Immigration & Catholic Teaching

by Jimmy Akin

in Moral Theology

The subject of immigration is heating up. With the presence of more than ten million people illegally in the United States–or three percent of the total population–many citizens are concerned enough that we seem to be building toward a breaking point on this subject.

As a result of all the news stories on this topic, I’ve had requests to explain the Church’s teaching in this area.

Sometimes folks receive the impression that Church teaching requires essentially an open-border policy where people can come into a country with no restraints, but this is not true. If you read the actual Church documents on the subject, they contain important qualifiers that are often dropped out of the discussion when presented by some individuals.

Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say:

2241 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.

I’ve highlighted three important qualifiers that are often dropped out in this discussion.

The first recognizes that there is a limit to the number of immigrants that a nation can absorb. Common sense tells you this: No nation can absorb an unlimited number of immigrants.

Precisely how many a particular country can reasonably absorb is a determination that must ultimately be made by the laity, who are charged with ordering the temporal affairs of society and suffusing them with the Christian spirit.

The laity are not served in this task by individuals who speak as if Catholic teaching requires an open border policy that does not recognize that there is a limit to the number of immigrants that a country can reasonably absorb or the responsibility of the laity in making the practical determination of what this number is.

The second qualifier that I have highlighted recognizes the state’s right to set legal requirements that must be met for immigration.

Again, this is something that common sense would tell you needs to be there. A state cannot reasonably be expected to absorb immigrants of any and all types. For example, a state may reasonably refuse immigration to murderers or terrorists–to name two very obvious examples.

Ultimately, it is the laity via their role in ordering the temporal affairs of society to determine, in the case of a particular country, what the reasonable conditions are to which immigration to their nation should be subject.

As before, the laity are not served in this task by those who would advocate an open borders policy that fails to recognize the state’s right to set conditions on immigration and the laity’s responsibility to determine in practice what those requirements are to be.

The third qualifier that I have highlighted reflects the duty of immigrants to respect the laws of the nation to which they are immigrating.

This includes respecting the laws of the nation regarding whether or not the person is able legally to be in the country.

Immigrants are morally bound to respect the laws of the nation to which they are immigrating, including its laws regarding whether they may legally be there.

Discussion of this subject is not served by those who speak as if this were not the case.

Church teaching on immigration thus does not reflect a free-wheeling, open borders policy in which anyone can enter a country at will. It conceives of immigration process as a responsibility of prosperous nations as a form of humanitarian aid, conducted in an orderly manner subject to legal requirements, with limits on the number of immigrants, and with the immigrants obeying the laws of the host nation.

This is a very different picture of how immigration should work than is presently being advocated by some.

Of course, what the Catechism has to say cannot in such a brief space represent all that moral theology would have to say about this topic.

For example, this passage of the Catechism does not mention another humanitarian endeavor that is incumbent on prosperous nations, which is teaching underdeveloped nations how to grow economically so that all of their citizens may benefit and not just the lucky few who can immigrate.

Since the latter humanitarian endeavor cures the problem at the source, it is the one that would be preferred by moral theology. Orderly, regulated immigration is a stopgap for cases in which this doesn’t work, but the goal must be primarily to help other nations shake off the problems (such as corruption and legal barriers to starting and maintaining businesses) that keep their populations in poverty.

You will note in this that I haven’t said anything about whether the U.S. has or has not absorbed all the immigrants it can or what the requirements on immigrants to the U.S. should be or what should be done with people who are present in the United States illegally.

I’m simply trying to point to certain parameters of the discussion as they are articulated in the Catechism.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!

What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy


charles R. Williams March 9, 2006 at 8:18 am

Maybe Cardinal Mahony could talk with the Mexican bishops on ways to employ Mexicans in their own country.

tim March 9, 2006 at 1:02 pm

I am an immigration lawyer; if anything on this thread or the topic generally requires any legal analysis, feel free to email me.

Jeb Protestant March 9, 2006 at 1:56 pm

“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.”
This seems to reflect a sort of naivite that was common with the late JP II. Why would immigrants from a non-Christian country respect, say, a Christian nation’s opposition to stores being open on Sunday? They might consider these policies immoral.
I certainly don’t find it surprising that Moslem immigrants tend to support leftist parties which preach multicultualism rather than those who support traditional morality.

Anonymous March 9, 2006 at 2:48 pm

Catholic Campaign of Immigration reform from the USCCB

ann March 9, 2006 at 4:11 pm

Thank you for your common sense approach.
The Arizona Bishops come off as radical,promoting an almost open border, legality for the illegals already here and reunification of their families.
At the same time that a million immigrants a year come to America illegally, the American bishops bemoan the fact that a million people a year are added to the poverty roles.
Tucson’s diocesan paper is a propaganda piece for amnesty, and liberal border policies.
Of course, the bishops are only helping the big corporations to further exploit the naive illegal immigrant to the detriment of the American worker and the illegal.

