Pope Francis: Safety of Citizens Can’t Come First in Immigration Policy

By John Zmirak Published on August 23, 2017

Imagine you lived in a dicey neighborhood, near a homeless shelter. I do. It’s a little unsettling late at night when I walk my dogs. Periodically, people who are clearly both mentally ill and self-medicating with illegal drugs approach me. Sometimes they’re muttering harmlessly. Occasionally, they’re menacing. I’ve learned to walk away quickly and briskly, and make my way to safety.

I know of a neighbor (call him “Jim”) who was walking his little pug, and encountered an enormous, morbidly obese man known for violent outbursts. The homeless man demanded money, which Jim didn’t have. So he attacked both Jim and his little pug. He beat them bloody. I found all this out when I saw Jim limping around with a cane, walking a heavily bandaged dog. He told me what had happened, and I wondered whether I ought to either a) move or b) get trained and certified for concealed carry.

Welcome the Deranged

Imagine if I went to my pastor with this, and he told me that instead I needed to do something very different. What if he’d said that as a Christian I had the duty to invite dangerous homeless people into my apartment? Regardless of the threat to my own safety. Or that of my beloved rescue beagles. Or of my elderly neighbors down the hall. Make it worse, and imagine that I had a wife and children of my own. But the pastor still said that the Gospel demanded I keep an open door to the homeless. That my concern for my own safety and my dependents’ and neighbors’ could not be an issue. Not if I were really a Christian.

Twist the knife one more time. Imagine that the pastor tried to impose this view on non-Christians, too. Imagine that he lobbied to change the laws so that unstable homeless people could come and go in citizens’ homes whenever they pleased. What if he said something like: “Someone who locks his door against the needy out of fear, this person is not a Christian?”

Does Christianity really teach that nations may not protect their own citizens first? The citizens whom it taxes? Drafts into wars?

Pope Francis’s Opinion

I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now. I’ve just laid out the position that Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops have taken on immigration. Pope Francis just made a major public statement on the subject. His target was not just Americans concerned about migration from crime-riddled societies like Mexico. The pope also spoke to Europeans deeply worried by millions of intolerant, unassimilable Muslims who seem likely to enter Europe in the next few years, despite the wave of terrorism that came with the last wave.

As Nicole Winfield of Religion News Service writes, Pope Francis

demanded a simplified process of granting humanitarian and temporary visas and rejected arbitrary and collective expulsions as “unsuitable.” He said the principle of ensuring each person’s dignity “obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security.”

Francis has made refugees a priority of his pontificate, making his first trip outside Rome in 2013 to the island of Lampedusa, ground zero in Europe’s migration crisis.

Stream readers will remember that on his visit to Lampedusa, Pope Francis compared opponents of mass immigration to Herod, murdering the infants of Bethlehem, and Cain killing Abel. Now he is saying that Norway, for instance, must put the safety of newcomers from Syria who claim that they were in danger over the safety of its own citizens. That the U.S. must do that for self-proclaimed “refugees” from Central America. Indeed, the U.S. bishops followed up Pope Francis’ statement by saying just that, denouncing President Trump’s decision to end a mass influx via the Central American Minors program created by Obama.

Sorry, No

I won’t call what Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops are promoting Catholic “teaching” because it isn’t. The pope has no authority to just make a speech and change what the Church has taught for centuries. He’s not an oracle. 

 Unless he invokes (as no pope has since 1950) the divine protection from heresy that Catholics believe Jesus promised St. Peter and his successors, what he says is not protected from error.

When popes and bishops talk about politics, they’re not even supposed to rely primarily on church traditions. Or even the bible. It would violate the religious freedom of non-Christians to make coercive laws based on Revelation

It gets worse when what one pope says contradicts what previous popes, councils, or official catechisms said on the same subject. When a pope flips over a centuries-old tradition you can be sure he’s on his own. That’s what happened on immigration. Pope Francis just contradicted the official Catechism of the Catholic church, a higher authority than his own, except in very rare circumstances. (That, is when a pope invokes infallibility, which no pope has since 1950.)

At times like these, the authority the pope speaks with is that of his intellect and knowledge. Should you trust it? It depends on his track record. To say any more than that is not Catholic doctrine. It’s rank superstition.

Politics Rests on Reason, Not Blind Faith

When popes and bishops talk publicly about politics, they’re not supposed to rely primarily on Church authority. Or even the Bible. It would violate the religious freedom of non-Christians to make coercive laws based on revelation that we accept and they don’t. Nope, when we talk about politics in a pluralist society, it’s our job to make all our arguments based on the “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” You know, the way the Declaration of Independence does. For a careful account of what Catholic social teaching is and isn’t, see this column.  

Read Catholic scholar (and Stream contributor) Samuel Gregg on the deep moral meaning of national sovereignty. He points out that in our globalized world, it’s the last line of defense for human dignity and freedom. Take it away or make it meaningless, and each of us is a lonely and helpless atom with no vote, no voice, and no recourse.

Charity Begins Far From Home

Does Christianity really teach that nations may not protect their own citizens first? The citizens whom it taxes? Drafts into wars? Whom it regulates, relies on, and when they violate laws, imprisons? By the very same logic, we shouldn’t look out for own children before we do total strangers. If that’s true, then it’s wrong to set aside college funds, vacation money, or cash for piano lessons for our own flesh and blood — not when anyone, anywhere is hungry somewhere on earth.

Likewise, on this logic, nations that have followed smart economic policies and inherited healthy political cultures may not protect what they have, while wishing others well and offering help as it seems prudent. Nope. We must open up our apartments to every mental patient, no matter the damage they do. However much terrorism the influx of Muslims brings into Europe, that’s the cross we must bear. And we must impose it even on our non-Christian neighbors. Because the pope said so.  

