A guest post by commenter Greg Mockeridge:
To characterize my view of how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has responded to the secular left’s all out assault on religious liberty, culminating with the 2012 Obamacare mandate, as less than impressive would be a massive understatement to say the least.
Even the more positive elements of the annual Fortnight for Freedom in the context of their longstanding track record of getting into bed with Caesar is, at best, a dog and pony show, and a bad one at that!
To make matters worse, since at least 2014, the Fortnight for Freedom has listed efforts from a handful of individual states to deal with the problems they face face due to illegal immigration as a threat to religious liberty.
The 2017 Fortnight statement reads:
State immigration laws. Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what the government deems “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to those immigrants. Perhaps the most egregious of these is in Alabama, where the Catholic bishops, in cooperation with the Episcopal and Methodist bishops of Alabama, filed suit against the law:
It is with sadness that we brought this legal action but with a deep sense that we, as people of faith, have no choice but to defend the right to the free exercise of religion granted to us as citizens of Alabama. . . . The law makes illegal the exercise of our Christian religion which we, as citizens of Alabama, have a right to follow. The law prohibits almost everything which would assist an undocumented immigrant or encourage an undocumented immigrant to live in Alabama. This new Alabama law makes it illegal for a Catholic priest to baptize, hear the confession of, celebrate the anointing of the sick with, or preach the word of God to, an undocumented immigrant. Nor can we encourage them to attend Mass or give them a ride to Mass. It is illegal to allow them to attend adult scripture study groups, or attend CCD or Sunday school classes. It is illegal for the clergy to counsel them in times of difficulty or in preparation for marriage. It is illegal for them to come to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings or other recovery groups at our churches. (Archbishop Rodi of Mobile Alabama)
This statement is egregious in a number of respects. First of all, the dutiful parroting of the pro-illegal alien lobby’s use of the term “undocumented immigrant”. This is not just an inaccurate term, it is an outright lie. If you are in this country, or any other country for that matter, illegally, you are not an immigrant.
It is also like saying, “I did my homework, but the dog ate it. Therefore, I am entitled to receive credit for it anyway.
Or, let’s say, I were to break into the Archbishop’s residence and make myself at home. And he would come home to find me there. He would surely regard me as a trespasser. But I would respond by saying I am not a trespasser, but an “undocumented” guest. I don’t think he would agree and would surely have me removed either by calling the police or physically removing me himself if he he were able and wanted to do the job himself.
He would be right in doing so. He would also be contradicting himself.
Secondly, consistency would demand he extend the same right to escapees from local jails and prisons.
This gives us a sense of just how ridiculous Archbishop Rodi’s assertions are. Seeing as how he was a party to a lawsuit against H.B. 56, he is (or at least should be) familiar enough with the law to know that what he says about it comes nowhere close to agreeing with an accurate reading of the law. The law does prohibit the harboring and transporting of illegal aliens, pursuant to federal law. However, there is nothing in this law that says or implies that churches and other charities have to ascertain the immigration status of someone before providing spiritual or material assistance.
This sounds more like the psychologically-unhinged hyperventilation of someone like Mark Shea than something an archbishop would say. But yet this is par for the course for the USCCB. They have repeatedly engaged in a stream of attacks on state immigration laws, even though they fall well within the parameters of Church teaching.
In March of 2012, the USCCB filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief, siding with the Obama Administration against the Arizona immigration law (SB 1070) on the grounds that it violated religious liberty.
But this is not just the USCCB acting as some nameless faceless corporate blob. And the individual bishops driving this bus are not only the episcopal offspring of Archbishop Rembert Weakland or Cardinal Joseph Bernadin. There are bishops with long standing reputations for orthodoxy engaging in this malfeasance as well. Two years before he was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York attacked the Arizona law this way:
Anyone who does not believe that “history repeats itself” has only to take a look at the unfortunate new law in Arizona.
Throughout American history, whenever there is tension and turmoil in society — economic distress, political rifts, war, distrust and confusion in culture — the immigrant unfailingly becomes the scapegoat.
It’s a supreme paradox in our American culture — where every person unless a Native American, is a descendent of immigrants — that we seem to harbor an ingrained fear of “the other,” which, in our history, is usually the foreigner (immigrant), the Jew, the Catholic, or the black. (cf. Religious Outsiders, by R. L. Moore, or Immigrants and Exiles, by K. Miller).
