Immigration through a Catholic lens
By Rev. Richard Benson, C.M.
LOS ANGELES, Apr. 7, 2006 (www.the-tidings.com) - The fact that both Congress and the Catholic bishops are addressing the immigration issue is igniting a serious discussion with significant moral ramifications for all Christians.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church and a number of 20th century papal encyclicals remind us that as members of both the city of God and the secular city we are obliged to welcome foreigners, to the extent possible. In fact, immigration is defined by the Church in the Catechism as a natural right (n. 2241). Nevertheless the Church does not forbid us from regulating immigration.
It is precisely at this nexus that the Church in the United States finds itself at this point in time. The moral question is, how do members of the Body of Christ welcome immigrants and regulate immigration in a way that is both legal and moral? How do disciples of Christ treat with love, dignity and justice our sister and brother immigrants?
Some of the statements in the letters to the editors in both the secular and Catholic press about the immigration issue have caused me some concern as a moral theologian. Some of the comments in those letters have led me to believe that a review of some foundational aspects of Catholic social morality might be in order to help Catholics frame a just and loving response to the immigration issue. In fact, some of the letters made it clear that the adage that "the Church's social teaching is indeed its best kept secret" is, unfortunately, more true than not.
My goal here is certainly not to propose any legal solution to immigration reform. What I do propose is that for Catholics, there are theological foundations that are essential if we are going to approach immigration reform from our Catholic perspective. It is my hope that even this very brief review of these foundations may help some Catholics reorient their starting point in this debate.
I would suggest that there are at least three theological foundations that provide clear support to the Church's concerns about immigration reform.