Catholics and the Immigration Debate
BY CARL A. ANDERSON
April 23-29, 2006 Issue | Posted 4/24/06 at 10:00 AM
The fierce battle
over immigration legislation that has roiled
It is an issue that divides Democrats, Republicans and, frankly, Catholics. How should the faithful Catholic think about the subject?
If any group within American society ought to be able to weigh the issue with charity and understanding, it is the Catholic community. Although nearly every American can trace his lineage to immigrants who came here from somewhere else, Catholics bore the brunt of some especially virulent nativist resistance to their arrival, which began early in the 19th century and continued well into the 20th. The Knights of Columbus was founded by immigrants and the sons of immigrants, and we struggled long and hard to demonstrate to those who feared and hated us that we were just as fervent about being patriotic Americans as they were.
Moreover, Catholic Americans bring
a unique perspective to our country’s relationship with
Nearly a decade ago, the bishops
of the Western hemisphere met at the Synod of Bishops for
“We believe that we are one
community; and, although
There can be little doubt that ours is a Christian hemisphere, indeed, largely a Catholic Christian hemisphere. Our goal should be to create a vibrant (North, Central and South) American Catholic community in which our shared faith and values become a light to the entire world. But we can hardly do so if we view immigrants from elsewhere in the hemisphere with suspicion and hostility.
In his first encyclical, on the subject of love, Pope Benedict XVI cautions that “to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor or hate him altogether.” He stresses that charity, which is the product of Christian love, is central to the pursuit of justice.
This is not to say that the
But legislation that takes undocumented immigrants who have come here simply out of a desire to escape poverty and provide for their families and turns them into felons, or which criminalizes those who provide them with humanitarian assistance, is mean-spirited, unjust and wrong.
The bishops of the Synod for
Immigrants do not give up their
innate human dignity at the moment when they cross a border seeking a better
Those of us who now live in great
comfort in the
Who among us, facing desperate,
grinding poverty in a foreign land today, would not try to find their way to
“Love of neighbor,” Pope Benedict writes in Deus Caritas Est, “consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know.”
As Catholics, we are well advised
to ponder carefully Pope John Paul II’s words: “In
Jesus, God came seeking human hospitality. This is why he makes the willingness
to welcome others in love a characteristic virtue of believers. He chose to be
born into a family that found no lodging in
As Catholic Christians, and as Americans who are ourselves descended from immigrants, we must allow the light of Christian love to guide our efforts to develop a humane and rational immigration policy.
Carl Anderson is supreme knight
of the Knights of
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