M.Z. Forrest March 9, 2006 at 6:40 pm

to the extent they are able…Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected….
I think the wording supports a tighter definition. Particularly I think this is justified considering that the catechism states that immigration is a natural right versus a perogative or indifferent choice. I believe open borders in a country such as ours is not against that policy statement and pretty much affirms it.
Policy making is certainly the realm of the laity, but the laity do not have the right to deny natural rights. It is certainly within the realm of the laity to legalize abortion and euthanasia, but one cannot argue they have a right to do so.

Steve S. March 9, 2006 at 8:25 pm

I don’t think you can place restrictions on immigration in the same category as legalizing abortion and euthanasia. The second paragraph of article 2241 states that exercise of that right can be made subject to various concerns. Exercise of abortion and euthanasia cannot be justified according to any concern.

Maureen March 9, 2006 at 8:36 pm

If I “immigrated” to Lancaster County and an Amish family took me in and gave me a job, they would have every right to ask me not to use machinery and electrical appliances on their land, not to sleep with my boyfriend on their land, and to require me to wear Amish clothing. They wouldn’t have a right, say, to keep me from going to Mass or similar customs, but they would have a right to have me do certain things. And I would be glad to do them, if I were grateful for having been taken in.
So no, I don’t think obedience of immigrants to their new country’s laws is a naive expectation. I think it’s a very minimal expectation, actually.
And if you think the new country’s laws are all that immoral, you should have moved somewhere else. My immigrant Irish many-greats-grandfather disapproved of slavery. He joined the Republican Party to fight it politically and the Union Army to fight it physically. But he didn’t try to set up some kind of sharia Irish law.
Although the idea of claiming my right to be tried in a brehon court is truly amusing…. :)

Jeb Protestant March 10, 2006 at 1:00 am

It may not be wrong to expect immigrants to follow certain customs, but it is naive to think that they will. As I pointed out, immigrants tend to vote for leftist parties that preach multiculturalism. An Italian friend of mine tells me that crucifixes and prayers are starting to be removed from schools because of Mohammaden protests (and the number of Mohammadens in Italy is quite small).
The inevitable result of immigration to the west is the destruction of what’s left of Christianity. Just go to San Francisco at Christmas time and see how few Christmas symbols there are, as one example.

momof6 March 10, 2006 at 4:59 am

Yes, but isn’t the point that since Church teaching asks immigrants to follow the religious and cultural customs of the host country, the bishops who are calling for open borders should be preaching this concept to the immigrants that they want to welcome? Is that happening?
The part of this that I honestly don’t understand is that these bishops are encouraging folks to do something illegal. No, don’t try the abortion argument with me. There are *legal* ways to immigrate to this country. Why aren’t these ways being encouraged?

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B. March 10, 2006 at 5:33 am

Jeb Protestant,
The removal of Christmas symbols around the U.S. is not the work of immigrants, but largely the work of the formerly Christian, white, Anglo-Saxon neo-pagan culture.
On a Catholic campus a few years ago, the removal of crucifixes was protested against even by the Muslim chaplain.,+Muslim+Chaplain+says%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1
In London a few years ago, it was Muslims, not Christians, who protested against a puppet show that blasphemed against Jesus.
The decay of Christianity in the U.S. is not the work of immigrants.
It was immigrants who first brought Christianity to N. America.
You say that “Moslem immigrants tend to support leftist parties which preach multicultualism rather than those who support traditional morality.”
I think that is exactly the opposite of reality. Muslim immigrants are more in favor of traditional morality than most so-called white Christians in this country.
Please do not resume your regular posting here of racist bigotry against Asian, Hispanics, non-Europeans and Catholics. It smacks of the K.K.K. and the historical Nativist “Know Nothing” political movement.
Once again, lest anyone accuse me of wanting otherwise, I want to see controlled, legal immigration; and I am in favor of preventing immigration from countries where radical Islam is strong or in control.
However, the ills of the U.S. are not the fault of immigrants. The ones to blame are mostly people of European ethnicity who long ago gave up sincere Christianity and now condemn it.

Tim J. March 10, 2006 at 6:02 am

“However, the ills of the U.S. are not the fault of immigrants.”
That’s true, Father S.
The true anti-Christian in America is more likely your bespectacled, aging field-hippie college professor, or your wealthy, urban womyn-power types.
Or federal judges.
Immigrants are far more likely to be sympathetic to religion.

