Massive immigration as an assault on national sovereignty is a topic we’ve covered in great detail at Gates of Vienna. Our main focus has been the increasingly malign effects of this phenomenon on the fabric of European culture and laws.
This essay takes a different turn, this time inward, to look at America’s struggle with illegal immigration. As is the case in Europe with citizens’ struggles against the dicta emanating from Brussels and the EU, many Americans have begun to see themselves pitted against the Political Class in Washington. This particular battle concerns yet another round of “amnesty” for illegal aliens (there was a first one in 1986). Many of us worry not only about its effects on our economy but also about the ways in which yet another round of forgiveness-after-the-fact will erode even further America’s once-solid foundational rule of law.
In an Afterword, I will provide further information on the ways in which citizenship and assimilation in the U.S (and perhaps in other parts of the Anglo Reach) distinguish her from European views.
This essay was submitted for consideration by a blogger who describes himself as “a lifelong practicing Catholic”. By way of presenting his bona fides, he explains that “…for several years I taught Confirmation candidates. I have actively defended and explained Church doctrine against its detractors for over twenty years”.
Just so you know his agenda here, he says, “I will fairly admit that I am by no means the standard for the model Christian man. I know my faults, am aware that these need correction, and gratefully appreciate my faith’s doctrines of healing and reconciliation, made possible for me and for others”.
Alfonse Rispoli will discuss the American Catholic Bishops’ sad record on immigration vis-à-vis the other things it has permitted to transpire within the thoroughly modern Church. Like Obama, none of their Graces is at the front of anything, including the novel idea of leading by example.
What follows is Mr. Rispoli’s modest proposal for a way to check the Bishops’ plans to push lay people into supporting the hierarchy’s stand on mass immigration. As a former Catholic still fond of her old family, I have added some editorial comment regarding their Excellencies’ principles.
Mr. Rispoli says:
The Catholic Church has for the most part avoided falling completely to the onslaught of radical feminism, and it has at least belatedly come to address issues of discipline with ultra-liberal priests and nuns that use their positions to advance agendas that are not part of Church practice. The magisterium has also finally demonstrated an effort to rid the church of pedophiles in her sacerdotal ranks.
She has resisted the implied demands of many in of the secular world that Christian churches (not Muslims, of course, their faith is sacred) drop any reference to sin regarding just about any sexual practice. Of particular credit to the Catholic Church in the United States is the Bishops’ refusal to meekly accept the patently unconstitutional demands that contraception, abortifacients, and abortions be paid for by the Church. I don’t know how this will end, but their stand on this issue is noble as well as being the correct one in the long run.
In short, the Church has for the most part defended her teachings and doctrine and has ended the horrific and indeed sinful indifference to the existence of pedophiles among the clergy.
Where the Church, particularly in the United States but also in Western Europe, has failed her faithful has been on social issues. In a bizarre twist of Liberation Theology that threatened the outlook of the Church in decades past, The Church of the West (as opposed to the eastern Churches) has taken positions that run contrary to the good order and integrity of the very civilizations and societies that have protected the Church and allowed her to develop free of molestation and subjugation.
Of the five original patriarchal seats of the early Church, for example, only one (Rome) still remains free of domination by Islam. [Although Jerusalem is currently under Israeli administration, it has been under Islamic rule for the vast majority of time since the Islamic conquest of the 7th century.]
The beginnings of the Church as an organization developed and prospered during the periods of late Western Roman Empire, monarchies and nation-states. Now, however, it has come to take a position that runs contrary to the most basic need for sovereign nations. In order for a polity, a nation, to function as a sovereign entity, it must have the autonomous ability to determine who may reside within its borders and who may become a citizen. Take away that core requirement and the nation ceases to exist as a nation.
If any country absorbs a reasonable number of immigrants, the process of assimilation is likely to move at a predictable if not always smooth pace. But if the same nation permits too many into its boundaries within too short a time and without minimal demands placed on new arrivals, assimilation becomes untenable; the invaded nation stands at risk of losing its sense of identity. Further, should those numbers of immigrants go unchecked, as America seems determined to do with eleven million (or more) people pouring in from Central and South America, the nation will begin to assume the ungovernable, corrupt and lawless characteristics of those same places the newcomers fled in the first place.
Few would dispute the wisdom of having many self-sufficient, lawful nations. Instead, we face the reality of few democracies to whom all would flee for asylum from the dead-end despair in their native lands. In an attempt to avoid this, Western nations have been more than generous in material and financial aid to all sorts of countries without seeing any appreciable improvement in those places. We all have heard the analogy of opening up your home or wallet to the point that you are no longer in a position to help but instead become yourself someone in need of others’ aid. That maladaptation — having no secure personal boundaries — ends in ruin.
