Catholics and Immigration

On this issue, the Church ought to be especially careful with her moral authority, which ought to include moral clarity. Cardinal Mahoney’s recently designated successor, Archbishop José Gomez, issued a letter on immigration after he took over in San Antonio. He repeated Church teaching about the dignity of all people, even illegals, and our responsibilities towards them. But he wrote that we have to understand the anger many Americans feel at illegals breaking the law and causing multiple problems. Archbishop Gomez is Mexican-born and favors comprehensive immigration reform. But clearly he does not feel a need to ingratiate himself with Hispanic Catholics.

There are a few Open Borders advocates in the Church and the country. The rest of us understand that without control over who immigrates and their relationship to the political system, we no longer live under the rule of law. In Catholic social teaching and American Constitutionalism, the rule of law is the good alternative to a very bad one: rule by the will of men.

At the protests this weekend against the Arizona legislation, some marchers carried signs reading, “No human is illegal.” True. No government can properly declare anyone’s mere existence on earth against the law. But human beings do things that are illegal, including breaking immigration laws. Protesters with the seemingly liberal attitude want to draw on the Christian sentiment that every person has an inalienable God-given dignity – and to equate it with the right to live in this country at will. Catholics used to be clear about crucial distinctions of this sort. We’re not big on people being a law unto themselves. Far from enhancing her influence, even with Hispanics, a confused notion of charity on questions like this will cast further doubt on whether the Church really understands current problems.

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