So we can chart periodic spasms of “anti-immigrant” fever in our nation’s history: the Nativists of the 1840’s, who led mobs to torch Irish homes and Catholic churches; the Know-Nothings of the 1850’s who wanted to deny the vote to everyone except white, Protestant, native-born, “pure” Americans; the American Protective Association of the 1880’s and 1890’s who were scared of the arrival of immigrants from Italy, Poland, and Germany; the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s who spewed hate against blacks, Jews, Catholics, and “forn-ers”; the “eugenics movement” of the 1920’s and 1930’s who worried that racial purity was being compromised by the immigrant and non-Anglo Saxon blood lines; and the Protestants and Other Americans United of the 1950’s who were apprehensive about Catholic immigrants and their grandkids upsetting the religious and cultural concord of America.
And, here we go again! Arizona is so scared, apparently, and so convinced that the #1 threat to society today is the immigrant that it has passed a mean-spirited bill of doubtful constitutionality that has as its intention the expulsion of the immigrant.
To take issue with the Arizona law as a matter of policy is one thing. But to level accusations that it violates religious liberty or that is equal to actions of the Know Nothings of the 19th century or the KKK when there is absolutely no evidence to support such an accusation is both scurrilous and calumnious. And when this comes from Catholic bishops it causes even greater scandal.
But Dolan is not the only “orthodox” bishop engaging in this. On March 19th of this year Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia held a pro-illegal immigration prayer service at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul. It is called a pro-immigration prayer service. But pro-immigration in bishop-speak nowadays is really pro-illegal immigration.
He began his homily saying, “I was hoping we would have a cathedral full of people who disagreed with the Church’s teaching on immigration..”
Notice how he characterizes disagreements with the bishops policy position as a disagreement with Church teaching? This is a common tactic of Archbishop Chaput. He does the same thing with the death penalty.
There really isn’t a Church teaching on immigration per se. There are general principles that guide how nations should craft immigration policy.
In paragraph 2241, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“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.”
The operative phrase here is “to the extent that they are able.” A country’s ability to receive immigrants depends upon economic, security, and cultural factors. And since making such determinations are, to a great extent, judgment calls and therefore subjective, legitmate Catholic viewpoints admit a wide range of divergent views. Opposition to either HB 56 or SB 1070 is a legitimate Catholic viewpoint. And support for these two laws is equally legitimate. Trying to shoe horn Catholic teaching into an open borders policy positions as Archbishop Chaput, Cardinal Dolan, and the USCCB as a whole do does more in the way of running afoul of Church teaching than support for H.B. 56 or S.B 2070.
In light of the evidence already brought forth about how the bishops demonize even the most modest enforcement efforts, Chaput’s claim that the bishops support enforcement of immigration laws is a whopper of a lie.
Like his brother bishops, Archbishop Chaput likes to couch his position in terms of basic human rights and dignity. One thing Chaput et. al. can do to uphold the dignity of these people is to stop lying to them. Stop telling them the Church teaches they have a human right to come to this country illegally and remain here on their terms.
She doesn’t and they don’t!
He then says: “Good people exist on both sides of this debate and following the example of Jesus we need to resist the temptation to demonize those with whom we disagree.” He says this after he demonizes those whom he disagrees with.
We also have to bear in mind that the bishops conference receives government funding and that it is reasonable to speculate that monetary interests influence their policy position. Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch points out:
“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops received $79,590,512 in 2014 alone — that’s right, nearly 80 million dollars — from the federal government for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration Fund. And this constitutes 97% of the budget of this corrupt and authoritarian fraternity.”
You can bet your bottom dollar that if an anti-illegal immigration group were getting government funding, the bishops and their acolytes in the Catholic media would be exhorting us to follow the money.
The bishops portraying immigration laws that are congruent with Catholic teaching as violations of religious liberty in the same way it rightly does with the HHS Mandate tells us they are not serious about fighting for religious liberty.
I don’t think Ss. Thomas More or John Fisher would have taken too kindly to this. St. Cardinal Fisher would have been horrified about the bishops reducing Church teaching to their political policy preferences. Likewise, St. Thomas More would be disgusted with the misrepresentations of secular law.
I pray that that the intercession of St. John Fisher will give the bishops the grace to uphold the teaching of the Church unobscured from political whims and the intercession of St. Thomas More, patron saint of politicians, gives Catholic politicians the courage to push back against bishops who try to do so.