s American branch has been at odds with Rome on a host of religious issues.

Despite his relative lack of sway in the U.S., it is nevertheless it is possible for Pope Benedict to have an impact on immigration and create the "humane solutions" he seeks if he would turn his attention to Mexico where his views are more persuasive.