by Father John Catoir, JCD
Pope Francis made a good point when he said “every nation has the right to secure its own borders.” He also expressed serious concern over the plight of the refugees in the Middle East and Europe. He is encouraging all nations to be merciful as they formulate their immigration policies.
It’s important that we respect both of his concerns.
What worries me is the way that some of the American hierarchy is presenting the pope’s thinking on these two issues. The idea of being generous in receiving immigrants does not cancel the nation’s right to be very cautious in the screening process. Those who are trying to enter the U.S. are not all angels.
Many immigrants in the past have said “Death to America” under their breath.
The serious danger of exposing innocent civilians to the deadly attacks of Jihadist terrorists cannot be over estimated. We see the malice involved and the suffering it causes.
The laity is reacting to recent letters of the hierarchy with dismay. Here is a typical example.
“The outcry from U.S. Church leaders against the President’s vetting of immigrants, saying they ‘strongly disagree’ contains more emotion than common sense. They fail to mention that these screening actions attempt to protect citizens from jihadist terrorists, who blatantly told us they are going to infiltrate the refugees.” – Rich Matrisciano of Andover, N.J., said in a letter to the editor of The Beacon, newspaper for the Diocese of Paterson, N.J.
America allows into our country approximately 1 million people a year, which is about twice as many as the next largest number. Some of them are on temporary visas, but they all have to be vetted.
The Holy Father has never criticized any particular country for its immigration policies. For instance, Mexico regards illegal entry to their nation as a felony crime punishable immediately by a two-year prison term. To me, that seems harsh. America sends illegal felons back to their own country.
This is not only right and just, it’s a necessity if we are to protect our people from potential danger.
The fact that some bishops said they “strongly disagree” with our
national security concerns seems to show an insensitivity to the legitimate fears of millions of Americans. We’ve seen too many ruthless attacks to be lax about our border security.
I fear that many Catholics might think that we treat the matter of border control too lightly.
Interpreting the words of any pope must be done carefully.
We can, and we should, follow our Holy Father, Pope Francis on both issues: by protecting our borders effectively, and at the same time by being merciful to the many innocent victims of terrorism, who have suffered so very much.
Father Catoir, a native of the Brooklyn Diocese, is a retired priest of the Diocese of Paterson, N.J.