The Church’s most recent position on immigration appears to take both sides of the issue. On one hand, the American Catholic Church officially acknowledges the abstract rights of nations to maintain order along their borders and to have some controls on immigration. On the other hand, the Church appears determined to have nations assume the burdens of putting the “rights” of others ahead of their own national interests. Have they decided Christ’s command to love one’s neighbor as oneself is to be superseded by the politically correct and suicidal demand to love one’s neighbor before oneself?
Here are the principles put forth by the Conference of Catholic Bishops and laying claim to official “Catholic Teaching” on immigration and “the movement of peoples”. Bear in mind that this organization has a record of treading closely to the Left on a number of social issues:
Three Basic Principles of Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration
First Principle: People have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families.
Because of the belief that newcomers compete for scarce resources, immigrants and refugees are at times driven away, resented, or despised. Nevertheless, the first principle of Catholic social teaching regarding immigrants is that people have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families. This is based on biblical and ancient Christian teaching that the goods of the earth belong to all people. While the right to private property is defended in Catholic social teaching, individuals do not have the right to use private property without regard for the common good.
The native does not have superior rights over the immigrant. Before God all are equal; the earth was given by God to all. When a person cannot achieve a meaningful life in his or her own land, that person has the right to move.
[Dymphna’s observation: According to their own teachings, one of the primary places the immigrant has a “right” to move to is, naturally, all lands and properties currently under the control of the Catholic Conference of Bishops. Thus, in order to serve out their call to be a light unto all nations, or to “walk their talk”, the only thing these worthies need do is reduce the considerable size of their own footprint and to put their disadvantaged brethren before themselves.]
Second Principle: A country has the right to regulate its borders and to control immigration.
The overriding principle of all Catholic social teaching is that individuals must make economic, political, and social decisions not out of shortsighted self-interest, but with regard for the common good. That means that a moral person cannot consider only what is good for his or her own self and family, but must act with the good of all people as his or her guiding principle.
While individuals have the right to move in search of a safe and humane life, no country is bound to accept all those who wish to resettle there. By this principle the Church recognizes that most immigration is ultimately not something to celebrate.
Catholics should not view the work of the federal government and its immigration control as negative or evil. Those who work to enforce our nation’s immigration laws often do so out of a sense of loyalty to the common good and compassion for poor people seeking a better life…
[Dymphna’s observation: If you can, try to reconcile these First and Second Principles.]
Third Principle: A country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy.
…The second principle of Catholic social teaching may seem to negate the first principle. However, principles one and two must be understood in the context of principle three. And all Catholic social teaching must be understood in light of the absolute equality of all people and the commitment to the common good.
A country’s regulation of borders and control of immigration must be governed by concern for all people and by mercy and justice. A nation may not simply decide that it wants to provide for its own people and no others. A sincere commitment to the needs of all must prevail.
Even in the case of less urgent migrations, a developed nation’s right to limit immigration must be based on justice, mercy, and the common good, not on self-interest. Moreover, immigration policy ought to take into account other important values such as the right of families to live together. A merciful immigration policy will not force married couples or children to live separated from their families for long periods.
[Dymphna’s observation: Really? A scale of justice and mercy sets “the common good” as the primary filter one uses to limit immigration?? And who, pray tell, will define which good or good(s) is/are “common”? Who in all God’s creation has the discernment and wisdom to do this by the millions? No one, that’s who.
This utopian socialist calculus is wrong-headed and heavily Marxist.
Compared to Christ’s commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself, the best one can say about this “teaching” is that it is naïve. More significant, though, is the sharp difference between the Bishops’ verbose propositions about loving one’s global ‘neighbor’ and the simple ‘caritas’ in Christ’s Law. Unlike the Bishops’ hopelessly bureaucratic bumf, there is no suicidal ideation in The Two Great Commandments.]
reports demonstrate the lengths to which the Bishops in the U.S. (with the support of the Pope) are prepared to go in pushing the Leftist agenda of immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens who broke our laws when they came here. This blatant overreach threatens the integrity of our nation; it is also in opposition to the beliefs of the average Catholic.
From the Breitbart link:
If you attend Mass on September 8th, it is likely the priest’s homily will be less about spiritual matters and more about the political imperative of passing an amnesty law for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants. Last week, the Catholic Church announced a massive, coordinated effort to press Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship.
Catholics make up the largest single religious group in Congress.
“We want to try to pull out all the stops,” Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The New York Times. Appleby said the immigration issue was at a now-or-never moment. “They have to hear the message that we want this done, and if you’re not successful during the summer, you’re not going to win by the end of the year.”