WRY March 10, 2006 at 6:40 am

In regards to “respecting the laws”: It would seem to me that this is the hinge of the whole argument about illegals. I would also submit that it is capable of several interpretations or outlooks.
For starters, one would have to argue whether this obligation is *grave.* My old moral theology manuals distinguish between breaking civil laws that are also God’s laws (e.g., murder) and breaking civil laws that are penal and not moral in character (e.g. parking tickets and speeding). In the former case, one would have to submit to the confessional (if it were a mortal sin) and could not receive communion until doing so. In the latter, it is understood that one does not sin, or sin gravely, but that one understands that if he gets caught he must pay the penalty (e.g., a fine or loss of a driver’s license).
The reason I bring this up is because there are so many illegal alien Catholics in the U.S. that, if the obligation to “not be here” is grave, then they are all barred from communion. Since I do not hear anyone saying that at any level of the church hierarchy, it would seem reasonable to conclude that it is not, or not always, considered grave matter demanding the forum of the confessional.
This is an important point for the safeguard of consciences: Were I an illegal alien Catholic, I would want to be in the know as to whether I can receive communion licitly.
One also has to wonder whether the obligation to “not be here” is automatically seen as one of the laws of the host nation that should be obeyed. I think one might reasonably conclude that it means to be as much of a “good citizen” as one can be under the circumstances — e.g., don’t steal, don’t drink and drive, etc. Since the paragraph is dealing with the obligations of immigrants while here, it is sort of an absurdity to ask that they “be good while they are here” if in fact their only option for doing that is to leave.
But even if one could argue that the directive applies to the breaking of immigration laws, I think obedience to it may not oblige if following it would create undue hardship: Here, I’m sort of following the old guidelines on restitution, which did not oblige one to, say, reduce oneself to poverty to immediately satisfy the need to restore long-past ill-gotten gains. One could postpone this reckoning until financially able, as long as the intention were there. Similarly, it seems an illegal alien might form the intention of regularizing his situation when circumstances permitted and he did not cause himself or his family undue hardship to do so.

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B. March 10, 2006 at 7:14 am

More pieces of my mind for “Jeb Protestant” and other Protestants immigrating to this Catholic blog.
Catholic (Spanish) colonialism in the “new” world, despite its faults, nonetheless gathered natives around the mission churches that Spain built for the natiives. Where are all the historic missions in the U.S.A.? They’re all Catholic, and they’re all in regions colonized by Spanish Catholics. Nothing of the sort in the historically Protestant colonies!
Catholics left the “Indians” on their ancestral lands throughout the Southwest of the U.S.A., throughout Mexico, Central America, South America. Protestants did quite the opposite.
Protestant colonialism largely drove the natives away, and came up with reservations.
Right from the beginning, Catholics spread the Gospel in this land. Protestants mostly kept it to themselves.
The bad result? A culture that now tells us to keep our religion to ourselves.

WRY March 10, 2006 at 7:24 am

Fr. Stephanos,
It is telling that it is the Catholic countries today where Indians are even alive in large numbers, since the policy was not to drive them out and replace them with white people, but to convert them.
This is not to whitewash terrible mistakes that were made in the mistreatment of Indians, but their survival in Catholic countries is a fact on the ground, as they say.

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B. March 10, 2006 at 7:58 am

As I read your last sentence, I first thought you wrote “whiteTRASH” rather than “whiteWASH”.
Honestly, that’s what I thought. I had to re-read it to get it right.

ann March 10, 2006 at 8:42 am

Father S.
I am fourth generation on the U.S.Mexico border and if you want to see keep your religion to yourself, go to Mexico.
Are you aware that their Catholicism is almost purely cultural and that they lose it quite easily to immigration or evangalization by protestants?
Do you know how hostile the Mexican government has been to Catholicism over the centuries and how it has pushed it down.
I just retrieved my car which was stolen in the U.S and taken to Mexico. It had holy cards and a cross of Palm Sunday palms in it.
That is the Catholicism of which you speak. It is a thin facade.
I guarantee you that the illegals comining nowdays are not of the moral charater we want in this country, nor do they want them in Mexico.
This is complicated stuff and the Bishops just do not have the knowledge or the expertise to micro-manage policy on this matter.

M.Z. Forrest March 10, 2006 at 8:53 am

Immigration is a natural right. Discomfort, etc., are not valid bases for denying natural rights. Seeking safe harbor from crime is not immigration. You can deny criminals the right to enter the country all day and not be denying their right to immigrate.
It is not enough to come up with reasons to oppose immigration; one has to mitigate the evil caused by denying the natural right. For example, if a country was in a famine, there would be mitigating circumstances for denying immigration.
(I should add that prior to Jimmy’s posting I didn’t realize the Cathechism said that immigration was a natural right. It seems about strong, but that was the terminology chosen.)

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B. March 10, 2006 at 9:55 am

