As I write, the lame-duck Congress is revving up for one last chance to do really lasting damage to the country, in the form of the cloyingly titled DREAM Act, which would grant an open-ended amnesty to illegal aliens who were brought here as children by their parents. As Roy Beck of NumbersUSA warns, this would allow the amnestied children to sponsor still more legal immigrants—that is, “chain migration”—and would tempt foreign parents who haven’t yet tried to sneak their children across our borders. Bills like this one are not going away. Aware that most Americans resent the claims of illegal immigrants, and that a substantial plurality even wish to diminish legal immigration, the coalition of open-borders advocates have cleverly crafted this bill to focus on a group that can win our sympathy: children, who never made a decision to break American laws, but were simply dragged here by their parents. One high-profile supporter of this bill is the Catholic bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Robert W. Finn. As the bishop wrote Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO),
[O]ur federal elected officials can provide a remedy for a very vulnerable group of immigrants—young persons who entered the United States with their parents years ago. Their futures are limited because of their undocumented status, yet they have so much to give to our communities and nation.
These young people entered the United States as children, following the direction of their parents, as we would all do in the same situation. The United States is the only country that they know. They have incredible talent and energy, and are waiting for the chance to fully [sic] contribute their skills to our country. We would be foolhardy to deny them that chance.
The immigration lobby has long shown its skill in manipulating our sympathies; that’s their only available tactic, since there is no moral or prudential case for increasing the numbers of mostly low-skilled immigrants to a country afflicted by high unemployment, which has outsourced many of its low-skilled jobs to the Third World, and which is already staggering under the cost of educating millions of migrants in dozens of languages. As economist George Borjas has documented, mass immigration of the sort the United States currently practices does positive harm to the working class and native-born poor of every race, and benefits no one but the “investor class,” whose stock portfolios see an uptick with every fall in the price of labor. In other words, Borjas says, our current immigration policy amounts to a punitive tax on the poor that is redistributed to the rich.
What tickles my irony bone is the tangle of moral inconsistencies men like Bishop Finn encounter when they dip their pink, uncallused fingers into politics. The letter quoted above was written to a politician whose positions on abortion and stem-cell research are so out of line with Christian morality that Senator McCaskill was prevented from speaking in 2007 at a Catholic high school in St. Louis—on the orders of then-Archbishop Raymond Burke. Finn was forced to mention the life issue—since legal abortion is, along with open borders, a fixation of the left. There is almost a perfect correspondence in Congress between supporters of open borders and defenders of abortion. Conversely, the strongest pro-life members of Congress tend to be immigration restrictionists. Finn tried valiantly to pry these issues apart. As he wrote Senator McCaskill,
In the past attempts have been made to attach the DREAM Act to legislation that would fund abortions at military hospitals and legislation that would repeal the military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regarding homosexuals serving in the military. I, along with the entire body of U.S. Bishops, oppose these other pieces of legislation and therefore I could not ask you to vote for the DREAM Act if it were attached to such policies that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is my hope that the DREAM Act could be removed from such politics and receive a fair vote on its own merits.
Typically, men like Finn are engaged in soldering together unrelated affinities. In doing so they have followed the example of Chicago’s old cardinal Joseph Bernadin in promoting a “seamless garment” of concern for the “weak” and the “vulnerable”—embracing all the fetishes of modern liberalism, except for those ruled out explicitly by authoritative statements from Rome—then trying to insert unborn children in the victim list. This tactic has never worked, and never will. When the generally admirable Pope John Paul II made the silliest statement of his pontificate—calling on Americans to welcome at once the immigrant at our border and the child in the womb—people were puzzled. It doesn’t take a course in Thomistic ethics to lay out how absurd that non sequitur was. But let’s do so, just for fun:
A child in the womb has an absolute right not to be killed by his mother.
Ergo, a mother has absolutely no right to kill her child.
An immigrant, while he has the right to leave his home country, has absolutely no right to enter any given country without its consent.
Ergo, a country has an absolute right to accept or reject immigrants based on its understanding of the common good for its citizens.
There is so little relation between these two situations that the only common factor I can come up with is this: They both involve human beings trying to move from one place to another. It would be wrong to stop the child from relocating out of the womb, ergo it would be wrong to stop the immigrant from relocating in America. QED. Not Pope John Paul’s finest hour. I strongly suspect his speech that day was written by some flunky of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Many American Catholics are hopelessly biased on the immigration issue by the Church’s experience in this country—of expanding not by evangelization but by riding the wave of large-scale emigration from Europe that the United States willingly accepted back when she needed to populate a largely empty continent and man a vast industrial base requiring almost unlimited numbers of low-skill workers. Admitted to a tolerant but deeply Protestant country, these Catholics defined themselves as outsiders who could assimilate only conditionally. While they enthusiastically embraced American patriotism, the Italians and Irish and Germans who built the Catholic Church in the United States also set up a parallel structure of institutions (especially schools) in which Catholics could become Americans while maintaining their faith.
For all the good it did in catechesis and education, this separatism also reinforced the sense that Catholics were outsiders and ought to side with other “outside” groups in power struggles against the prevailing Protestant culture. This carefully nourished sense of alienation led many Catholics to support the civil-rights movement, to identify themselves as liberals, and subsequently, to sign on with other “progressive” causes of much more dubious moral legitimacy, including women’s and even homosexual “liberation.” Catholics and conservative Protestants, natural allies in defending the orthodox Christian norms that prevail on both sides of the Tiber, instead saw each other as rivals to be shunned—a sense that almost 40 years of the pro-life movement has only recently begun to erode.
What flummoxes men like Bishop Finn is the incoherence of their own position.
In fact, it is not inconsistent to favor the protection of unborn life and the integrity of national borders. It is entirely natural and healthy to reject the culture of hedonism that produces unwanted children, then insists on the “right” to destroy them. It is equally healthy and sane to insist on defending the borders of one’s country, especially from assertively nationalistic, impoverished millions who could (and would) as citizens vote to tax away one’s savings and claim it in government benefits. These stances both follow from implications of natural law: the right of the innocent to life, and every person’s obligation to defend his family, community, and nation—that is, to love his actual neighbor. Conversely, the leftist positions flow from the rejection of natural law, and even natural instincts; mothers have no duties toward their unborn children, nor citizens toward their countries. Instead, a list of arbitrarily chosen “victim” groups (women afraid of pregnancy, discontented foreigners) are granted rights untethered to any responsibilities, and those who oppose this debasing of the moral currency are demonized with whatever rhetoric comes to hand.
There is a real seamless garment out there: the natural law. Christians who try to work with our moral instincts on issues like abortion, then against them on immigration, are dooming themselves to political impotence. They are giving aid and comfort to pro-abortion and pro-homosexual liberals, who can plausibly point to an array of issues (immigration, various welfare programs bishops lazily tout) on which they are apparently more “Christian” than conservatives. In fact, it is not Christian to destroy the very society that bore you, to sabotage the nation that welcomed your ancestors. It is not even pagan. The sick, unnatural ideology of post-Christian liberalism is something so perverse that, to find historical precedent, one would have to look to ancient life-despising Gnostic cults, to “the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn.” Scorn is precisely what Americans owe perverted politics. They doused the Congress with it this past November. Let’s hope they keep on pouring it by the bucketful.
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