Immigration: Theology vs. Politics. Part 2

Immigration Rally

I could not come up with a decent rosary meditation at the end of my earlier article on comprehensive immigration reform and the Catholic Church.  That’s been tearing me up a little because it’s the challenging issues like this one that need the most prayer and meditation.  It is much easier to pray for the issues where I already agree with the Catholic Church like the intrinsic evilness of abortion.  I even find it easy to meditate on the theological and moral foundation of immigration reform of how we should treat our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of their immigration status.  But I’m having a hard time swallowing the Church’s enthusiasm over the latest comprehensive immigration bill that recently passed through the senate.  But I think I found a mystery of the rosary that helps address my current doubt and worry over the Church’s stance on this bill.

The rosary mystery that comes to mind when I think about the immigration reform bill is the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus’ Call to Conversion.  We should meditate on the first part of the title — the proclamation of the kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus came into the world to proclaim that there is something greater to live for than what we see around us in our lives.  He prepared a place for us in Heaven.  Jesus told us what we need to do to live for His Kingdom:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). ”  Immediately following, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan to point out that everyone is our neighbor.

Jesus didn’t attach conditions to His call to love one another.  He didn’t instruct us to love our neighbor, but only if doing so wouldn’t have a negative impact on the economy.  He didn’t say love your neighbor, but not if they broke the law.  He didn’t instruct his disciples to secure the border before they could start loving and showing compassion to those around them.  And so when it comes to the immigration reform issue, I think the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is trying to echo a similar sentiment as Jesus in the Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary.  They want to show us that it is far more important to live for Jesus’ Kingdom and follow His laws regardless of the social, economic, and political impact in this world.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijna...

Loving our neighbor unconditionally is difficult particularly when it might have an adverse affect on our social or economic well-being.  Or maybe it is hard to swallow teachings that conflict with our political ideology.  We only know this world and this life and we try our best to find as much comfort and happiness in it.  But God does not want us to constrain our thinking to the here and now but remember that there is a larger picture involved.  He calls us to spend eternity in the happiness of Heaven.  So even if our economy and society collapses and we lose our comforts in this world, if that happens because we loved our neighbor, we will gain infinitely more.  But seeing our laws through that lens is tremendously difficult.

But the Third Luminous Mystery doesn’t end with the proclamation of the kingdom of Heaven.  It ends with Jesus calling us to a life of conversion.  Jesus understands that almost everyone will have a hard time letting go of the comforts of this world and embrace living for His heavenly kingdom.  He knows that all of us need to undergo conversion in one form or another.  And so this mystery doesn’t end with Jesus giving us an ultimatum that we must immediately accept leaving no room for error.  Instead, Jesus acknowledges that we may not be 100% on board with His teaching, but that’s alright.  He wants us to make an effort to align our ways with His ways.  He knows that it will be challenging to follow Him and we will stumble, but He gives us all the tools through the magisterium of the Catholic Church that we need to stay on that path.

We pray and meditate on the rosary, particularly the Third Luminous Mystery, that we orient our lives toward God’s heavenly kingdom and make whatever course corrections we need to get there.  I’m certainly not there yet on issues like the comprehensive immigration reform bill.  And I think there are other ways we can love our neighbor and reform our immigration policies without implementing yet more massive government programs.  But at least I understand where our US bishops and Church leaders are coming from.  They are trying to offer a glimpse of how God views these issues which is very different from how many of us might see them.  Much like how we have faith that there is a heavenly kingdom that awaits us after this life, maybe we also should show a little faith in our Church leaders.  It’s easy to have faith in people when you completely agree with them.  But real faith is believing even when you have doubts.  But with the help of Mary, the saints, and the Holy Spirit, maybe we’ll be able to conquer that doubt and not fear what we have to lose in this life but rejoice in all that we will gain in the next.

