Wednesday, May 11, 2005


The US Bishop's Immigration Reform Campaign is launching a new website here. In an insightful comment to an item at Amy Welborn's "Open Book" blog, a poster named Neil had this to say (reprinted with his permission):

"What are our responsibilities to migrants?

"I'm running rather short on time, so let me quote a few paragraphs from an article by William O'Neill, SJ and William Spohn ("Rights of Passage: The Ethics of Immigration and Refugee Policy," Theological Studies 59 [1998]):

""In modern Catholic social teaching, the legitimate sovereignty of states in regulating immigration serves the global common good. This means that states are morally bound to respect and promote the basic human rights of both citizen and resident alien, especially the most vulnerable. Persons are entitled to be treated in accordance with their equal dignity. Such respect justifies preferential attention to those whose basic rights are most systemically imperilled, such as refugees, migrants, and of these, women and children in particular, who are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Pacem in Terris thus affirms not only the commonly recognized right to emigrate, but the right to immigrate as well: 'when there are just reasons for it,' every human being has 'the right to emigrate to other countries and to take up residence there.' The loss of citizenship 'does not detract in any way from [one's] membership in the human family as a whole, nor from [one's] citizenship in the world community.' (n25) ...

""In addition, the Catholic Church recognizes persons' right to change nationality for social and economic as well as political reasons. In view of the 'common purpose of created things [and the mutually implicatory character of basic positive and negative rights], where a state which suffers from poverty combined with great population cannot supply such use of goods to its inhabitants . . . people possess a right to emigrate, to select a new home in foreign lands and to seek conditions of life worthy' of their common humanity (Instruction on the Pastoral Care of People Who Migrate no. 14). Paul VI thus urgued acceptance of 'a charter which will assure [persons'] right to emigrate, favor their integration, facilitate their professional advancement, and give them access to decent housing where their families can join them.' (Octogesima adveniens no. 17) ..."

"We can say, then, that states must offer asylum to those whose political rights have been threatened, and also "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" (CCC 2241). Now, can one really say that the United States welcomes the foreigner to the extent that it is able, or are we grossly violating the "common purpose of created things"? Remember, St Thomas writes, "a rich man does not act unlawfully if he anticipates someone in taking possession of something which at first was common property, and gives others a share: but he sins if he excludes others indiscriminately" (ST II.II.q77a2).

"O'Neill and Spohn remind us that welcoming the stranger is a practice of great spiritual importance, "since Leviticus reminds us, 'The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God' (Lev 19:34). Loving the resident alien thus becomes the reenactment of the Exodus story and the revelation of Israel's identity. So too, the Christian follows Jesus' exodus to the Father by becoming neighbor to the anawim in the way (hodos) of discipleship (Luke 10:33)."

"I would like to end by quoting the late John Paul II (Annual Message for World Migration Day 1996), who spoke rather similarly:

""For Christians, the migrant is not merely an individual to be respected in accordance with the norms established by law, but a person whose presence challenges them and whose needs become an obligation for their responsibility. 'What have you done to your brother?' (Cf. Gen 4:9). The answer should not be limited to what is imposed by law, but should be made in the manner of solidarity. ... Man, particularly if he is weak, defenseless, driven to the margins of society, is a sacrament of Christ's presence (cf. Mt 25:40, 45)."

"It would seem that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is acting in accordance with Catholic tradition. May God bless the Conference's efforts."

Well said, Neil.