An Immigration Memo From a ‘Deplorable’ Catholic to Trump for His Meeting With Pope Francis
Mr. President, as a Catholic conservative who endorsed you in the election, I’d like to make a few suggestions before you meet with our spiritual leader, Pope Francis. Just a few facts and arguments that might come in handy. You probably don’t know too much inside Catholic baseball. So you might have a wrong impression of the authority and power of the pope. You also might feel put on the defensive. This pope questioned your credentials as a Christian during the campaign.
The worst outcome of all that might come of this meeting? That you might think that the pope’s policy opinions bind a billion Catholics. That could lead you to one of two conclusions. Either:
- You will see the pope as prophetic. You’ll cede him the moral high ground. You will change all your policy views to match his. (The likelihood of that, happily, seems slim.) Or:
- You will hear the pope offer poorly considered, utopian policies in moralistic rhetoric. You will believe that those are what is demanded of Christians. (After all, he’s the Pope, right?) You will see that these policies are foolish and destructive. So you will smile politely and make a mental note: “Religious folks: doe-eyed dreamers. I live in the real world, though.”
Either of these would be tragic. Because I am here to tell you something, Mr. President. About the critical issue where you differ with Pope Francis, immigration: You are right and he is wrong. Not just in a pragmatic or cynical sense. On the deepest moral level. Your positions agree with the consensus of 2,000 years of Christian teaching and statesmanship.
U.S. Catholic bishops have an institutional self-interest in promoting immigration from Latin America. In fact, they’re addicted to it, for survival.
The GOP Platform Matches the Catholic Catechism
Even better, the GOP 2016 platform on immigration is quite close to that laid out in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church. Both the Catechism and the Platform balance the aspirations of immigrants for a better life against national sovereignty, the rule of law, and the need for assimilation.
The Church acknowledges that countries have a right to restrict, regulate, and make sovereign decisions about immigration. Here’s the money quote from the Catechism, which binds all Catholics — including Pope Francis:
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.
That’s all you’re trying to do, and the Church teaches that you’re right.
The Preferential Option for Nonsense
By contrast, Pope Francis seems to disregard the well-being of immigrant-receiving nations. He dismisses their citizens’ concerns as selfish. In the Italian town of Lampedusa, African economic migrants have overwhelmed and now outnumber residents. Visiting Lampedusa in 2013, Francis compared those who would restrict such immigration to the murderous Cain of Genesis, and the bloody tyrant Herod in the Gospels.
The GOP 2016 platform on immigration matches the Catholic Catechism.
In 2017, a highly placed Vatican cardinal, Peter Turkson, along with 24 American bishops, endorsed a radical statement. It’s called the “Message from Modesto.” It called on Catholic churches to block the enforcement of democratically enacted, just U.S. immigration laws. It was an outrageous political act, and an attack on American sovereignty. You would be within your rights to insist that Pope Francis publicly denounce it.
U.S. Bishops Need Immigrants to Fill the Pews
U.S. Catholic bishops have an institutional self-interest in promoting immigration from Latin America. In fact, they’re addicted to it, for survival. As I wrote in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism:
Catholic leaders gain enormously in the short term from the influx of millions of Latin Americans. It is these migrants who refill the emptying pews in our parishes—where schools and CCD programs, preaching, and other forms of evangelization are manifestly failing to pass along the Faith. In 2015, the Pew Study reported that a shocking 41 percent of adult American Catholics leave the Church at some point, most never to return….
According to Pew Research, some 22 percent of U.S. Catholics today are immigrants from Latin America. The native-born American Church is bleeding members, and Catholics would be diminishing quickly as a share of the U.S. population, were it not for a constant influx of Catholic immigrants.
In Defense of Catholic Social Teaching
Catholic social teaching isn’t airy-fairy idealism. Nor is it an iron “preferential option for the poor.” That’s just a high-flown phrase for mindless “siding with the underdog.” That throws justice and reason out the window. The person with less money at the moment isn’t always in the right — or else we’d have to side with every shoplifter against every store owner. Or every illegal immigrant against the citizens of any country.
No, the Christian tradition of social thought is better than that. It’s the outcome of Christian rulers, pastors, thinkers and citizens wrestling with difficult, complex issues over centuries. Applying the lessons of scripture, philosophy, and experience to the management of society. It’s based in reason, not sentiment.
One pope wagging his finger cannot erase this tradition like an Etch-a-Sketch. Pope Francis has no more power to do this than you do to revise the U.S. Constitution via executive order.
Remember that. Go enjoy all the Vatican’s art. And no, it’s not for sale. Neither is America’s sovereignty.