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Our Religious Leaders and Immigration—Whose Interest Do They Have at Heart?

Recently the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and an evangelical group issued statements opposing the President’s immigration moratorium from seven predominantly Islamic countries where the rule of law has broken down. They rightly point to the love of neighbor and need to support religious liberty for all, but their positions are not intellectually honest as they do not present all the relevant issues.

 

The arguments presented are based upon our shared human nature, but our nature alone does not define who we are, whether citizen or foreigner. That is only the starting point. Instead we are defined by our choices and actions, reflections of the beliefs and ideas we hold. From Clement of Alexandria, “As are men’s wishes, so are their words; As are their words, so are their deeds; And as their works, such is their life.”

 

Where the rule of law has broken down, it is reasonable—in fact responsible—to reevaluate actions, policies, and procedures. We have a moral duty to protect all, both those immigrating to our country and those already here, to distinguish the peaceful immigrants from those hostile to us. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Catechism), “Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary.” (1734) Accepting immigrants is a voluntary action. Compassion is expected but it must be joined with personal responsibility for our choice. That personal responsibility is a cornerstone of our society as it supports the God-given rights and freedoms we each possess. All rights come with responsibilities.  It is time we focus on both and not just our rights.

 

The National Catholic Register posted an article comparing the Bishop’s position with both the Church’s own catechism and the immigration position of Thomas Aquinas. This article is instructive. Aquinas made the distinction between peaceful and hostile foreigners wanting to enter a land. For any individuals wishing to be admitted to another society, a period was to exist allowing for the common good of their newly adopted society to become entrenched within the immigrant’s heart. In short, a time for them to fully integrate into their new society. At the time he wrote, that time was several generations.

 

Integration by immigrants into their newly adopted society is expected. While we have a duty toward immigrants, they in turn also have a duty to support the common good of the society receiving them. This is expressed by Gratian as, “No one, whether citizen or foreigner, may, to suit his own pleasure, violate a people’s agreement among themselves, whether established by the custom of the society or by law. For any part clashing with the whole is a disgrace.” There must be a shared mutual commitment for the common good, a common good defined by the society receiving immigrants.

 

Political authorities have responsibility in this area. From the Catechism again, “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.” (2241)

 

The left wishes to frame the debate around Muslims, but the issue is not Muslims. It is Islam. We see it in the acts of some immigrants, both here and in Europe. Islam is not just a religion, but an ideology with a religious aspect. An ideology aligned with other forms of collectivism (communism, fascism, progressivism, socialism, etc.). They all come from the same root, and all are incompatible with our society’s foundational principles.  Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate its intolerance, an intolerance that is still present today.

 

All significant conflicts today are occurring either within Islamic countries, or in places where Islamic forces are attempting to force non-Islamic populations to convert to Islam. The chaos unfolding in Europe represents another form of open hostility from some immigrants toward the very societies receiving them. Given Islam’s ideology and history, it is both right and just that a pause be taken to ensure we remain true to our principles while attempting to distinguish those wishing to flee this ideology from those who want to adhere to it.

 

If the Bishops and evangelicals wish the equally relevant principles just mentioned above be set aside, then they should present their case, but they are silent. Instead they ignore arguments contrary to their position. It is again intellectually dishonest and by doing so they are not serving their communities. Maybe there is another reason for their position?

 

The evangelical’s letter is undersigned by World Relief. Both the USCCB and World Relief are voluntary organizations, VOLAGS. These organizations are paid per refugee they bring into the U.S. using public funds. There are nine such primary organizations in the U.S. today. Foundation Watch published a list in 2015 identifying the public funding each VOLAG receives. Their numbers come from USASpending.gov, a government site responsible for publishing federal spending information. Foundation Watch reported that the USCCB received over $550 million in 2014 alone, and more than $2 billion during the eight years of the Obama administration for refugee resettlement. World Relief received another $33 and $196 million respectively over the same period.

 

The nature of this financial relationship and vested interest each organization has in maintaining, or increasing, the present immigration flow is not disclosed in either letter. Their misleading arguments and lack of disclosure are shameful. We should expect and demand more from those who wish to lead us.

Posted in: Stewardship

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About Dan Wolf

Dan WolfMy goal is that my writing will help you to get started on your own journey of discovery, or help you along the way on a journey you may have already begun. Our Founders considered education, religion, morality, and virtue to be the cornerstones for any successful society. Being successful requires understanding both the languages of reason and faith; reason alone is insufficient.