Feb 1, 2017
At the heart of Catholic social teaching lie two principles: concern for the common good and respect for the individual human being. An example: Catholic prison ministry doesn’t dispute the need for punishment under the law to secure the safety of the public. But it also refuses to abandon the prisoner, affirms his continuing dignity and seeks his rehabilitation.
Another example: the annual March for Life. Hundreds of thousands of good people have marched on behalf of unborn children every January for more than four decades for two reasons: Permissive abortion poisons society as whole, and it does so by killing one developing child at a time.
To put it another way, individuals have obligations to the common good, and governments have a particular duty to provide for public security; otherwise they lose their legitimacy. But we can’t serve the common good by exploiting or callously mistreating individuals, especially the weak. Being “prolife” involves a great deal more than a defense of unborn life, though it should naturally start there. We also have grave responsibilities to the poor, the infirm, the elderly and the immigrant – responsibilities that will shape our encounter with the God of justice when we meet him face to face.
There are few embodiments of the weak more needy or compelling than refugees. This is why the Church in the United States has reacted so strongly, so negatively — and so properly – to President Trump’s executive orders of January 28. Writing on January 31, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez (himself an immigrant from Mexico and a naturalized citizen) put it this way:
“It is true that [President Trump’s] refugee orders are not a ‘Muslim ban,’ as some protesters and media are claiming. In fact, the vast majority of Muslim-majority countries are not affected by the orders, including some that have real problems with terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“That does not make these orders less troubling. Halting admissions of refugees for 90 or 120 days may not seem like a long time. But for a family fleeing a war-torn nation, or the violence of drug cartels, or warlords who force even children into armies — this could mean the difference between life and death...