I also live on the U.S. border with Mexico–specifically, San Diego, California. I have been to Mexico. I can say that religion is allowed much more of a public face in Mexico than in the U.S.
Yes, I am aware of the weaknesses of a merely cultural Catholicism.
The government in the land of Mexico was not always anti-Catholic. Yes, there have been very strong and violent attacks on Catholics by the Mexican government, but these happened pretty much all after 1800–roughly just two centuries out of the nearly five centuries that Catholicism has been present in Mexico. Mexican Catholics, as distinct from the Mexican government, have at times died in great numbers for the Catholic faith at the hands of Mexican government policies. A great number of Mexican priests died for celebrating the sacraments in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
That’s the kind of Catholicism I’m advocating–not what you accuse me of. [As you put it: “That is the Catholicism of which you speak. It is a thin facade.”]
It would be wrong to maintain that ALL Mexican Catholics are Catholic only in a cultural sense. Devout Mexican Catholics have a proud heritage of dying for the faith. Catholicism in the U.S.A. hasn’t had quite the same opportunity.
As a sidebar, many Catholics and clergy on the U.S. side of the border did what they could to help Mexican Catholics (especially nuns) escape to the U.S. Some religious orders in the U.S.A. that had roots in Mexico were founded here as places of refuge.
Perhaps the thieves who stole your car sold it to the persons who put holy cards in it. Perhaps those who put the holy cards in your car did not know the car was stolen. Whether or not that is true, it is not correct to equate holy cards with thieves. That is NOT the Catholicism of which I speak.
I can guarantee (to borrow your use of the word) that I do not advocate a “thin facade” Catholicism.
Ann, you and others seem to fail to see that I DO NOT advocate unrestricted immigration. In my posts I repeatedly assert my opposition to unrestricted immigration and my opposition to illegal immigration.
Why are people blind to that? Is it because I oppose racism as much as I oppose ILLEGAL immigration? Are people so consumed by their own racism that they cannot notice what I’m actually saying about illegal immigration?

ann March 10, 2006 at 11:05 am

Father S,
I do not think that you are articulating a policy of toleration for illegal immigration, but I think that from what little I know of your position that you are doing what the Bishops do. That is to say no no , but do yes yes. Our Arizona bishops are on the record as promoting the legalization of the illegal in this country and of the reunification of families. They go down to the staging towns in Mexico and give their blessings to the illegals getting ready to cross. They meet the buses full of illegals to “welcome” them and encourage them. What they never do is say that the illegal has no absolute right to come here. That they have a duty to respect the laws of their host country. Our Diocesan newspaper is full of pictures and stories of pathetic illegals getting ready to cross or suffering here after they have crossed.
I do not hear them say that countries have a right to regulate immigration, which they do. Nor do I hear that the “natural right” to emigrate is balanced by JPII’s teaching that there is also a right not to have to immigrate. Nor do I hear that such a natural right is accompanied by natural repsonsibilities not to break the law EXCEPT under the most dire of circumstances. Those circumstances just rarely exist in the case of the Mexican illegal. The Pew institue reacently published a study of the motivation for illegal immigrantion. It indicated that the majority of the illegals have work in Mexico. It is not starvation, nor fear for their lives that drive the Mexican. It is a grass is greener mentality and a mindset fomented by the Mexican language talk shows and the “novelas”, that this part of America was stolen from them and that they have a right to it.
As an aside, I get some of this information from my own experience as a fourth generation border resident whose great-grandparents ranched on the border. I know the border in my bones. I also get informationfrom my three children who live on the border and who are married to Hispanics. We have roots on both sides of the border. All my children speak Spanish and all my nine grandchildren are half Hispanic. I am hardly anti Mexican, not am I “xenophobic”. I know that we cannot sustain the wave of illegals whether they are Mexican or European or Canadian or Martians. It is unfair to the immigrant and the U.S. citizen.
OUr Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of all of North America, the United States too and the Church’s official social justice teachings envision justice for all persons.
Mexico is a rich country. Our efforts should be on helping the Mexican national to stay in his own culture, with his own extended family,the literal sacramental of the Mexican culture and one the American bishops would destroy if we re-unite the nucllear family of the resident illegal. We have enough isolated nuclear families in our country without fashioning more.In addition, such polices are pushing more and more people onto the poverty roles.
I believe we must have legal, regulated immigration fashioned to open the door wider, the greater the need of the immigrant, but with a mind to the legitimate laws and needs of the host country.We are not doing that and the Bishops do not seem to be promoting it either. IF they think they are, the need a different PR program.
And by the way, the girl who had my car had the false papers in the car which showed a false sale and application for Mexican plates.I am the third person in my family to have my car stolen by illegals.

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B. March 10, 2006 at 11:22 am

Ann, you’ve written the following about me.
I think that from what little I know of your position that you are doing what the Bishops do. That is to say no no, but do yes yes. Our Arizona bishops are on the record as promoting the legalization of the illegal in this country and of the reunification of families. They go down to the staging towns in Mexico and give their blessings to the illegals getting ready to cross. They meet the buses full of illegals to “welcome” them and encourage them.
Ann, I do not do any of that. I do not approve of any of that.
To read that into my postings certainly suggests that you may be blinded by bigotry.
Jimmy Akin has posted the official teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this matter, as you can re-read above. I agree completely with that teaching. I do not support opinions (even from any particular bishop) that might be in conflict with the Catechism on this matter.

Inocencio March 10, 2006 at 1:46 pm

M.Z. Forrest,
Some quotes from Pope John Paul II give a better context to the Catechism.
“As regards immigrants and refugees, building conditions of peace means in practice being seriously committed to safeguarding first of all the right not to emigrate, that is, the right to live in peace and dignity in one’s own country.

