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US/ Immigration Reform and a Reasonable Church

DON CLEMMER comments on the US bishop’s stance on immigration, focus on the underlying causes and possibilities for reform, and on the reasonableness of the Catholic Church.

Two men scaling the US-Mexico border  (US Navy photo) Two men scaling the US-Mexico border (US Navy photo)

It's popular in some circles today to portray the Catholic Church as the opposite of reasonable.
One example: When the Church insists that its charities, hospitals and universities be allowed to carry out their mission without being forced by the government to violate Catholic teaching, it's depicted as attacking women's health care, despite the Church being a strong supporter of health care for all people. Another example: Recent years have seen the rise of more strident, outspoken atheists who, with evangelical fervor and more than a touch of hubris, declare that only their like-minded brethren are freethinkers and that people of any faith are superstitious children at best and hate-filled bigots at worst. Their favorite buzzword: reason.

Of course Pope Benedict XVI and others have long maintained that no conflict or competition exists between faith and reason, that the two in fact work together harmoniously as people engage the world around them. A great example of this is the position the U.S. bishops take on immigration reform, one of six priority issues raised in their reissued document on political responsibility, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

When the bishops speak out on immigration, it's not the shrill rhetoric of partisan politics or ideology. It's not even a dense and lofty theological pronouncement. Instead, it's the calm, educated advice of people who understand an issue, care about it and want to see it resolved for the benefit of everyone involved. It's the pairing of values rooted in faith with arguments rooted in logic and common sense. It's humanitarian, and it's reasonable on numerous levels.

For instance...

When a country is saddled with immigration policies that have resulted in 12 million people living under the radar, it's reasonable to say, "Everyone recognizes the system is broken; let's move forward and replace this broken system with something that works so that everyone can benefit." Hence the bishops' calls for comprehensive immigration reform. Conversely, the approach of digging in further with the same enforcement-only approach that has been used for the last two decades is an example of repeating the same practice and expecting different results. It's also reasonable to recognize that one simply cannot deport 12 million people, with the costs, economic disruptions and logistical difficulties making it beyond impractical.