Monday, June 18, 2018

Immigration/Refugees/The Rule of Law

Much attention has been given to Jeff Sessions' recent quoting of The New Testament in regards to present application of the laws governing illegal entry into the United States.  As expected, the push back from  Protestant groups has been immediate though it is difficult for them because, under the ideology of Protestantism, everyone is their own expert when it comes to interpreting Holy Scripture.

As a Catholic, I am blessed.  I have three legs to the stool that is Truth:  Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition and The Magisterium.  I went to the Teachings and found this:

CCC 2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, 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. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
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. (emphasis added) 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.

Past administrations have chosen not to criminalize those who seek entry into the United States through channels that are not legal.  This has allowed us to keep families together.  However, Mr. Trump has declared that this is a 'catch and release' method (comparing the people to fish too small to eat, I guess) and that it has not worked because those people, required to come back and 'face the music', don't do it. 

According to the Washington Post, that is not quite true; 80% do report to court following release.  Now, that sure could be better - 20% is a lot of people - but it is still a higher percentage of people doing what they are supposed to do than that of American citizens participating in the voting process.

On June 15th, the Washington Post published an article by Phillip Bump that gives a pretty good history of how we got here to this ugly, messy situation.

As I read this article, I could not help but reflect on how every administration from the beginning has had a really difficult time figuring out this whole 'Give me your tired, your poor" thing that America is supposed to embody.

I am of Irish/Italian/Persian/Native American descent.  One of the jokes I have made to the snotty people I met when I joined a Sorority who told me that their family came over on the Mayflower was that mine came over on the land bridge.  Most of them were Art History majors and didn't get it - even Berkeley has their share of lightweights - but my point I was trying to make is that no one gets a pass when it comes to getting here.  Until science can place the Garden of Eden in Ohio or Arizona, every group here came from somewhere else.  Some came under duress.  Some came in the name of conquest.  Many came to escape a life going nowhere, an unjust government or seeking a chance to earn a living.

Every group that has arrived has had it tough.  Don't believe me?  Ask various Native American Tribes about their history of intertribal warfare, slavery and treatment of females or why ancient cities were abandoned after the people there wasted the natural resources of the area.  From human trafficking to human sacrifice, every culture has had its dark history and to pretend otherwise is to deny the existence of sin.  Concupiscence does not just affect one race, tribe or color.  When it comes to being jerks, every group has qualified.

Past administrations have okayed everything from lynching to rape under the guise of 'that group deserved it because they aren't one of us'.  Democrats and Republicans alike have treated immigrants with disdain because they were the wrong race, color or religion.  Don't believe me again?  Look at past NY Times editorials describing the Irish as 'drunken apes'.  Look up the reason one of our original states is names for The Blessed Mother. 

Our country was okay with buying and selling human beings because, after all, they were not really human.  How did they reach this conclusion?  The color of their skin was not white, their language and system of government was not English and they did not wear the same kind of clothes we wore.   Essentially, they were different.  But if you think people of color did not take advantage of European ignorance in this area you are wrong.  Tribal hatred in Africa resulted in men of color selling men of color.  The slave trade in parts of that continent is alive and well today, broken down along tribal lines.  Sin does not confine itself to race, creed or color.  When Adam turned from God and let sin into the world it hit all of us.  None of us escaped.

Today we are faced with a great humanitarian crisis caused by the rise of violence and the West's inability to respond in a way that protects our culture while welcoming those fleeing that violence.  As the Catechism teaches, both the country and the immigrant have a responsibility to the rule of law.  The sovereign laws need to be respected and enforced.  That has not been done.  No country needs to feel 'over run'.  No person fleeing terror should feel despair.

Therefore, if one enforces the laws to the letter and forsakes the Christian duty of mercy, love and compassion, then one has to be willing to take responsibility for grabbing firmly onto one ideal while jettisoning the other.  And in the same way, if one decides that practicing mercy cannot be done while protecting the culture and laws of the sovereign nation, then one has let go of the ability to think. 

None of this, in my opinion, can be done alone.  Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to battle each other and the better nature we are called to as Catholics.  If I am bound and determined to MAKE YOU BELIEVE that Trump is always right and Democrats are always evil, I am letting Trump be God.  That is wrong. 

If I am bound and determined to MAKE YOU BELIEVE that the left is PERFECT and always right, then I am letting left wing ideology be God.  Guess what, gang?  That is equally wrong.

In my opinion, what is missing in all of this is the practice of Prudence - the charioteer of virtues.  The Catholic Church teaches:

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going." "Keep sane and sober for your prayers." Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

I want to apply moral principles to particular cases without error.  I want to overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

I want to be a Catholic before I am anything else...yes, even an American. 


Because if I can be a good Catholic, I will be a stellar American.  Unlike those in the past, who let personal ambition and prejudices cloud judgement and dictate action, I will be able to be the type of American that the ideals of this country claim we all want to be when we salute the flag.

I do want to make America great - not 'again', because I think we have always missed the point and continue to do so.

I want to make America something fine.  If I do that, I can help make her great.

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