Who do you think “they” is, the ones who “have to hear the message that we want this done”?? Is “they” the priests in local parishes? The parishioners themselves? Who precisely is to follow Mr. Appleby’s marching orders? And is The U. S. Catholic Bishops Conference part of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” — as they proclaim every week in the Creed — or is this the thoroughly modern “church” complete with relentless media campaign?
The Washington Times story linked above draws generally from the same source for its report as did Breitbart — i.e., The New York Times, but with some differences. The Washington Times calls it “the amnesty pitch”; it also reports some rebellion in the ranks:
Among the church’s plans are scheduled marches and telephone blitzes to the offices of 60 Catholic House Republicans, demanding immigration reform. Speaker of the House John Boehner, along with nearly 130 other members of the legislative body, are Catholic.
At the community level, bishops and priests across the nation are planning to coordinate their Sunday services to include immigration reform throughout September.
At least a dozen already have agreed to hold special Sunday masses in September dedicated to pushing immigration reform as Congress returns to session.
But one Catholic said the church may be wasting its time.
“There are some issues that the church speaks authoritatively on, such as abortion, in protecting life,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski, Illinois Democrat. “And then there are prudential judgments that are made, informed by Catholic theology, but it’s not something that Catholics are required to follow.”
It remains to be seen if the millions of Catholics that Mr. Appleby thinks are going to hold marches and petition their representatives for the hierarchy’s pet project suddenly appear. Many of the faithful disagree with the Bishops’ socialist fantasies. In addition, lots of parishes are trying to survive through very tough times themselves. This campaign to enroll the parishes has a grand total of a dozen so far…what does that tell you?
The last time [European] Catholics had to engage in hostilities with forces under Church command was during the reunification of Italy in the 19th century.
Prior to those days, however, it was far from unusual for a Catholic citizen of a Catholic-majority state to participate in a conflict against forces under Papal command. History is replete with instances of, for example, Italian, Norman, French, and German forces contesting military and political control of disputed regions.
Even if we do not count the Spanish Armada, which also sailed away to its ultimate demise with full Papal approval, we still have the earlier and smaller fully Papal force that landed in Ireland with the unsuccessful mission to raise the Irish up against the Protestant English monarchy.
The Hapsburg Emperor Charles V himself, who sought to bring vast regions of Catholic Europe under a unified rule, also dispatched forces (which included Lutheran troops who really had a field day) in a sack of Rome.
Recall that English Catholics as a whole joined with their Protestant fellow-citizens when the Armada, mentioned above, did threaten their country.
But that was Europe, collectively for American Catholics known as “the old country”.
Excepting the Nativist period (the worst of which was quite short), the United States has been a nation in which Catholics can exercise the beliefs and yet be model citizens in manner quite different from Catholics of Western Europe. This was noted both by Orestes Brownson and Alexis de Tocqueville. Free of the memory of traditional entanglements mixing Church and state, as well as the lack of history in the US of supporting the old feudal order, Catholics did, in Tocqueville’s words (Democracy in America (Library of America)) —
constitute the most republican and the most democratic class of citizens which exists in the Unites States:
Brownson concurred in both his Union of Church and State and Works (Orestes Brownson : Selected Political Essays (Library of Conservative Thought)):
…we lose nothing of Catholicity, nothing of its vigor and efficiency; we lose simply certain special favors of the government, and are relieved in turn from certain burdens at times almost too great for the church to bear, imposed by the government as the price of those favors. The loss is a great gain, and it is far better for the interests of the church to lose the favors and be freed from the burdens, than it is to retain the favors and bear the burdens.
Meanwhile, in modern-day America, I am not proposing that Catholics rise up against their Church. However, I do assert that we cannot stand by idly while those who occupy high-level ecclesial and lay positions in our Church use the pulpit and telephone to bully the flock into acquiescence, or threaten our few brave political leaders with the loss of elections if they don’t toe the line.
Catholics need to be cognizant of the critical differences between the authority of the Church on doctrinal matters, and the civic duty of the citizen to his country and his society. No statement from a Conference of Bishops nor a Papal declaration on an internal American matter such as immigration can ever be binding on individual Catholics. Indeed, the believer must always be ready to differentiate between the two swords of church and state.
At the moment our national integrity is threatened by a massive influx of people who entered America illegally. Granting them amnesty (again), no matter what euphemism is employed to do so, will be a grievous blow to our civic society and to our culture. Church officials have no more right to tell legislators how to handle this issue than I have to buy a plane ticket to Rome, take a taxi to the Vatican City, and demand to be given citizenship and a place to live.
Of course we may and should contact our elected officials to inform them that on this issue the Church does not speak for us. In addition, there is another option, a more direct approach.
My Proposal for September 8th
I propose that on September 8th parishioners of local Catholic churches in the United States attend Mass as usual — and as usual, bring their checks and cash for the collection plate. I propose further that we all listen carefully: if any portion of the homily on that Sunday should include a call for amnesty for illegal aliens, then whatever monies would usually be given instead be withheld from the collection.
I plan to keep that money separate, along with monies for succeeding Sundays, ready to give to a worthy charity in the event the Episcopate maintains its current socialist position. However, if and when the Bishops recant then our donations ought to continue. As many have noted before me, money talks; its absence speaks volumes. Mere verbal protests will not get the hierarchy’s attention.
Catholics have listened quietly and with little or no balking when bishops and priests have condemned Israel for protecting her people, and when the Church has self-righteously condemned the death penalty in all cases. Those of us in the pews have listened quietly, but we have not followed.
When it comes to the security, integrity, and identity of our own nation, as opposed to a support for the flouting of its laws, we can no longer remain silent or inactive. They can say what they want, but we should not be bankrolling their efforts when those efforts run counter to the best interests of our nation. I will continue to attend Mass and submit to Church authority when her leaders act within their bailiwick, but I will not provide material aid to be used against the interests of my country.
In a parallel from ancient history, I cite the Secession of the Plebs:
At one point in the early Roman Republic, the office of Consul was temporarily shelved and ten rulers known as the Decemvirs were appointed. When the time came for them to quit their positions, they failed to do so and one of them in particular began to engage in despicable acts. The Romans, a people strictly bound by the rule of law, had only one option — leave. They left the precincts directly under the rule of the Decemvirs and left the tyrants to rule a city empty of people. In short, the people went on strike en masse, not against their employers, but their rulers.
Afterword by Dymphna
Collaborating with Mr. Rispoli on this brief against the U. S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ support of yet another round of amnesty forced me to examine the issues he discusses with some care. Like many others, I have avoided the subject. It is difficult to see our current political system as other than broken. The bloated, bureaucratic behemoth in Washington rolls on, flattening individual effort and initiative while conservatives like me find it difficult not to despair when there doesn’t seem to be any integrity even within our own ranks.
However, the process of collaborating with Mr. Rispoli entailed looking more closely at what is in progress here. The fact that Mr. R is willing to make his stand against the Church, a church he loves, calls into question my own avoidance. I will return to discuss this situation in more detail in another post. But for the moment, let this quote from an excellent book review at Claremont stand for the beginning of my own search for understanding, my light on the Damascus Road.
In his essay “The Genius of American Citizenship” Richard Samuelson says:
Joseph Stalin apparently coined the term “American exceptionalism” to denounce the heresy that Marx’s universal historical laws would somehow not apply to the United States. Though it’s now clear that every nation is an exception to the historical dialectic that was supposed to culminate in the triumph of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, the U.S. remains an exceptional nation in other crucial ways. Anyone who becomes an American citizen is fully American, from that day forward. By contrast, a naturalized citizen of France, Japan, or Nigeria can live for decades in his new country, and his family can remain there for generations, yet many of the locals will still think of them as foreigners. To be sure, there is an American culture. When traveling around the world, one can often spot other Americans, and not only because of language; dress, deportment, and music often distinguish us. But when it comes to American nationalism, such things are relatively trivial. In America, politics, not culture, makes the nation.
American identity is bound up with our Union, Constitution, and laws, rather than with tribe, clan, or culture. Thus, one of our early treaties asserted that the U.S. “is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” That stipulation presumes that American identity is primarily political, denying as it does a massive historical and cultural fact—that the vast majority of America’s citizens have been Christians. The cultural heritage of most Americans is Christian; and even the American creed draws upon the Judeo-Christian tradition in important ways. In the U.S., however, nation and culture are separate to an unusual degree. That reality, in turn, affects a range of important questions connecting what kind of government America will have to what kind of nation it will be.
I’ll repeat that key quote: “In America, politics, not culture, makes the nation”.
Understanding that foundation makes our fight comprehensible. I thank Dr. Samuelson for articulating what I knew but couldn’t say. It’s not about race or religion or ethnicities, though all of those are important parts of the stew for our own experience. In America, the political realm is both deeply personal and, paradoxically, transcends any individual.
And I thank Mr. Rispoli for providing two more equally important elements here. First, in his brief story of the Secession of the Plebs we can see paralleled our own present day war against Washington. Second, in his own embodiment of rebellion against those in authority in an institution which for him is sacred, he provides further understanding of the wellsprings which have inspired others in their stand against the behemoths.
From each of these historians I have gained a deeper understanding of a process I am only beginning to comprehend: seeing the sparks from small fires of rebellion, hearing increasing calls for secession, feeling the rumblings from afar…
…they all give me hope.