America’s Catholic bishops have asked all Americans to call Congress today, Monday, February 26, to demand amnesty for millions of illegal aliens. In a bishops-only letter of February 16, leaders of the national bishops’ conference urge their fellow bishops to “ramp up” their efforts because “the urgency of this matter is now at its height.”
This is the most ambitious political campaign the bishops have launched in years. What’s going on?
First, Catholic bishops like Mexico. Los Angeles Archbishop José Gómez is a leader in the bishops’ amnesty campaign. Born in Monterrey, he knows Mexico well. Like tens of millions of Mexican-Americans, he is still eligible to vote in Mexico’s elections. But he wants millions of Mexican citizens now in the U.S. to be eligible to vote in our own elections as well.
Why? Well, Gómez insists that Mexican immigrants have “strong traditions of family and faith, community and hard work.” Moreover, most are Catholic and hold “deep conservative values.” That’s why Gómez and his brother bishops oppose assimilation of Hispanics into broader American society. After all, bishops consider that society to be full of “nativists,” “racists,” “xenophobes,” and “bigots.” Assimilate? Why not just wait? After all, once some thirty to forty million more Hispanics become American citizens, he says, “I know that together we will build an America that is stronger, more religious, and more moral.”
Of course, millions of new Hispanic Catholics will also fill the pews emptied by millions of America’s cradle Catholics who have left the Church during the past fifty years. Many of those departures were fomented by the bishops’ turn from doctrine to left-wing politics and the Democrats’ welfare-state agenda. More of the faithful left when bishops turned blacks against whites with charges of racism, and then turned Hispanics against everybody with charges of bigotry for opposing illegal immigration. Was it really Christian for bishops to encourage class warfare and foment hatred, they wondered.
Finally, the exodus became a tsunami after well over half of America’s bishops were implicated in the sex-abuse and cover-up scandals of 2002 – and not one of them was fired.
Which brings us to the second reason for this campaign: Money.
Voluntary donations from the pews have plummeted since the scandals, and bishops have reacted in two ways: they have condemned the faithful for their selfish, stingy ways, and they have asked the IRS to raise their money for them.
“We in the archdiocese have no money other than what our people give us. Same is true for our parishes,” insists New York’s Cardinal Dolan. But the luxurious headquarters that houses the bishops’ burgeoning DC bureaucracy is steadfastly silent regarding how many federal billions the bishops have received over the years. There’s no doubt that, until the inauguration of President Donald Trump, that funding was on the rise. In fact, it’s quite possible that, until election day 2016, America’s prelates anticipated a future under a president Clinton that would mirror the comfortable position of their brother bishops in Germany. There, bishops live in luxury, supported by $7 billion a year of taxpayer funding while presiding over the emptiest churches in the West.
And then Trump won.
The U.S. bishops’ federal funding comes largely in the form of taxpayer support for the bishops’ welfare-state agencies that serve illegal immigrants and refugees. While those revenues amounted to billions of dollars under the Obama Administration, President Trump’s shift in priorities now threatens the bishops’ cash-flow, and they are desperate.
Lost Sheep, Forgotten Priorities
As the decibels and dollars spent on amnesty rise, other issues – including fundamental moral challenges – are left behind. Ask most Americans what the Catholic Church stands for and they’ll say, “amnesty.” Of course, that’s the issue that most bishops champion most of the time. But the Church teaches that immigration is an issue for the laity, not the clergy, to debate and address in practical legislation.
Bishops aside, what is the highest priority of the Catholic Church? Life – eternal life, of course. And the right to life, and specifically, in today’s political milieu, an end to abortion. This is hardly a popular cause in today’s secular culture, but the Church is charged to advocate such timeless truths “in season and out of season.”
So consider: “nativists,” “racists,” “xenophobes,” “bigots.” Did America’s bishops ever launch such epithets at Catholic politicians who stridently support abortion rights?
No. In fact, there was no “call-in campaign” his past January 29 when fourteen Catholic senators voted against protecting unborn children who could survive outside the womb. Bishops had wasted their time, our money, and their already severely-depleted authority on amnesty. Only one prelate – Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois – did what Catholic Canon Law required him to do. He publicly announced that Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL), a longtime proponent of “abortion rights” who resides in the Springfield diocese, was barred from receiving Communion. “This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart,” said Paprocki. “Sen. Durbin was once pro-life. I sincerely pray that he will repent and return to being pro-life.”
Such mercy and prayer are missing in action when bishops consider the opponents of amnesty, however. Last fall, border Bishop Paul Seitz of El Paso lashed out at a group of pro-life state attorneys general and one Catholic governor for opposing Obama’s unconstitutional DACA decree. They are “hypocrites and Pharisees,” he wrote in USA today. And he has never apologized. (Bishop Seitz admitted to this writer that he has never publicly condemned his 100% pro-abortion-rights U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, but O’Rourke tells me that they often appear together in pro-amnesty rallies.)
To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, so long as a bishop employs vast and universal gestures of fellowship and hospitality to those foreigners who break the law and the corrupt elites who enable them, he is allowed to be as rude as he likes to his fellow countrymen who respect the law, obey it, and support those willing to enforce it.
More G.K.: After all, if bishops preach universal peace and harmony in an atmosphere of liberality and love, aren’t they free to advocate sanctuary and protection from the law for particular populations of murderers and felons?
Do Bishops Really Love Mexicans?
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Over the years, most Catholic bishops have, overtly or covertly, encouraged illegal aliens to ignore federal immigration laws as well as God’s laws (“Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness). Bishops often justify their position by condemning America’s laws, mores, customs, and legal traditions. But is this approach truly pastoral? Does encouraging lawbreaking while winking at sin really help illegal aliens save their souls?
Consider “sanctuary cities,” which California’s bishops have now formally and unanimously endorsed. Does inviting criminals to flock to California as a safe haven under Church protection really qualify as an act of loving charity for the law-abiding citizens of California – citizens like Kate Steinle, who was murdered by a sanctuary-seeking illegal felon who had already been deported five times?
A year ago, oblivious to Steinle’s murder in his city, Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone opposed President Trump and proclaimed that the Church will make sure that those affected “know their rights.”
At what cost, Archbishop?
Cause and effect. Cause and effect. The Steinle case brings home the sad fact that, for all their theological training and their moral posturing, America’s Catholic bishops cannot escape the law of cause and effect. They cannot, with Prufrock, merely wring their hands and say “that’s not what I meant at all. That’s not it, at all.”
Meanwhile, the Church is supposed to be the champion of marriage, children, and the family, right? And yet, egged on by Obama-money, many bishops encouraged Mexicans and others south of the border to break up their families. While insisting on “family reunification” – a codeword for universal amnesty – their welfare agencies received millions to take care of illegal minor aliens whose parents sent them alone to cross treacherous Mexico. Did the bishops send the children back to their mother and father? No. They cashed their government check.
Nor do the bishops criticize Mexico’s corrupt government and its criminal elites who impoverish their subjects. No, they criticize only “Old America – its patriotism, individual responsibility, and the rule of law. Archbishop Gomez dreams of a “Next America” based on Hispanic values, which will offer us all a better future.
Well, if America’s Catholic bishops want to replace the fabric of American society with a do-over along the lines of Mexico, Honduras, and Venezuela, the least they can do is lay their cards face-up on the table. In the interest of justice and charity, they owe us the whole truth.
[This is the ninth in a series on the role of the Catholic Church in the decline and fall of the Republic Here are the first, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth. Follow these issues on Twitter @realchrismanion]