Equally, the right to emigrate exists. This right, Bl. John XXIII recalls in the Encyclical Mater et Magistra, is based on the universal destination of the goods of this world (cf. nn. 30 and 33). It is obviously the task of Governments to regulate the migratory flows with full respect for the dignity of the persons and for their families’ needs, mindful of the requirements of the host societies.
Message of the Holy Father John Paul II for the 90th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2004 #3
Pope John Paul II seems to point to the same qualifiers as Jimmy did and not a blanket open border policy.
Take care and God bless,

Jeb Protestant March 10, 2006 at 1:58 pm

Mr. Stephanos,
Is accusing people you don’t agree with of being members of the Klan your favorite argument?
Yes, there are many Moslems who are consverative, but leftist parties generally win Mohammaden vote; just as in the US the dems win the Hispanic vote. A few anecdotal cases about Mohammadens or Hispanic complaining about our depraved culture doesn’t change that.
Certainly what’s left of our protestant heritage isn’t great, but there is no reason to think that Hispanics or Mohammadens are doing much positive to reinvigorate it.
Incidentally, Hispanics in the US have a much higher rate of illigetimacy than us depraved protestants.

Inocencio March 10, 2006 at 1:58 pm

The documents that I have read so far all seem to have important qualifiers when it comes to migration.
“Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence with the confines of his own state. When there are just reasons in favor or it, he must be permitted to emigrate to other countries and to take up residence there.” Pacem in Terris, #25

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B. March 10, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Jeb Protestant,
More condemnations of Hispanics from you.
It isn’t that you disagree with me. It’s that you are consistent in condemning non-whites.

Inocencio March 10, 2006 at 2:18 pm

Mr. Jeb,
This article contradicts your theory about Muslim voting in the USA.
Muslims in America: Profile 2001
by Abdul Malik Mujahid
Muslims’ Vote: Muslims voted in bloc for President Bush in the US presidential election 2000. There is no exit poll information available about the Muslim votes. Nevertheless, based on three unscientific surveys of Muslim voters, Muslims voted 70% to 90% in favor of Bush with a significant 34% voting for the first time. Muslims, therefore, became the only bloc vote for Bush. In Florida, the last battleground, there would not have been any battle without an estimated 60,000 votes which Florida Muslims asserted that they delivered in favor of Bush.
May I ask what documentation you have to demonstrate you claim that muslims back leftist parties?
Take care and God bless,

M.Z. Forrest March 10, 2006 at 3:43 pm

That is good to know Inocencio. The Catechism is always a good starting point, but it is intended only to be that. The use of the term “natural right” does have meaning. Rights conflict all the time though, and we argue that the excercise of one right mitigates the harm of denying another right. My objection would be terming it a policy dispute versus terming it a rights dispute. With policies we enjoy liberties such as judging the efficacy of any given program that we don’t enjoy when debating rights. To be honest, I had never really considered immigration a right, but I am willing to live under the judgement of the Church if that is what she deems it is.

Inocencio March 10, 2006 at 4:38 pm

Mr. Jeb,
The Hispanic vote since 1996:
’96 Clinton 72% Dole 20%
’00 Bush 35% Gore 62%
’04 Bush 45% Kerry 55%
Certainly looks like a good trend. The next election cycle will be very interesting.
Take care and God bless,

Inocencio March 10, 2006 at 5:21 pm

M.Z. Forrest,
First you wrote:
“Policy making is certainly the realm of the laity, but the laity do not have the right to deny natural rights. It is certainly within the realm of the laity to legalize abortion and euthanasia, but one cannot argue they have a right to do so.”
Then you wrote:
“With policies we enjoy liberties such as judging the efficacy of any given program that we don’t enjoy when debating rights.”
Could you reconcile your comments for me. You seem to imply that there is not a natural right to life? How is it possible in your mind for the laity to legalize abortion and euthanasia as a policy and not deny a natural right?
Take care and God bless,

ann March 10, 2006 at 6:46 pm

Father S,
You seem awfully quick to call me blinded by bigotry and frankly I find that unjustified by my remarks and my heritage.
So I would ask you a couple of questions.
Do you support amnesty for the illegal in the United States?
Do you want to close the border by the use of technology and a fence if that is what it takes to keep people from coming in illegally?
Do you want to prosecute emoloyers who hire illegals?
If you cannot say yes, unequivocally to those questions, then regardless of what you say, you are in favor of illegal immigration because that is what it will take to stop it.
Finally, who or what, besides mushy thinking bishops and priests who live in protected circumstances am I bigoted toward?
Read everything the Pope has had to say about immigration. Read Pacem In Terris. Read the American bishop’s own statement on immigration and then tell me that I am bigoted. Don’t think so. And if that does not convince you, ask my Mexican citizen family members and in laws.

