April 11, 2017
By CHRISTOPHER MANION
SANTA CRUZ, Guatemala — Bishops in the United States and Mexico have released new statements on the immigration issue that reflect their growing opposition to President Trump’s immigration policies.
On March 22, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a “pastoral reflection,” entitled “Living As A People Of God In Unsettled Times.” The document is significantly less hostile to opponents of amnesty for illegal aliens than similar statements issued prior to Trump’s election victory, indicating a change not of policy but of tactics on the part of the bishops’ conference.
Before the election, bishops routinely vilified Trump and his supporters for their “nativism,” “bigotry,” and “racism.” The now disgraced Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles accused opponents of illegal immigration of “reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques,” referring specifically to Arizona’s SB 1070.
His successor, Archbishop José Gomez, publicly rebuked Cardinal Mahony for his role in the massive cover-ups of child abuse in the archdiocese, but then assumed the leadership of the pro-amnesty cause that Cardinal Mahony had championed for years.
America’s bishops clearly resent principled advocates of the rule of law regarding immigration. In one especially embarrassing instance, Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis (now of Newark, N.J.) became a media champion last year when he publicly defied Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and had his archdiocese sponsor a Syrian Muslim refugee family at federal taxpayer expense.
After meeting with the archbishop, Gov. Pence told the media that, “I disagree with the Church.” Apparently, Archbishop Tobin had failed to tell the governor that the Catholic teaching actually supports the governor’s position, not the archbishop’s (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2241.2). In fact, Pence disagreed with Tobin, not the Church.
Then-Gov. Pence, now an evangelical, was baptized a Catholic. One wonders, did the archbishop dedicate a moment of their meeting to his spiritual responsibilities and invite the governor to return to the fold?
At a public appearance at Notre Dame last fall, the archbishop did not address that possibility, but he did take time to mock the governor’s suggestion that they both consider the question prayerfully (his “joke” was met with appreciative laughter from the attendees, of course).
This incident evidently did not faze Pope Francis, an adamant supporter of unlimited immigration worldwide. Last October he gave Tobin’s advocacy his seal of approval when he named the archbishop a cardinal. (Both Pence and Tobin did not respond to requests for comment.)
The Pew Trust tells us that there are some 30 million who identify themselves as “ex-Catholics.” Perhaps this unseemly episode might explain why one of them left.
And it might explain the bishops’ motivations as well, because those empty pews are increasingly being filled by Hispanic immigrants.
The USCCB’s new statement might represents a softening of tone, now that Trump is in the White House — the epithets are gone, but the policy has not changed. As far back as 2011, Archbishop Gomez called for legislation that “provides a viable solution for the millions of men, women, and children who remain in the shadows,” and asked that we “put aside partisan politics,” a code-word for accepting the agenda of the Democrat Party.
That position has not changed.
The new statement mentions the bishops’ “engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues.” This implies that bishops have actually been engaged in this debate, when in fact they have steadfastly avoided fundamental questions challenging their position.
For instance, The Wanderer has asked over a dozen of the USCCB’s leading bishops on amnesty a simple question:
“Your Excellency, am I ‘bound to adhere’ by Canon Law to your position on immigration with the same ‘religious submission of mind’ as I am required to adhere to the teaching of Humanae Vitae (viz. Canon 753)?”
Not one bishop has answered.
Clearly the bishops want the public to believe that theirs is the only “Catholic” one — and magisterial at that.
The bishops’ statement does signal their retreat on facts, however. They now admit that illegal aliens from south of the border might not be fleeing imminent persecution after all, but might instead be simply “in search of a better life,” a significant admission that reflects the reality in the vast majority of cases.
In Guatemala, according to a major analysis published in La Prensa Libre on the same day as the bishops’ statement, fully forty percent of Guatemalans depend on “remesas” — dollars sent back home by Guatemalans working in the U.S. These remissions are the largest industry in the country, and contradict the bishops’ constant calls to bring illegals “out of the shadows” so that “families” can be united.
The fact is, their families are back home, supported by the “remesas” that have paid for a significant increase in their standard of living there. Many illegals in fact intend to get “out of the shadows” by going home, where they and all their family members are, and have always been, legal.
And yet, for many illegals, the lure of family life in the U.S. is strong.
According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, “Illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers about $113 billion a year at the federal, state, and local level. The bulk of the costs — some $84 billion — are absorbed by state and local governments,” especially in paying for the education of the children of illegals (for instance, 78 percent of the pupils in Fairfax County, Va., schools come from immigrant households. A sheriff from the area has testified that the students come from over 60 countries, speaking 37 different languages — and every language has at least one street gang).
America’s bishops constantly refer to illegals as “undocumented,” but that, too, is misleading. Illegal aliens often have several documents, all of them stolen or forged, which are easily available on the black market. Bishops rarely, if ever, publicly admonish illegals not to break the Seventh and Eighth Commandments, however.
The bishops invoke “families,” but that too raises a troubling problem. Under the Obama administration, the USCCB and its array of welfare agencies received tens of millions of federal taxpayer dollars to care for illegals, among them an unchecked flood of “unaccompanied minors.” On reflection, our bishops are participating in a program that actually encourages the breakup of families south of the border, with parents paying thousands of dollars to a “Coyote” smuggler to take their children away from home.
The bishops might invoke their “search for a better life,” but aren’t Catholics supposed to encourage intact families? Does the lure of federal millions blind the hierarchy to the damage these programs are inflicting on families and society, both north and south of the border?
We might discern an answer in the statement issued on March 26 by the Archdiocese of Mexico City. The statement roundly condemns Trump’s planned wall, and actually accuses Mexicans who are willing to work on the wall of “treason” (but, curiously, not of “sin.”)
Unlike his American colleagues, the Mexican archbishop doesn’t pull his punches. The wall represents American “xenophobia,” his statement says, and “behind the pretty pictures [lie] hate, mutilation, and division.” The “ignominious wall” is a “fanatical project that annihilates good relations and the harmony between two nations that share a common border,” it continues.
Harmony? The archbishop is apparently unaware that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto recently defied President Trump and encouraged illegal aliens not to come home, promising them fifty million dollars in legal aid through Mexico’s fifty consulates to keep them in the U.S.
Of course, that sum makes sense: If only ten million of the Mexican illegals currently in the U.S. returned home, Peña Nieto would have to come up with fifty billion dollars to replace the lost “remesa” income and provide the social services in Mexico that the illegals had gotten for free in the U.S.
The Mexican bishop’s statement recognizes this. The wall is “frankly a threat that violates [Mexican] social relations and peace,” it says, and it then condemns the “tepidity” of Mexican officials for not taking a stronger stand against the wall, adding that Mexicans want to flee the country to find freedom, like people behind the Iron Curtain did.
This veiled condemnation by an archbishop of the notoriously anti-Catholic Mexican government represents a perilous step for the Mexican Church. Mexico is already the most dangerous country in the world to be a priest. According to the Catholic News Agency, “dozens of priests have either died or vanished without trace in the country in the past 25 years.” For the archdiocese so directly to condemn the government in such blunt terms is dangerous indeed.
Or perhaps the opposite is true. If the wall goes up, the Mexican government, long accused of rampant corruption, will be confronted by demands from its own people to “Make Mexico Great Again.”
If that is the case, the Mexican archbishop, with a wink, is actually doing Peña Nieto’s bidding, just as the American bishops openly supported Obama’s defiance of the rule of law regarding immigration.