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opinion/commentary View Comments

Let Scripture Guide Treatment of Immigrants

Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Wednesday, February 9, 2011
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LOS ANGELES (CNS)—In speeches the same day, Los Angeles' cardinal and its coadjutor archbishop talked about immigration in the United States, with one calling some of the rhetoric about the issue "not worthy of the Gospel," and the other saying the current system "is an immoral system that thrives upon the weakness and suffering of those without a voice."

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony told an audience at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill Feb. 2 that the ethical injunctions of Scripture require "compassion for the stranger, the alien, and the worker. Whatever economic, political or social policies we discuss—and whatever discussion of constitutional rights and liberties— we cannot turn our backs to this biblical legacy of hope."

Taking up the question of whether undocumented immigrants are good for the economy, Cardinal Mahony traced the roots of the word economy to its Greek origins, where the principal focus was not monetary but how a household is ordered.

"God's household, God's grand economy, is one in which holiness and truth, justice and love, and above all, peace ... prevail," the cardinal said. "In my view, what makes for a good economy is the full flourishing of everyone who is part of God's economy, household or community."

He said that no other commitments can trump the biblical tradition of compassion for the stranger, the alien and the worker.

"Whatever economic, political or social policies we discuss—and whatever discussion of constitutional rights and liberties—we cannot turn our backs to this biblical legacy of hope," he said.

Speaking the same day in Naples, Fla., to Legatus, a Catholic business leaders organization, Coadjutor Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles also drew on Scripture to explain that "the church's approach to immigration—like the church's approach to every social issue—is never about politics. It is about preaching the good news of God's love for all peoples. It is about transforming the city of man into the family of God."

As coadjutor, Archbishop Gomez will take over as head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, when Cardinal Mahony retires, which is expected to be in late February.

Noting he is among those who are bothered by the illegal immigration status of some people, the archbishop said, "I don't like it when our rule of law is flouted. And I support just and appropriate punishments."

However, he added, "right now, we are imposing penalties that leave wives without husbands, children without parents. We are deporting fathers and leaving single mothers to raise children on little to no income.

"We are a better people than that. We have always been a nation of justice and law," said Archbishop Gomez. "But we have also been a nation of mercy and forgiveness. We can find a better way. It begins in seeing immigrants as human beings. As mothers and fathers. As children of God."

Archbishop Gomez said that as an immigrant from Mexico himself, he understands well that "family means everything for Hispanics," who make up the majority of new immigrants. "The Hispanic idea of community is a family of families—great grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And always, family is connected to the Catholic Church and to God."

That's why current enforcement policies "workplace raids, detentions and deportations are such a humanitarian tragedy," he said. "We are destroying families in the name of enforcing our laws."

In his speech in North Carolina, Cardinal Mahony told stories of families torn apart by immigration enforcement—including that of three North Carolina children left by the side of the road for nine hours after their Honduran undocumented immigrant mother was taken away for not having a driver's license.

He also described his own experience of an immigration raid at his family's chicken processing plant when he was a child.

"It was an extremely terrifying and intimidating moment for those employees, all of whom had papers," he said. "I will never forget the terror that those men with their guns created in the workplace that day.

"These are American stories," he said. "Do these stories reflect who we are, who we want to be, and how we want to be remembered by future generations? Is this who we are at our best? In a word, no."

After elaborating on the economic model of God's household, the cardinal said that in Catholic thought people don't serve the economy, the economy serves humanity, "so that each person and his or her family can live in dignity and without want and can move, if needed, to find the place of hope."

"Our laws should be configured to ensure that even the low-skilled laborer, who sits at the bottom of the economic ladder, reaps the fruits of their labor in dignity and with full rights in the society," he said.

As today's system operates, however, "we accept their labor, their separation from family, their taxes, and their purchasing power, yet we do not offer the undocumented population the protection of our laws," said Cardinal Mahony.

"To restore order to God's household, we must ensure that all are welcome to the table," he said, meaning immigration reforms that protect those on the margins of the economy.

Calling current immigration laws unjust, the cardinal said society gladly accepts the toil and taxes of the immigrant work force, "but look the other way when they are exploited in the workplace, die in the desert, or are arrested and deported for the most minor of civil violations, like jaywalking.

"When convenient politically, we scapegoat the immigrant without acknowledging our complicity," he said.

He noted that of the nearly half million immigrants who enter the country without permission or stay beyond the limits of their visas, nearly 90 percent get jobs within six months, but there are only 5,000 visas available annually by which they might come in legally.

"This is a disordered system," he said. "hardly the arrangement of a household according to a plan where there is room enough for all at the table."


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Robert Bellarmine: When Robert Bellarmine was ordained in 1570, the study of Church history and the fathers of the Church was in a sad state of neglect. A promising scholar from his youth in Tuscany, he devoted his energy to these two subjects, as well as to Scripture, in order to systematize Church doctrine against the attacks of the Protestant Reformers. He was the first Jesuit to become a professor at Louvain. 
<p>His most famous work is his three-volume <i>Disputations on the Controversies </i><em>of the Christian Faith</em>. Particularly noteworthy are the sections on the temporal power of the pope and the role of the laity. He incurred the anger of monarchists in England and France by showing the divine-right-of-kings theory untenable. He developed the theory of the indirect power of the pope in temporal affairs; although he was defending the pope against the Scottish philosopher Barclay, he also incurred the ire of Pope Sixtus V. </p><p>Bellarmine was made a cardinal by Pope Clement VIII on the grounds that "he had not his equal for learning." While he occupied apartments in the Vatican, Bellarmine relaxed none of his former austerities. He limited his household expenses to what was barely essential, eating only the food available to the poor. He was known to have ransomed a soldier who had deserted from the army and he used the hangings of his rooms to clothe poor people, remarking, "The walls won't catch cold." </p><p>Among many activities, he became theologian to Pope Clement VIII, preparing two catechisms which have had great influence in the Church. </p><p>The last major controversy of Bellarmine's life came in 1616 when he had to admonish his friend Galileo, whom he admired. Bellarmine delivered the admonition on behalf of the Holy Office, which had decided that the heliocentric theory of Copernicus (the sun as stationary) was contrary to Scripture. The admonition amounted to a caution against putting forward—other than as a hypothesis—theories not yet fully proved. This shows that saints are not infallible. </p><p>Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. The process for his canonization was begun in 1627 but was delayed until 1930 for political reasons, stemming from his writings. In 1930, Pope Pius XI canonized him and the next year declared him a doctor of the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Lord is our strength. Therefore, each of us will accept a life of poverty in cheerful trust. We will minister to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor with cheerful devotion. If our work is done with joy, we will have no reason to be unhappy.

 
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