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B. March 10, 2006 at 7:11 pm

No, I do not support amnesty for illegal immigration.
Yes, I want to keep the border solidly closed against illegal immigration (though I wouldn’t accept landmines as a technological means of doing that–if that were, as you say, “what it takes”).
Yes, I would accept the prosecution of employers who unjustly break the just laws against hiring illegal immigrants.
I have not called into question your heritage. If you believe I have done so, then read what I have already posted in responses to you, and you will find that you are wrong.
You were the first to be quick to denounce me. As you put it, “I think that from what little I know of your position that you are doing what the Bishops do” [see your post of Mar. 10, 2006–today–at 11:05:39 AM above; I also quoted your accusation in my post, also today, at 11:22:56 AM].
Based on what you yourself said, yes, I do think you were quick to be blinded so that you could not see what I was actually saying, and you read into my postings things that were not there. You were the first to be quick by incorrectly and unjustifiably lumping me in with the bishops you condemn. If you cannot see what’s there, but only see what you want to see (even if it’s not there) in my postings, then that is a form of bigotry that blinds you.
I have not used the word “bigotry” in the sense of calling you racially bigoted. Don’t be too quick so as to conclude that bigotry is automatically racial bigotry. I have used the word in the sense of “prejudice” that leads you (QUICKLY) to “pre-judge” that there is a wrong in my postings that’s simply NOT THERE.

M.Z. Forrest March 10, 2006 at 7:58 pm

I would reconcile them by saying that authority doesn’t determine morality. For instance without commenting on any specific war, the authority would be with the governmental official; it is within their realm to go to war; one could legitimately (acting under proper authority) enter an immoral war though. Similarly it is within the same realm, outside the Church, that decisions on what evils are willing to be tolerated, allowed, or even propogated are decided. An example would be the often quoted example of Augustine saying prostitution should not be outlawed. Euthanasia I would put in the allowed category. Abortion I would put in the propogated category.
To elaborate on the abortion issue, I was thinking of the instance when an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. In that case you have two opposing natural rights, and the mother’s right to live fully mitigates the evil of killing the child. In the case of immigration, there are many things that I think would mitigate the evil of denying a person’s right to immigrate. (I won’t give further consideration to it here, because it is outside the scope of Jimmy’s entry. I may elaborate on my own blog at some point.)
I don’t believe the bishops advocate an open border. Regulating the crossing of the border doesn’t appear to be an unreasonable constraint on a person’s right to immigrate. How the existing immigrants are handled, many who have been here over a decade, is another issue.

Paul Buede March 10, 2006 at 10:33 pm

The problem is not one of illegal immigration, the problem is the “nanny-state”. I really liked W’s plan for a non-resident work permit for people that want to come here to work but don’t want to be citizens. Like anything else, you cannot kill the supply when there is a demand. If people are coming here for a free ride (which I have not witnessed, I happen to think immigrants are some of the hardest working people and most appreciative of freedom, compared to my native born fellow citizens – in general-), then we need to end the ride if we want to stop them coming here.
Besides all this, I have written some on related topics here and here.

Jeb Protestant March 11, 2006 at 4:46 am

I was referrring to the Mohammaden vote in Europe.
As far as Hispanic voters in the US, they consistently vote dem. THe most reliable numbers I’ve seen indicate that they voted 60-40 Kerrey. So that being the case, the trend doesn’t seem particularly positive.

ann March 11, 2006 at 8:51 am

Father S,
Thank you for you clarifications. I think that our exchange demonstrates the need for careful language on everyone’s part.
MY own prayer is that I speak the truth in a more gentle and kind manner.

Inocencio March 12, 2006 at 2:09 pm

M.Z. Forrest,
“I would reconcile them by saying that authority doesn’t determine morality.”
I agree that secular authority does not determine morality. The Church which has the Sacred Authority of Christ does have the binding authority to determine morality and faith.
War is very different from the evil of abortion and euthanasia.
“Similarly it is within the same realm, outside the Church, that decisions on what evils are willing to be tolerated, allowed, or even propogated are decided.”
Do you think the Catechism agrees with your understanding? When I read CCC 2270-2279 I don’t see any possibility of us tolerating, allowing or propagating either.
“In that case you have two opposing natural rights, and the mother’s right to live fully mitigates the evil of killing the child.”
This is explained not as mitigating evil but the principle of double effect. As someone pointed out on another thread:
“It is the Catholic Church which says one method is better than the other. …the difference between a direct, bad act and indirect consequence of a good act (removing the abnormal tube). In Catholicism, direct killing (MTX) is wrong; the indirect death, according to the Catholic Church’s long-standing Double Effect principle, is permissible, although unfortunate; but it’s actually a world of difference morally, compared to directly (and I mean DIRECTLY) killing the embryo.”
Take care and God bless,

