A recent article in the Kansas City Leaven explores commentary from Catholic experts who have added to the heated debate on immigration reform in the U.S. In an effort to advise Catholics on how to respond to current issues, one expert urged the faithful to not act “on emotions” but “with what our faith tells our hearts what we need to be about.”
Joe Bollig, writer for the Kansas City Leaven, outlined remarks from the leaders of the local archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry and Social Justice departments, in light of the recent passing of the controversial immigration bill in Arizona, which has been publicly condemned by several bishops.
According to ABC news, the new Arizona law – passed on April 23 – makes it a crime to be in the state illegally and allows police to arrest and question suspected individuals about their status without a warrant. It also criminalizes transporting illegal immigrants anywhere in Arizona, even if by family members.
Father Pat Murphy, who leads the Archdiocese of Kansas City Hispanic Ministry, weighed in on the debate, saying that despite the numerous perspectives being argued at present, the “bottom line is that immigrants are people.”
“They’re human beings. They have the same goals that everyone else does, so try to keep the human face on (the issue),” he advised.
Fr. Murphy went on to say that he believes the immigration system in our nation to be broken, which explains the drafting of legislation like the one passed in Arizona.
“Basically, the problem is that the federal government hasn’t done anything about immigration, and now states are going to try to do stuff,” said Fr. Murphy.
“And I think (the Arizona legislation is) a law that will be really difficult to implement,” he continued, “and can bring up all sorts of nasty reactions, nasty circumstances, and nasty situations.”
The priest added that many faithful Catholics are earnestly trying to decipher what the correct stance is on the immigrations issue.
“One of the things we need to encourage people to do is to inform their consciences before making decisions,” said Fr. Murphy. “Let’s not decide on emotions. Let’s decide with what our faith tells our hearts what we need to be about.”
Adding to the discussion, Bill Scholl, head of the archdiocesan Social Justice ministry, said that although the Church does offer guidance, no easy answers exist on the questions of undocumented immigration.
Instead, he noted, the church offers principles to guide faithful Catholics who must then prayerfully consider the issues.
“Catholic social teaching states that nations have the right and the obligation to secure their borders in order to maintain the common good,” Scholl explained. “However, that right is not absolute. Particularly for wealthy nations, there is an obligation to respect the rights of the poor and vulnerable who seek to emigrate into our country, because they have rights as well.”
“The church teaches that (persons) have a right to pursue and obtain what you need for a life in accordance with human dignity,” he added. “That doesn’t need to be provided for you, but you have a right to pursue that — food, clothing, education for your children, health care.”
“You have a right to pursue those things in your own country,” Scholl underscored, “but when your country has a situation where you can’t reasonably obtain those things, (a person) has a right to emigrate to another country.”
“There is room to disagree on this issue,” he continued. “You can be Catholic and want to see the enforcement of the laws. That doesn’t make you a racist. But the bishops are asking us how we can welcome the stranger and maintain the common good.”
Scholl said that Catholics should study the Church’s teachings, pray, listen to their bishops, and challenge their friends and family to work towards finding a winning solution for everyone involved.
“We should open our hearts and minds to the bishops’ charism of the Holy Spirit and ask ourselves one simple and elegant question: What if what they say is true?” he said.