Welcome the Stranger

Cardinal SeanThere has been a lot of reporting recently on the effects of the Attorney General Sessions order to have all immigrants attempting to enter the country illegally, to be arrested and jailed.  A part of that order is to separate any children from their immigrant parents, and hold them in separate facilities, pending placement in foster homes.  Some in the government have advanced the theory that it will deter immigrants from attempting to cross the border, at the cost of losing their children.

Many spokespersons of civil rights and religious organizations have spoken out sharply against this policy.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Florida have condemned the policy, and is discussing sending a delegation of bishops to the border to examine the conditions at these facilities, and the condition of the immigrants being held.  Here in Boston, MA, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston has issued a statement on the current immigration situation.

While our country has the right to control it’s borders, and who is be allowed into this country, humane policies should be implemented in enforcing immigration laws.  What we are beginning to see on our screens, and reading newspapers, shows a failure of empathy and charity by this government.  It is yet to be seen if the American public will voice it’s concern for the immigrant children, given the growing hostility towards illegal immigrants in general.

What is really upsetting many religious leaders is the attempt by Attorney General Sessions and Press Secretary Sanders to use Scripture to back the government immigration policies.  There are commentators who criticize  the use of Scripture passages out of context.

Well, I may about to do the same thing; but I close with this Scripture passage that always turn to when reflecting on the moral issues of immigration policies.  It is from the Book of Leviticus:

When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him.  You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.  I, the Lord, am your God.”  (Lv 19: 33-34, NAB)

We are citizens of a country of immigrants; we are all descendants of immigrants.  Those who come to our shores, approach our borders; need to be treated with dignity, care, and respect.

Cardinal O’Malley Speaks Out on Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Cardinal SeanCruxnow.com is reporting on comments made by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP, Archbishop of Boston on the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has infected the presidential campaign this year.  In an interview he had with Irish media, he warned that such speech, demonizes a minority group, and can bring about unjust treatment.  He called on Americans to remember that it was that long ago, that our Irish immigrant ancestors were seen as a threat to America; and subjected to anti-immigrant treatment.  He called on Americans to stop blaming our current troubles on the immigrant, and instead work together to care for one another and find solutions together.

Welcome the Stranger.

 “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.  I, the Lord, am your God. ” (Leviticus 19: 33-34)

TrumpI have used the above quote from Leviticus in a previous quote, but unfortunately, it remains relevant to current events.  And I am speaking about comments made by Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, on prohibiting persons of the Muslim faith from entering this country.  And he does not seem to distinguishing between Muslims from a specific geographic location, and all Muslims.  His statement has set off a firestorm of comments, both in the media, and blogosphere!  Many comments were highly critical of Mr. Trump’s opinion, accusing him of violating America’s high ideals.

The sad truth is that since America’s earliest beginning’s, there has been an undercurrent of religious intolerance in the country’s history.  As far back as Puritan Boston, when Quakers were persecuted; even hung, like Mary Dyer, for their beliefs.  Baptists and Evangelicals were discriminated against in the state of Virginia, in the newly born United States.  Mormons were, attacked, murdered, and were driven out to the frontiers of the Republic.  There has always been a subtle discrimination against persons of the Jewish faith.  And Catholics should remember the fierce opposition to believers of our faith existed in this nation.  Some of the early state constitutions had amendments that prohibited persons who “swore allegiance to a foreign ruler (i.e.; the Pope,)” from holding public office.  Catholic schools, orphanages, and convents were attacked at times during urban riots.  When the great waves of Catholic immigrants started coming to our shores, the fear mongering grew to fever pitch.  A nativist party, founded in the 1800’s, and known popularly as the “Know Nothings”; with the aim of preventing immigration of German and Irish Catholics, and limiting the access to the political system only to Protestants.  We have grown as country, and religious liberty is enshrined in both our Constitution, and the body politic.  There have been and always will be tensions as we continue to explore what the ideal of religious liberty and tolerance means in a modern society that has both religious and secular segments to it.

Persons, such as Mr. Trump, are threatening that ideal, by playing to the fears of terrorism that is afflicting our country right now.  Michael Sean Winters, of the National Catholic Reporter, in an interesting recent post on this issue.  In the last few paragraphs, he speaks about the real threat of terror.  The real threat is not the death and destruction terrorists can inflict, but the changes they can cause in a society.  When out of fear, they cause a society, like the U.S., to abandon its ideals of personal freedom, of openness to all faiths, for severe, hard-handed security practices, and make us an armed camp.  When it causes a nation to demonize a whole religion; a whole people, and discriminates against them; then the terrorist wins.

To stand up to terrorism, means to have the courage to remain faithful to those social and political ideals that make us a unique people on the world stage.  As a community of believers, we American Catholics need to remember our own immigrant roots, and not give into fear.  During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are called to extend mercy; which we experience ourselves, to others.  We trust that God’s grace will help us overcome fear and anxiety, and we will welcome the stranger.

welcome the stranger