"...people have a right to migrate to improve their lives, while countries have a right to defend their borders."
To the Editor:
Eileen Steele’s commentary (“Some things need discussing,” August 26), in which she says “the Catholic Church has a wrong-headed approach to the illegals,” though she gives no elucidation as to what offends her, caused me, a cradle Catholic, to wonder: What is the crux of the Church’s teaching on immigration; and how does it fit into the political debate?
Probably the best source I found to answer questions is the Maryland Catholic Conference , informed by bishops O’Brien, Wuerl and Saltarelli of Baltimore, Washington and Wilmington, respectively, to advocate for public policy and pastoral interests in Annapolis and on Capitol Hill. The MCC, the site summarizes, aims to keep before our legislators “moral and religious dimensions of secular issues” and “values of the Gospel as norms for social and political life” and to promote “peace and justice.”
“Undocumented immigrants are persons with dignity,” the bishops state in their document titled “Where All Find a Home;” and they call us to learn about the immigration system, reasons people migrate, and needs of immigrants and their families: “Our American ideals call us to participate in the public debate; our Catholic faith urges us to do so with charity.”
Basically, the Church advances the position that people have a right to migrate to improve their lives, while countries have a right to defend their borders. When the two ideals conflict, citizens of the “receiving nation,” if capable, should respond with generosity to meet basic individual needs and keep families together. The church’s position separates legal questions surrounding entry into the U.S. from social questions of dignified treatment for immigrants.
The bishops cite organized Catholic outreaches to immigrants: “Catholic Relief Services, headquartered in Baltimore, assists 80 million people worldwide, including many who have been displaced by war, genocide and the threat of starvation. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops works for a just federal immigration policy and promotes economic initiatives that help people stay in their homelands. In Maryland, immigrants are served through the good work of organizations like the Hispanic Apostolate in Baltimore, the Spanish Catholic Center in Langley Park, and the Seton Center in Princess Anne.”
The bishops urge Catholics to educate themselves – and the site posts informational pieces about the process, history, economics and root causes for immigration – and to thoughtfully discuss the issues toward finding “local solutions to local challenges.” We are reminded that the Holy Family were immigrants who found shelter in a foreign land and that our first American saint, Frances Xavier Cabrini, was an Italian immigrant.
Our individual political beliefs are our own – and contrary to what Dr. Steele would lead readers to believe, “political speeches” are not made in Catholic churches; and no “political agenda” is “pushed down (anyone’s) throat” – but we are called to be reasonable and charitable in forming our opinions and actions.
by Nancy E. Thoerig 08-29-08