I’ve enjoyed some of Monsignor Pope’s writing in the past, but he goes a little wrong in this piece or perhaps more accurately he just doesn’t go far enough (which I suspect is deliberate and I can’t say I blame him): Is There a Catholic View on the Border-Wall?
He is correct in pointing out what the Catechism actually says in this portion:
In the current debate about “the wall,” I think that the Church should limit herself to speaking to her basic principles on immigrants and immigration. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2241) lays out two principles, which are meant to balance each other:
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.
So, the Catholic view is that a prosperous nation such as ours should be generous in receiving immigrants, especially refugees and the poor, but that there are legitimate limits the nation can apply. In particular, the receiving nation has a right to expect things of immigrants: that they follow its laws, respect the country’s way of life, and contribute to the shouldering of civic responsibilities. (A nation also has the right and duty to defend and promote the common good of its citizens — see CCC 1910.)
I am personally very upbeat about immigrants in this country, most of whom come from Central and South America. I have found them to be hardworking, skilled (especially in the building trades) and largely Catholic with strong family ties. I think that they are a blessing to our nation and that we should admit a large number of them annually.
I also understand, though, that our borders cannot simply stand open. There are legitimate concerns for security at the borders and immigration must be well-managed in order to promote the safety and general welfare of all: Americans and immigrants.
Where I think he goes wrong is in his optimism for immigrants in this country, which I think is vastly misplaced based on the facts (Perhaps readers will remember our previous post cataloging of just a few of the murders committed by immigrants?). I have no doubt that a portion of immigrants are just as Monsignor describes (especially those who have entered our country LEGALLY), but there are plenty more who absolutely do NOT hold up their end of the bargain 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.”
There is another place where I think he makes a mistake: our country is not as prosperous as he thinks it is or in as sure a place to offer generous aid to others. Our prosperity is an illusion that could any moment be dissolved into chaos, poverty and collapse. How many of our OWN citizens suffer terrible poverty and violence? Should we not care for them first? What of our Nation’s crushing and unsustainable debt load? It IS going to catch up with us some day? An individual’s worth is figured not just by looking at assets but by subtracting liabilities. The USA has substantial liabilities to reckon with. This is not to say that our country resembles a third world one — yet — since even our poor have smart phones, but even that is a symptom of terribly mismanaged charity.
One comment on Msgr. Pope’s post succinctly summed up the interpretation of the Catechism: “no country is required to beggar itself in the name of false charity, or to rob its people of the fruits of their work and for their posterity.”
Another passage from the Catechism that may apply to this situation is 2266: “The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to the people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense…”
I don’t think storming another nation’s border and demanding entry qualified as respecting the citizens’ rights or of following the “basic rules of civil society.” If you break a Nation’s laws (unless they are legitimately immoral to follow), you are liable to punishment by said Nation.
And in case anyone needs convincing that shutting down illegal border crossings will benefit even those trying to cross, take a look at just one example of the horrible cost to women and children who cross the border, by choice or force: National Security Is Worth Wall .