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Immigration: Theology vs. Politics

I have been racked with anxiety deciding whether or not to write an article about the current comprehensive immigration bill that passed the senate.  The reason why I’ve been so hesitant is that I find myself at odds with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  They enthusiastically support the bill with almost the same fervor as a pro-life bill while I have many reservations about it.  While I see eye to eye with the bishops on many issues such as religious freedom, abortion, euthanasia, and even the death penalty, the current immigration reforms making its way through Congress concern me.  And what is even more concerning is the lack of skepticism and the blind faith many Church leaders seem to have regarding the federal government‘s intentions in this immigration bill.

Stamp of the U.S. Immigration (Old French pass...

Most of my skepticism isn’t aimed at the immigration bill itself but at the nature of big government.  When I hear about large “comprehensive” reforms like the immigration bill, what comes to mind is more laws, programs, earmarks, and regulations.  That also means more loopholes, exemptions, and bureaucracy.  In short, I think of a larger and more intrusive government.  In the hundreds of pages of legalese, what powers does this bill grant government or various agencies?  What politically connected groups will the federal government exempt from the law?  What provisions will they selectively enforce?  Maybe the immigration bill does have some good parts, or at least well-intentioned ones.  After all, immigration policy is actually a federal responsibility so it’s good that they are at least working on something inside their jurisdiction instead of taking over state’s responsibilities.  But at the end of the day it’s still a bill written by lobbyists, caters to special interests, and supported and voted by people who haven’t read it.

The last time we had a huge reform, the Catholic Church in the United States ended up being burned.  I remember when ObamaCare was winding its way through Congress.  Many Church leaders at various levels were in support of ObamaCare because of the hope that it would provide all people in the US health care.  It was advertised as a compassionate fix to our healthcare system and really pulled the heartstrings of many Catholics who wanted to make sure all people would receive the care they need.  But now the Church and christians throughout the country are faced with the reality of ObamaCare.  A lot of time and money is being spent fighting the HHS Contraception Mandate.  Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies are under attack because they cannot follow certain parts of the law in good conscience.  There are abortion and euthanasia issues in law just waiting to erupt.  And who knows what else lies in the thousands of pages of the law just waiting for the right time to make its appearance?  Unfortunately, all this time and money spent fighting various aspects of this “compassionate” and “fair” law could have gone towards charities and hospitals providing actual health care.  But when it was being discussed in Congress, too many people just assumed the bill would magically fix health care and didn’t question our legislators about the details.

What is the USCCB’s Stance on Immigration Reform?

Here is an FAQ about the USCCB’s stance on immigration reform.  In addition, they outline some specific demands of what they want to see in immigration reform.  They even want you to write to your member of Congress showing your support of immigration reform.  While their demands are generic in nature and they don’t specifically mention the current bill, given the current political context, it is pretty much an endorsement of the current senate bill.  After all, it’s not like there are any other serious immigration bills under consideration.

Headquarters of the other Catholics :-)

Will the immigration bill attack Catholic values and religious freedom the same way ObamaCare does?  When I think of the current situation, an ancient saying comes to mind, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  And that is my word of warning to the US Catholic bishops.  Don’t be pawns in the giant political power struggle.  The Church may not come under direct attack from the immigration bill the same way it does from ObamaCare.  But government power isn’t siloed to individual issues.  When we give the government more power to create larger programs in cases like immigration, that increased power and control will trickle to other issues like health care, abortion, etc.  I would hate to see the recent gains made in fighting abortion undone, or at least undermined, because an ever-growing federal government is allowed to increase their control a little more on each bill.

When dealing with specific bills and laws, the Church leadership needs to recognize the difference between theology and politics, generic desires and specific legal text, and between wishful thinking and reality.  Everyone from bishops down to parish priests need to think strategically or else they risk being used as pawns by politicians that really have no shame in getting what they want.

What RosaryMeds Do I need?

If you have a rosary mystery that you think fits well with this topic, please share in the comments.

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