M.Z. Forrest March 12, 2006 at 6:20 pm

Double effect is a description of the instance where you have full mitigation. Causing the death of a child is always an evil. The presence of mitigating factors doesn’t make it a good thing though. If it did we would say, we desired the child to die so that the mother would live. Instead we mourn the loss of the child recognizing the loss was necessary to preserve the desired good of preserving the mother’s life.
The catechism section you cite is the obligations placed upon government. As far as the morality goes, I agree that the Catechism states clearly that abortion and euthanasia cannot be tolerated. The point of that passage of my previous quote was that government is not the arbitrar of morality. Government is sometimes a moral agent and sometimes in the position of regulating sin. Having authority does not denote morality. We would all agree that abortion is an evil being propogated by our government. Similarly ripping members of families apart from another is evil, which is what our current immigration scheme does. For those that want to immigrate legally, their natural rights are placed under the moral arbitrariness of a lottery.

ukok March 15, 2006 at 4:18 am

Immigration. It’s a fascinating subject, and as a friend of mine pointed out only last night when we were discussing ‘reconcilliation and the world’~
“we’re practically all ‘recent’ immigrants of one country or another”.
To my mind American citizens highlight this in an extraordinary way, it seems bizarre that there could be any reasonable refusal of entry into your country, other than for the obvious terrorism aspect (seriously evidenced, not assumed)or for considerable detrimental-economic reasons.
Of course, we should ultimately do everything within our power to enable people to stay in the country of their origin by ensuring that we take the responsibility to pray for them, petition those elected to serve them and to support producers of the countries goods, ie; by purchasing fairly traided produce from small businesses.
Many Immigrants are forced to leave their homes (and sometimes families) because bigger slave – labour businesses move in on their territory and undercut their prices (so that we in the west can buy cheap, cheap, cheap).
For a skilled person supporting his family with the only trade he knows, that spells doom.
Often these families (in their thousands) have to pack up their few belongings and move from place to place, spending what little they have to sustain themselves as they attempt to find somewhere to build a new future…it rarely happens…and these people are enticed by western ‘civilisation’s grass is greeener theory,alas, when they get to their destination they are often met with dissaproval and are distrusted.
Immigrants have to overcome language barriers,endure social stigma, and are reduced to asking for handouts from the Government… when all they really wanted to do was to make a living for themselves and their families in their own country.
We’re progressing so much we’re going backward.
God Bless.

Tim J. March 15, 2006 at 5:15 am

I have no problem with liberal (in the old, good sense) immigration laws, but the situation on our southern border (Mexico) is just chaos.
It’ great to be open to immigration, but we have thousands of people pouring in every day, and for the most part we just have no clue who these people are. We have no information at all.
Any sane approach to immigration must include its being regulated and recorded in some way. This means immigrating legally.
We need to streamline the process, but also increase enforcement of borders. Wanting to have some control of the process does not make us xenophobic or mean-spirited.
Of course, it doesn’t help when we have next to no help from the Mexican government. They actually encourage and support illegal immigration to the US.

Jamie Beu March 23, 2006 at 6:30 am

Gotta bounce this back to the front in light of this opinion piece by Bill Buckley: The Bishops and the Laws.
Especially telling is this couple of paragraphs.

Meanwhile, the nation has heard from Roger Mahony, who is the cardinal of Los Angeles. Cardinal Mahony has taken the extraordinary step of enjoining his flock simply to defy any congressional act that incorporates the features of the House bill, on the grounds that to comply would be to collaborate with injustice.
Now the good cardinal, whose motives we must as a matter of Christian forbearance accept as humanitarian, has got to be sharply rebuked by the Conference of Bishops. Begin with the basic question: The writing of the law is a democratic exercise. To call for disobedience to the law is acceptable behavior when such law transgresses upon the city of God. The laws that called for the annihilation of the Jewish race violated the city of God. Proposed laws that would punish citizens who deliberately help to defeat or to circumvent immigration laws aren’t inherently defiant of the prerogatives of a democratic community. Cardinal Mahony’s contumacy has to be rejected for what it is, never mind what the Senate ends up doing in the matter of formulating fresh rules to enforce policies that have not been enforced.

How is disobedience from a cardinal handled? We know that when a priest is disobedient in some aspect of the law, he is (supposed to be) reprimanded by his bishop. Who can reprimand Mahony for this latest of many offenses?

Inocencio March 23, 2006 at 6:56 am

M.Z. Forrest,
“The catechism section you cite is the obligations placed upon government.”
What? Individual Catholics aren’t under the obligation of the section I cited? Where do you see that it applies only to government?
And I still think your understanding of double effect is incorret.
Especially since the CCC states (no. 1789)
Take care and God bless,

Inocencio March 23, 2006 at 6:58 am

Oops! CCC quote was left out.
“One may never do evil so that good may result from it”

bill912 March 23, 2006 at 6:59 am

My initial response to Jamie’s question was the obvious one: that only one person can reprimand Cardinal Mahony. Then I realized that Catholics of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles can also reprimand him by refusing to donate to diocesan collections. This is sometimes called “Upward Discipline”.

