Over at The Stream, John Zmirak and Jason Jones have published an open letter to Pope Francis rejecting his bullying of Christians who do not accept unchecked Muslim immigration as a Gospel imperative:
In the light of the recent martyrdom at the altar of Fr. Jacques Hamel at the hands of ISIS militants, and mounting vicious outrages in Western countries — including uncounted acts of sexual aggression violating the modesty and human dignity of women — we Catholic laymen call upon you, with all filial respect, to clarify and correct your previous statements on the proper attitude of Christians toward large-scale Islamic immigration into historically Christian countries.
In the past, especially in your comments at Lampedusa in 2013, you have chosen harsh language to characterize those of us who differ with your estimate of the wisest actions for the common good, and the best application of the Church’s official teaching on immigration, as stated in theCatechism of the Catholic Church. Those who opposed for prudential reasons the acceptance of hundreds of thousands of mostly economic migrants from Muslim regions of Africa were compared both to the murderer Cain and the tyrannical butcher Herod.
This is frankly unfair, and deeply misleading. Was Cain protecting the common good when he slaughtered Abel? Was Herod concerned for the religious liberty and civic peace of Bethlehem when he butchered its infants? Yet those of us who differ with your optimism about mass Muslim immigration found ourselves linked to each of those villains in your remarks. We do not think it wise or prudent to reward migrants for making a potentially deadly journey to Europe on makeshift boats with the “prize” of long-term residence and public support — a prize which cannot help but encourage millions of others to attempt the same deadly journey, to lands that do not require their labor and are already suffering from the intolerance and militancy of resurgent political Islam.
If we might presume to remind you, Church teaching on this issue is quite general and capacious, as the following text from the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear:
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. (2241)
This set of luminously clear principles admits of broad interpretation at the hands of those whose proper vocation is to set public policy: the free citizens of democratic nations, most of whom are laymen. While the Church has a duty to set out such general principles, their correct application has always been left to the prudence of statesmen and citizens. Your predecessors Leo XIII and St. John Paul II were quite explicit in stating that the charism of the Successor of St. Peter grants him no special insights into the technical or policy aspects of living out Catholic social teaching.
Discerning that is our vocation as citizens. Doing so as citizens of individual sovereign countries is our right and duty, according to the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity. It would be, in Pope Pius XI’s words, a “an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order” (Quadrogesimo Anno) to deprive such nations of their power to make such decisions crucial to the well-being of their citizens, granting that power instead to centralized bureaucratic authorities that lack democratic accountability, such as the European Union or the United Nations.
There’s a good bit more, and I think they make a worthwhile case. Some will no doubt quibble with their invocation of Pope John Paul II’s apology tour back in 2,000, but I don’t think it should get in the way of the larger point.
With Francis saying that the war with Islam (and the martyrdom of Fr. Hamel) is “a war of interests, over money, nature’s resources and the domination of peoples” and not religious in nature, it’s not likely he’s going to listen. That doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t talk. It’s past time we all started pushing back against any political or religious leadership that wants us to accept suicide by Islam. If they want to keep up the nonsense, we need to keep up the noisy reply.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.