The second-in-command of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrant and Itinerant Peoples, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto spoke with CNA on Wednesday about the Church's position on migration. He mentioned his "admiration" for the U.S. bishops in their efforts to support human rights and work against the criminalization of "irregular" migrants.
The archbishop explained first off that the council, which specializes in pastoral care for people on the move in any form, held its plenary meetings last week. Those meetings, he said, focused on the "co-responsibility" of the Church and states for the care of migrant and itinerant people.
During the meetings, he said, "admiration" was expressed for the U.S. bishops, "for their attitudes in relation with ... the presence in the States of a lot of what we call 'irregular' migrants - we would not say 'illegal' migrants, no other word is worse for us."
Their work, he continued, is a sign of "concretization, of realization" of the human rights of migrants.
Further discussion at the assembly focused on the recognition of the role of states in regulating "fluxes," and the necessity of securing respect for all people's human rights, the common good of the nation and the importance of placing it in the broader context of the universal common good.
"We confirmed that there are fundamental rights which must be respected, and this is valid also in the United States," he said about the meeting's results.
Archbishop Marchetto also commented on Arizona's recently approved legislation SB1070, which, when passed into law on July 29, will allow police to question individuals based on "reasonable suspicion" about their legal status.
Bishop of Salt Lake City John C. Wester, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration has said that it "gives law enforcement officials powers to detain and arrest individuals based on a very low legal standard, possibly leading to the profiling of individuals based upon their appearance, manner of speaking, or ethnicity.”
The pontifical council secretary told CNA, "I think for us, this criminalization of irregular migrants is something wrong." He recalled that a similar law regarding migrants and security has come up in Italy and that they took a "strong approach" to opposing it.
"I think it is a fundamental battle ... on the part of the Church, about the fact that we cannot accept the criminalization of irregular migrants,” he said.
"Unfortunately it is a tendency these days, I must recognize, among some states. And if we can speak in general terms, there is a tendency to diminish throughout the world the attention to fundamental human rights, and this is a very pitiful situation."
He added, "I'm always saying, if we are not defending human rights in a time of peace, how will we manage when there will be a time of war."
Recalling his trip last year to 15 U.S. universities to speak on the pastoral care of foreign students and to present the dicastery's John Paul II-approved document “Erga migrantes caritas Christi” (The Love of Christ towards Migrants), he said that he noted the difficulty Catholics have in accepting this vision of the social doctrine of the Church
It's not only a question in the United States, he explained, but often "Catholic social doctrine is considered optional and this is against what is preached and (against) the insistence by John Paul II to try to help the people understand that it is a dimension of the moral teaching of the Church. It is a part of the ethical attitude of the good Christian, Catholic member of the Church," Archbishop Marchetto said.
The archbishop spoke of the "great effort" that must be carried out to promote Church teaching on issues such as life, abortion, and other important questions. "But," he added, "we cannot forget also other aspects of Catholic teaching and we cannot accept these difficulties from a part of the Catholic population in accepting some (other) aspects of the Catholic social teaching of the Church … ”