jamiebeu March 28, 2006 at 10:05 am

Talking about immigration rallies and

Talking about immigration rallies and protests

Jamie Beu March 28, 2006 at 10:07 am

Good call, Bill.
I also noticed that the focus in the news appears to be more about “what will work?” than “what is right?”. I’ve written my thoughts on my blog, but I thought I’d excerpt some of them here as well.
Sounds to me like all the arguments seem to cancel each other out. Economically, for the country, it appears to be a close call – they take benefits, but they also provide a great benefit. But this is only true for the nation as a whole, and as Catholics, we are not supposed to be as concerned about the nation as we are to be concerned about the people in that nation, legal or illegal.
…it is in the pay that we begin to see the problem more clearly – illegal aliens tend to be paid less than immigrants who enter the country through the proper legal channels and procedures… This is the source of the justice we are to show toward the alien, legal or otherwise. The lower pay given to them because of their status is a form of exploitation, plain and simple. The lower pay equates to saying they have lower dignity which is equivalent to saying they are less of a person. Unfortunately, this is not new in American history – slaves were once considered to be only 3/5 of a person.
It is playing on the ignorance and fear of the illegals (i.e., they only know lower wages in their home country, and they fear being deported, so they will not speak up for themselves), at the expense of their dignity as equal human beings under the law of God, if not the nation.
True justice means giving full rights and equal pay to all who work in this country… Will all of this hurt the economy? Probably. Almost definitely. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Freeing the slaves hurt the economy, especially of the South, but that didn’t make it any less the right thing to do. In the long run, those that come here legally will not only get paid more (because they will have more legal protections granted to them), but they will also be able to send more to their families still in their home countries, thereby exporting social and economic justice. Exporting the message of the “social Gospel” means that exporting the “biblical Gospel” is not far behind.
“They will know we are Christians by our love.” Is it love to pay anyone lower-than-normal wages? Is it not more loving to give discipline by sending them back and making them come through the proper channels, so they can become fully legal “guest-workers” or even full citizens and have even more than they have now? Let’s start showing love to them the primary way Christians (and Americans) have always showed love – by first taking a hit in the wallet.

Anonymous April 5, 2006 at 3:21 pm

My feeling about the subject, is the fact that it can be quite hard to immigrate to the United States. Frankly, it can take years.
If your a poor family like in Mexico and you have mouths to feed. Aren’t you going to be welling to do what it takes to your feed your family? Are you going to look at the immigration laws as an equivalent to well let’s say a parking ticket. And as a bit ridiculous given the fact that there are obviously jobs in America.
It doesn’t mean that immigrants aren’t well not willing to obey the other laws and be good citizens.

Jeremy Lancey April 8, 2006 at 5:44 am

P.S. As of this writing, the English translation of the Compendium on the Vatican’s own website appears, mysteriously, to have disappeared. This is ironic since I was initially hoping that the problem with Question 18 was simply one of translation!

G.M. Knowles May 26, 2006 at 11:42 pm

You will note in this that I haven’t said anything about whether the U.S. has or has not absorbed all the immigrants it can or what the requirements on immigrants to the U.S. should be or what should be done with people who are present in the United States illegally.

I’m simply trying to point to certain parameters of the discussion as they are articulated in the Catechism.

What you have done is limit the parameters of the discussion. First, by quoting only a small portion of Catholic doctrine relating to the issue, secondly by highlighting the limiting conditions.

Something that should be highlighted is this:

prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to

This is an obligation based on ability, not a possible choice based on willingness.

Much of the conversation revolves not upon what we are able to do, but what is convenient for us to do.

To be clear, encompassing the parameters, must also include the Social Teachings of the Church.

Also, you have limited this discussion to the natural obligations and natural social law. Most of the discussion revolves around the supernatural virtue of charity which is being neglected.

In this regard it is the laities responsibility to initiate the natural legal remedies that would increase the ability to practice spiritual and supernatural virtues, since it is these that Christ calls the body of the Church to obey, and not simply the natural laws of man or societies.

However, I found it a positive note that you mention a primary role for Catholics toward disinfected immigrants and the conditions of the countries they come from.

But, once again, we should remember that assisting other countries does not come without a material price. In its form, charity demands sacrifice.

mycatholicblog May 28, 2006 at 1:36 am

Immigration bill in conference committees

The immigration bill as reported by the Washington
Post is splitting the GOP.
I believe it is also splitting Democrats and more importantly it is splitting Catholics and Christians.
I had some of my say in two of my previous posts:

Life of the Party January 17, 2007 at 6:36 pm

What Does Catholic Teaching REALLY Say About Immigration?

Life of the Party will be treating this more thoroughly in the near future as indicated before, but for now, Jimmy Akin, blogger and Catholic Answers apologist has offered up some clarifications. He emphasises phrases in the Catechism of the

male exam August 14, 2007 at 5:46 am

I wish everybody do his job like you do

StraponCrush October 7, 2007 at 2:19 pm

Doesn`t matter what you say, but how…!! But you said it well

Previous post:

Next post: