Catholic Bishops Confuse the Faithful on Immigration and Abortion

America's Catholic bishops put good intentions over common sense when it comes to immigration — and they're silent on abortion.

People line up to protest U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and immigration reform at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Ind. Thursday, June 14, 2018.

By Christopher Manion Published on June 18, 2018

When America’s Catholic bishops met in Fort Lauderdale last week, their confab quickly turned into a political rally. Their target? President Donald Trump and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. The issue? Illegal immigration.

For years, our bishops have ardently supported amnesty for illegal aliens. In doing so they have often depicted their critics in language that is curiously lacking in two vital virtues — prudence and charity. For our shepherds, Americans who disagree with them are simply “nativists,” “racists,” “xenophobes,” and “bigots.”

The fact that President Trump has turned out to be the most pro-life president in recent history hasn’t dampened our bishops’ ire one iota. Some fifty million Catholics have left the pews since Vatican II. The Church is clearly in crisis. What is to be done? Or, to put it another way, “what do the bishops really want?”

A “Prophetic Statement” That Ignores Reality

If you take them at their word, their long-term goal is a “Next America.”

As many of our bishops see it, Trump stands in their way. So, in the face of popular support for the president’s enforcement of immigration law, they upped the ante in Fort Lauderdale.

As Joshua Gill reported last week, Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tuscon, Arizona, was as bitter as he was blunt. The bishops, he suggested, should consider making a “prophetic statement” — translated: a thinly-veiled threat — to impose “canonical penalties for Catholics who are involved in this.”

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And what is “this”?

Some background: I have worked with Mexican immigrants for over fifty years. Here’s a little known fact: Illegal immigration is a business. In Mexico, criminal drug gangs, called “Coyotes,” charge some $5,000 a head to smuggle prospective customers across the U.S. border. Twenty years ago, most of those customers were adult men. They would work here as illegals, and wire money to their family back home. Under Obama, however, astute Coyotes recognized that the market was changing. Assuming that they survived the perilous journey, the customers who brought their children along had a better chance of being released by U.S. authorities if they were captured.

Good Intentions Over Common Sense

The Coyotes’ business model worked for years, and it would have continued under Hillary Clinton. But President Trump insisted on returning to the rule of law. Thus, families crossing the border illegally were detained.

But how to detain them? Our bishops insist that families be kept together. Attorney General Sessions has opted to put minor children in safe shelters while their parents — who have broken the law, we recall — are placed in adult facilities.

When it comes to immigration, our bishops rely on emotional good intentions, not common sense.

The bishops’ PR slogan is simple: “Children should not be separated from their parents!” The usual suspects on the left, always willing to steal a moral horse to ride, picked up the chant. Curiously, one of them was the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Apparently they believe that it’s only fair to separate children from their mothers before they’re born.

But whatever the motive, that feel-good assertion does not pass the reality test. I work in jail ministry for our parish. Many prisoners have wives and families whom they miss terribly. They pray for them fervently every week. It’s powerful. But the last thing they would want for their wife and kids would be for them to be thrown in with the other felons who populate our jail.

So when it comes to immigration, our bishops rely on emotional good intentions, not common sense.

Canon 915: Not Optional

Well, in spite of Bishop Weisenburger’s appeal to “prophecy,” they don’t rely on “canonical penalties,” either.

For Catholics, Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law requires, “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” (Bishop Weisberger misspoke: the refusal of admission is not a penalty, excommunication is). Moreover, the refusal is not optional but a binding duty, to be applied not only to those who have been excommunicated but also to “others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.” The good bishop properly observes that the refusal is for the “salvation of these people’s souls,” as well as to prevent public scandal.

Applying Canon 915 is not optional: it is a law that must be followed. So let’s take a look at how it is followed in Bp. Weisberger’s Diocese of Tuscon.

Tucson is represented in the U.S. Congress by Raul Grijalva. Rep. Grijalva is a Catholic. He has garnered a rating of 100 percent from the NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League). His advocacy of abortion is public, obstinate, persevering, and scandalous.

Why doesn’t Bishop Weisenburger publicly threaten to refuse Mr. Grijalva admission to the Eucharist?

Abortion Gets a Pass

Bishop Weisenburger is not alone. The problem is endemic. Countless American bishops refuse to apply Canon 915 to those who persevere in the manifest grave sin of supporting of murder of the unborn.

Consider the ten pro-abortion Catholics who are running for the U.S. Senate this fall. All of them are heartily endorsed by NARAL. How many of them were even mentioned by the Fort Lauderdale Bishops? None.

Those pro-abortion politicians didn’t even get a dirty look from our shepherds. Incumbents Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Bob Casey (D-PA) all got a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card. 

Countless American bishops refuse to apply Canon 915 to those who persevere in the manifest grave sin of supporting of murder of the unborn.

The tenth entry on the pro-abortion list is Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), who is running to replace Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). O’Rourke also has a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL. In a very congenial conversation, he tells me that El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz has never criticized his pro-abortion position in public, even though they often appear together in pro-amnesty rallies.

Is Bishop Seitz just a private man? Hardly. Last year, in a nationally-syndicated column, he lashed out at ten Republican officials for their opposition to DACA, Obama’s unconstitutional diktat granting temporary amnesty to millions of illegal minors. Bp. Seitz branded these officials as “hypocrites” and “modern-day Pharisees.” He has never apologized.

A Crisis for the Church

Like Bp. Seitz, many other bishops ignore pro-abortion Catholic politicians, even though support for abortion is an objective evil. However, on complex political issues where good Catholics can disagree, the bishops pretend that their personal opinion is as binding as belief in the Trinity or the Resurrection.

In his opening address, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, who heads the national bishops’ conference, set the tone of the Fort Lauderdale meeting by attacking Trump. Why does he ignore the prospect that the pro-abortion O’Rourke might represent the pro-life Lone Star State in the U.S. Senate? Are DiNardo and Seitz so determined to defeat opponents of amnesty that they will quietly give a pass to pro-abortion victories?

What could lie behind the Fort Lauderdale bishops’ destructive effort to promote pro-abortion politicians by their silence? Do they fear that Trump will curtail the generous taxpayer funding they received under Obama? Are they afraid that preaching eternal truths will make them unpopular? Do they agree with Abp. José Gómez that Hispanics will make better Americans than the ones we have now?

They won’t say. But reality looms close by, whether they confront it or not. The Church is indeed in crisis, and she has powerful enemies. In times like these, bishops who appeal to the rule of law to protect marriage, the family, life, and religious liberty should think twice before continuing their cavalier defiance of the law. Perhaps they might recall Saint Thomas More. He would remind them that, when they destroy the law, the law will no longer be there to protect them — or us.

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  • Jacob Miller

    It’s not confusing to support both the unborn and the born. Catholics call that consistency.

    What’s more confusing are Evangelicals who claim to care so deeply for the unborn but can be neglectful or even cruel to the born.

    • Paul

      What on earth are you talking about?

      • ArthurMcGowan

        Actually, there are many, many Catholic bishops who have slandered pro-lifers as “not caring about those who have been born.” That slander is called the “consistent ethic of life” or the “seamless garment.”

    • Patmos

      Get a life, useless troll. You are pathetic.

    • philfouthirteen

      The whole point of the column is the Bishops’ inconsistency. Are the columnist’s fact wrong? If so please provide facts.

      While you’re at it, you might want to include facts for your assertion about Evangelicals. I’m a Roman Catholic who appreciates pro life Evangelicals.


    • Andrew Mason

      Except it isn’t a case of supporting both born and unborn, but supporting abortion and illegal immigration, neither of which is Biblical.

      What neglect or cruelty towards the born are you accusing Evangelicals of? Facts not mere accusations please.

    • ArthurMcGowan

      What a bigoted, slanderous smear. Straight out of Nancy Pelosi’s manual of anti-Christian slime.

      • Jacob Miller

        >> What a bigoted, slanderous smear.

        How many “pro-life” conservative’s support a policy of taking BORN children from their mothers at the border?

        A lot of good Christians believe that’s cruel.

        How many “pro-life” conservatives stayed silent as the GOP let the Children’s Health Insurance Program (aka CHIP) lapse?

        Lots of good Christians would call that neglectful.

        And they aren’t being bigoted or slanderous for calling it as they see it.

        • Barrysullivan1

          We should turn the entire family around and send them back by not allowing them in. Nowhere does the Church require the Faithful to support government healthcare such as that ruining Great Britain and its health care system.

  • Garden of Love

    The bishops can’t decide whether they want to conform to the world or not, but they generally err on the side of conforming.

    • tz1

      Recently, my bishop had “call the USCCB to be connected with your rep and senators” inserted in the bulletin and mentioned at mass.
      Well, I obeyed, saying the Catholic Church should lose its tax-exempt status and every illegal should be sent home.

      But where is the “call your Apostate Apostolate Bishop” phone service? I would give him a piece of my mind, which would likely increase his IQ an order or magnitude, assuming the problem is not that he is a Eunuch for the kingdom.

  • Chris Griffin

    As a faithful Catholic I agree with this article 100%. In fact I go even further to say that most Bishops are grossly negligent concerning abortion, Catholic pro-aborts and Holy Communion to the point of grave sin of cooperation in abortion by silence. They have baby blood on their hands and they will pay the price. Yes the Catholic Church is in crisis with only a remnant still faithful.

  • James B

    I can’t wait to pull the lever for Trump again I’m 2020, right after I leave daily Mass!

  • Roderick Halvorsen

    First, every single person affected by this policy is here illegally. Illegally.

    Second, the “separations” are of short duration unless the illegal immigrant requests asylum. That is their choice. THEY choose to be separated from their family members for longer periods of time.

    Third, every criminal in prison is “separated fro his/her family”. That is a price to pay for illegal activity. Shall we now cease “separating” other types of criminals from their family members, too?

    Fourth, the policy has existed as law for years.

    The article is correct to ask why Catholic Bishops are concerned about canonical penalties for those who take part in mere temporary separations of family members while caring little for the permanent separations that occur when unborn babies are murdered in abortion.

    Catholic Bishops continue their unrelenting efforts to transform the Catholic Church into an Italian Branch Office of the Anglican Communion, the latter being an organization I sincerely hope many of them would join just as soon as humanly possible.

  • tz1

    Stop putting even a penny (or to send a message a penny might be useful) in the Offertory, and write USCCB with a sharpie.
    Of course they will still get $100M from DC for promoting Caesar.

  • Andrew Mason

    Seems to be a modern example of why the Reformation happened – Roman Catholic leaders refusing to follow Scripture and even ignoring church law. What happens if conservative priests and bishops refuse to excommunicate those who oppose illegal immigration but do excommunicate those who support abortion, regressive priests and bishops excommunicate those who oppose illegal immigration and refuse to excommunicate those who support abortion, and both sides continue to offer holy communion etc to those they deem unjustly excommunicated by the other side?

    • ArthurMcGowan

      There are not going to be any excommunications.

      Denial of Communion, if it ever occurs, will not be a consequence of excommunication, but of obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin.

      However, the pro-abortion bishops are not going to deny Communion to anyone, because it would call attention to their absolute refusal–for decades–to deny Communion to pro-aborts. It would also undermine Bergoglio’s campaign to abolish Denial of Communion entirely.

    • Brian Ulmen

      oh if only they (both sides) would actually ACT. That would be refreshing, actual action taken to enforce (however misguided) Church teachings. it would be a start at least, instead of the chaos and confusion as to what to do we operate under now.

  • I would love The Stream’s to write a rosy explanation of Nazi concentration camps too.

    “But President Trump insisted on returning to the rule of law. Thus, families crossing the border illegally were detained.”
    This implies that Trump is required to detain families (he is not), and he is required to separate children (he is not).

    “But how to detain them? Our bishops insist that families be kept together. Attorney General Sessions has opted to put minor children in safe shelters while their parents — who have broken the law, we recall — are placed in adult facilities.”

    This assumes shelters are safe for children, or good for them (they are not).

    This would be like writing about nazi death camps as an option for the ‘campers’

    • Nan P

      Let us know how you would like your local police/Sheriff to treat an adult who breaks into your home, and who brings along a child (not necessarily their own child) making the child an unwilling accomplice to their crime? Shall the local law enforcement allow that child (who cannot be firmly identified as the child of that adult criminal) to be housed with the criminal adult? How safe would that be?

      You clearly don’t consider illegal border crossing to be a crime. So define for us what it is? Should our borders be open? Be honest. And if yes, then will you personallt house, feed, clothe, employ the estimated 10s of millions who will pour into our former nation? What about helping the 13 million innocent US children already in poverty? And the 1000s of homeless US veterans? Criminals should not take precedence over our own children and veterans in need.

    • Barrysullivan1

      The Nazis did not allow the Jews to leave if they were in Germany or other occupied countries. Jews were not trying to break into Nazi occupied lands now were they? We separate families all the time when criminals are sent to jail so this argument is irrelevant. There are probably 2-3 billion people throughout the world that would love to come to this country – are we required to let all of them in? Approximately 75% of immigrants are on government assistance, education, etc and we are $20 trillion in debt – when we go banrupt the Golden Goose will be dead for everyone.

  • Andree Gross

    It’s all about cheeks in the seats. If revenues are down because people are wise to your game, you’ve got to import ignorant, easily led contributors.

  • Boris

    Oh what a crisis! Denying the anti-choice maggots the right to deny women their rights. Oh what is the world coming to when women have equal rights to men?

    • Men dont have a right to kill other humans. As a woman I DO NOT support killing humans via abortion or any other means

      • Boris

        So you don’t believe in our Constitution and our system of government. Then get out of our country now. You are not welcome here.

        • There is no Constitutional Right to kill via abortion show me where the Constitution says abortion is a right. Im an American citizen I will stay to try and change this SICK law. There have been bad laws before that have been overturned and in the US we work inside the law to change SICK laws like allowing abortion.

          • Boris

            The Supreme Court interprets the Constitution, not you. These right wing politicians have been playing you anti-choice fascists for fools by promising to restrict abortions. They know that people like you do not understand how our system of government really works. Rights are not decided by votes or majority rule but rather guaranteed by the Constitution. When the Constitution was ratified abortions were not only legal they were openly advertised. If our founders wanted to make abortions illegal they would have. The fact they did not weighed heavily on the Supreme Court’s proper interpretation of the Constitution. So you cannot change the laws because the Court always gives preference to earlier decisions. Besides making abortions illegal will not stop one women who really wants an abortion from getting one. In countries where abortions are still illegal almost 200 women die every day from the complications of botched abortions. That doesn’t bother you in the least and in fact this is the holocaust you would love to bring upon this country. You would dance with glee and rejoice loudly every time you read or heard about some poor woman dying from a botched abortion. Go live in some stinking theocracy if that’s what you want to see because you’re not going to turn this country into one. People like you are the most evil people who have ever existed on this planet.

          • More than 25 million girls are dead because of abortion just in the US abortion is the holocaust of all holocausts 2 billion killed through abortion worldwide since 1920. Its sad that women would choose to an abortion even if illegal. Some people choose to rob even if they could get shot to death should we make robbery legal then?

          • Boris

            Your last statement is a logical fallacy called a False Equivocation. Like you I cannot imagine what a woman must be going through who is considering having an abortion. It’s obviously traumatic and something I cannot even relate to not having walked a few miles in their shoes. We live in a country of rights and if you want the right to practice your religion and own guns then you better back off trying to take away other people’s rights. In this climate, if rights start disappearing like our right to free speech is, you are very likely to lose those rights I just mentioned.

          • How would you know what Ive been through? With my 1st child a clinic worker tried to pressure me to abort her even after I told her abortion was NOT an option I would EVER consider. I went to the family planning clinic to get ONLY a pregnancy test result because the TANF office would not accept the pregnancy resource centers pregnancy results. The TANF office sent me there to get free pregnancy results I would have not went to that place otherwise. Abortion was the only option given, I was not asked what I wanted. Kind of obvious that I wanted my child since the reason I went there was for pregnancy RESULTS to get TANF. Close relative was pressured for months by husband to abort child and other relatives have been told they should abort. TO MANY times to count I have heard from women who have been pressured or forced to abort.
            From the Forced Abortion in America Special Report~ “64% of women reported feeling pressured to abort.” Even though there is a percentage that arent pressure no person even the mother should have a right to kill another human inside the womb or out. Ever person alive today began at conception not birth.
            I know I know I should have been aborted at least thats what Ive been told. Im the fifth child so I shouldnt be here same goes with more than 7 younger brothers and sisters. We shouldnt be here because we were poor, abused and there were to many kids.Guess what we survived and Im glad our parents didnt kill us. No where in the Bill of Rights is there the right to abort while the 1st right list the free exercise of Religion, then freedom
            of speech. The 2nd Amendment is the RIGHT to bear Arms.

            Look up “Even Abortion Backers Admit Roe vs. Wade Was a Terrible Decision” ……. Even many scholars sympathetic to the results of Roe have issued harsh criticisms of its legal reasoning…….

            From Why Prolife~

            …….Roe v. Wade Criticism
            Roe was not only controversial because of it’s effects on abortion, but it also has come under fire by pro-choice legal scholars due to it’s poor legal reasoning. It is seen as an overreach by many on both sides.
            In addition to criticism from pro-life and pro-choice scholars, Roe v. Wade has garnered criticism from Supreme Court Justices as well:
            v. Wade … ventured too far in the change it ordered and presented an
            incomplete justification for its action.”– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
            find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support
            the Court’s judgment” in Roe v. Wade. – Justice Byron White
            Court’s abortion decisions have … worked a major distortion in the
            Court’s constitutional jurisprudence …” – Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
            Despite being extremely pro-choice, Justice Ginsburg has criticized Roe on multiple occasions……

          • Boris

            Abortions were not only legal when the Constitution was ratified they were openly advertised. Had our founders wanted to make abortions illegal they surely would have. They didn’t and you’re going to have to live with that the rest of your miserable and pointless life. These conservative politicians have been playing people like you for fools by telling you they can restrict abortions when they cannot. Every bill they pass to restrict abortions has been struck down by the courts or soon will be. Yet you bible thumpers cannot figure out that you are being played for fools. If you are gullible enough to let other people frighten you into believing the Buybull, you can be made to belieive just about anything.

          • Bye, bye its really ridiculous that you have to attack instead of having a civil conversation. You dont win by being nasty towards others.

          • Boris

            I just won. Loser.

          • Boris

            Show me where the Constitution says abortion is not a right.

        • John Collins

          Sick commie

          • Boris

            I support our Constitution and our law enforcement agencies. How does that make me a commie, Mr. Nazi?

    • MissyT111

      Oh spare the nonsense. The dems are all up in outrage when Christians don’t agree to change to allow women priests or want to kill babies, BUT they wouldn’t dare challenge Muslims on GM, killing gays, wrapping women up in burkas, marrying girls of the age of 12, beating their wives, honor killings – yeah, we believe you have the best interests of the women and children at heart. Go ahead big a big fellow and challenge the muslims…go, we’ll wait.

      • Boris

        Muhammad never existed and I remind the Muslims of that every chance I get. I’m not afraid of Muslims because they just are not as virile as we western men. Ask my girlfriend. She’s from Lebanon.

    • WurdeSmythe

      > when women have equal rights to men?

      That’s a non sequitur because men don’t have a right to kill their own children.

      • Boris

        Nobody has the right to use a man’s body. Poof.

  • MissyT111

    This has zero to do with doctrine and they know it and will not come out on it because Christians know the doctrine and the guidance. Hint: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. They’ve lost so many already because they talk out of both sides of their mouths. It wont’ fly and they’ll lose more people if they try to double talk it to the parishioners.

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