Catholic Church Emerges as Force in Response to Border Crisis

Friday, 01 Aug 2014 11:27 AM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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The Catholic Church has become involved in states most affected by the crisis of Central American immigrants crossing the southern border.

For example, the Texas Catholic Conference sent a letter to members of the state's congressional delegation on July 22 urging them to take action on immigration reform.

"We appeal to you and other policymakers on both the state and federal levels to eschew the bitterness of contemporary political rhetoric and instead uphold the best of American principles and serve the needs of the most despairing and vulnerable in our midst," said the letter, which was signed by the bishops from the 15 Catholic dioceses in Texas.

In California, Catholic Charities has established a fund to care for immigrants and many churches across the state are offering temporary housing, including a former convent on the grounds of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which is located about 50 miles east of Los Angeles in Fontana, according to KCRA-TV.

While the Texas Catholic Conference placed a heavier focus on policy, Bishop David A. Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh took a more pastoral approach by characterizing the "humanitarian crises" on the border as a pro-life issue.

In a July 19 letter, which was a response to questions about why Catholics should lend assistance to the Central American refugees, he wrote:

"Being pro-life requires we protect and care for vulnerable persons from conception to natural death. Whether they are traveling because of poverty, or violence, or with the hope of reuniting with relatives on the other side of the border, followers of Jesus are called to protect these children and help them because they are very vulnerable and defenseless against any abuse or misfortune."

Zubik's comments echo those made by Boston's Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley to The Boston Globe in April.

"This is another pro-life issue," said O'Malley, who also maintained that Catholics who take church teachings to heart cannot "support the status quo" on immigration policy.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has outlined the guiding principles of Catholic social teaching on immigration, and the first is that people have the right to "migrate to sustain their lives" and the lives of their families.

"The native does not have superior rights over the immigrant," the USCCB states.
But, they concede "Catholic social teaching is realistic."

That realism is reflected in the second principle, which is that a country has the right to regulate its borders and to control immigration.

"While people have the right to move, no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized. For this reason, Catholics should not view the work of the federal government and its immigration control as negative or evil."

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