This is the kind of misreading of the Gospel that the Gnostics used to produce in the early Church. You know, the same people who demanded that every Christian be dirt-poor and celibate, or else they betrayed “the Gospel.” It’s bad enough to impose such notions on Christians. To use the force of the state to demand of it of every citizen is even worse.

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  • Paul

    How many ‘refugees’ did the Vatican take in?

    • Chip Crawford

      My thought exactly as I was reading this. It makes me think of others in high places (Meryl Streep, et al in that scene, Mr. Obama, wealthy Dem leaders) behind locked gates with professional guards and security systems telling us to open wide our doors, let ’em all in.

      • Paul

        Speaking of security, Pope Francis lives behind a nice big wall but we can’t protect ourselves with one.

        • Chip Crawford

          Now, I’m recalling the wall built around Mr. Obama’s new Washington house, oh yeah, masons busy building an actual brick wall. (You can find it in a search, Obama brick wall, etc.) That should have been all over the media for the irony in light of the opposition to the southern border wall.

    • Zmirak

      AND, more importantly, how many did they give the VOTE, and power to change its government, redistribute its wealth, impose an alien religion, etc? ZERO. Rightly so.

      • Paul

        I don’t keep close tabs on what’s going on in Catholicism, articles here are probably the most frequent regarding current events. I honestly don’t understand how you stay. I used to be in the PCUSA and the leadership bafoonery sent me packing.

  • Bob Adome

    Open up all Catholic properties, private quarters and the Vatican. Remove all of the fences, walls, and gates. Retire his private army. Then maybe we will consider it.

  • Paul

    Wow, comments are getting deleted everywhere, why bother having them at all?

  • tz1

    The Vatican can open its doors and tear down its walls so as to lead by example. And invite refugees to Castle Gandolfo.

    • faithful

      Well said! Tear down your borders and house as many as you can. Set the example.

    • LOLPMP

      It is an incredible amount of wealth sitting there , isn’t it?… Imagine the amount of “God’s work” they could do if they weren’t running what is essentially a multi nation conglomerate…

  • faithful

    I do think those in charge in the Catholic church must practice what they preach and set the example. Vatican City is very very rich and their bank does very well; so why can’t they open their pockets as well as their doors. Many in charge say, “do as I say, not as I do’ and I will leave it at that for the time being…

    • Faith of Our Fathers

      I am a Catholic and like Millions of fellow Catholics Francis does not speak for me.
      Also as far as The Vatican and our Churches are concerned HE does not own them nor has any rights to invite any Refugees or Immigrants . As far as your argument is concerned about the Catholic Church being very Rich yes it is and it is staying Rich . If you are concerned about the Poor you do as we Catholics do and have a Second Collection in your place of Worship ( if you go to a place of Worship ) Outwith the United Nations The Catholic Church is the biggest contributor to Charity in The World . So yes our Churches are magnificent Monuments to Christ and bar a Nuclear War they’ll be staying that way.

      • LOLPMP

        FoOF…. sad. You claim to be a Christian? You point fingers and and flippantly tell others to help the poor while you ‘have a SECOND collection’ in your gaudy house of worship for the poor? I find it deplorable that you would think for a second that a first collection would go toward your physical place of worship and essentially enriching the global church. It is beyond ironic the pope calls for all these actions, whilst sitting on immeasurable wealth. One would think, if they were followers of Christ, they would reduce all that physical wealth into money they could use to transform the lives of millions of people. Oddly, they do not.. But here in the USA they spent an inordinate amount of money and time shielding and moving child rapists around… Face it ,the Catholic church has become a twisted joke. Second collection, lmfao
        You call your churches ‘magnificent monuments to Christ’ and the church is staying Rich…. That right there says volumes about you and the current church… If you want to be a true ‘monument to Christ’ you sell all the physical wealth and use it IN God’s work, not modern idolatry….

        • Faith of Our Fathers

          Are you thick or have you been just let out for the day . I asked YOU the first time What Do You Do For The Poor . Your post betrays you . You are about as much caring for the Poor as Judas was . Do you not read your scripture. Christ himself said The Poor You Will Always Have With You . I repeat as you seem to be told more than once . Us as in Catholics after The U.N .are the biggest contributors to Poverty in The World. Of course the Well worn dig about Rouge Priests is always brought up . As for yourself you do not say which of The Thousands of Protestant sects out there that you belong to.

          • LOLPMP

            I know the internet can be a frightening place for Faith based individuals versus fact based, But I am here to help.
            First, you have not asked ME anything, as that was my first post in this article…Try to keep track… Second, I can also see since you attacked me on my contributions to the poor , that you are blind. You know ZERO about me other than I attacked your “Church” and your premise that it has a “right” to be rich and hoard untold material wealth. You have ignored that premise, so it is safe to assume you have nothing in response, only broad assumptions about me.
            As to the limp defenses of the churches well documented cover up of ‘ Rouge[sic] priests’ … it isn’t about one or two ROGUE priests that irks people, my foolish friend, it is the MUCH broader cover up that reverberated to the highest levels of the Church… It may be a ‘well worn dig’, but it is well deserved also..It has legs because you’re church gave it legs…
            I do not need to defend my contributions to the poor, but do not be so stupid to think I have none. Our family does much, monetarily, as well as food donations and charity work… It matters not what ‘sect’ one belongs to, but rather what one does. Action speak louder than words, and your hollow blathering about the Catholic church speaks volumes…

            I say again, if your Church is so caring, why do you defend it’s hoarding of material wealth? You addressed Zero of what I said about edifices or monuments…I stand by my comment that it is itself a perverse form of idolatry…The building of ‘magnificent monuments to Christ’ are a sad way to show the ways of Christ… Get thee from thy temples, and use that idol (pun intended) money to help people, not build things.
            Sad

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