What’s really wrong with Catholic teaching on immigration

From the Catechism:

2241 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.

Without any exception that I know of, the episcopacy takes this to mean that Western countries are obliged to admit an essentially unlimited number of immigrants from everywhere in the world, and that any concern for the host nation’s cultural and genetic continuity is “racist” and therefore to be condemned.

The actual words of the Catechism don’t directly say that, fortunately.  An immigration restrictionist might put special emphasis on the provisos “to the extent they are able” and ” for the sake of the common good”.  Note, though, that the latter only allows the host country to impose “juridicial conditions” on the immigrants; it’s not clear if the host nation may ever just say “no” to anyone.  Let’s read the Catechism as laxly as possible, attending only to the words rather than the spirit (while lamenting this practice in general).  Let’s say we can sneak into the above phrases about ability and the common good the idea that a nation can be concerned with its spiritual common good, and that furthermore this might include the preservation of its particular cultural inheritance.  Let’s interpret the “juridicial conditions” to include the right of a nation to refuse to take in large numbers of incompatible foreigners (not even offering them conditional admittance) simply because of their incompatibility.  Aren’t we good little sons and daughters of the Church!

Of course, the bishops would say not.  We have tortured the Catechism beyond recognition by introducing racist concerns entirely foreign to the text.  This is true, but it is the Church’s fault that we were able to do this.  In order for the bishops or the pope to declare our concerns illegitimate and heretical, they would have to first acknowledge them.  This is something they refuse to do, dismissing all opposition as selfish concern for the material welfare of our own native working class (in any case, a kind of selfishness I would think we could use more of).  I believe some of John Paul II’s addresses make it pretty clear that he did demand Western nations embrace their own cultural extinction, but I don’t believe we have a binding magisterial statement to that effect.

The real problem with the Catholic position is that it is entirely individualistic and materialistic.  Yes, we can sneak in concerns about communal cohesion, but only because this whole dimension of concern is entirely absent from the Church’s thinking.  On this matter, the Church speaks in the liberal language of individual rights considered outside of any social context.  Each immigrant has a natural right to move to a Western country; the Western country of his choice can only deny him welcome only for the direst reasons.  There is no room here for charity or generosity; the immigrant has his right, and we have our duty.

This is a serious failure of the Church’s teachers.  In these times of liberal dominance, the most useful role for the Church’s social witness is to remind people of communal and spiritual goods, even if the goods in question are ones that we must sacrifice.  And if it really is true that the people of Europe are morally obliged to become strangers in their countries and denizens of the Dar al-Islam, this should be acknowledged forthrightly, and the peoples of Europe offered spiritual resources for the great sacrifice required of them.  Pope Francis is always saying we need to help people and not just insult them.  Here is a case where the Church really is being grossly insensitive.

10 Responses

  1. You might even say … bear with me here … that the so-called Catholic position isn’t… Catholic. Despite its presence in the Catechism.

    When did it sneak in there?

  2. JPII’s “Catechism” is an heretical work, compiled by a notorious public heretic, which permits mortal sins such as intercommunion with heretics and schismatics – something which, by Divine Law, can never be permitted.

    One of the many heresies advanced in it, is Liberalism, especially via the approval of human “rights” in abstraction from the norms of objective morality. In the passage you quote, for example, the problem is with the words themselves, which are objectively contrary to Catholic teaching: that passage only allows *control* of the “right to immigrate,” to host countries. But, there is no such thing as a “right to immigrate.” Contrarily, authentic Catholic doctrine would say that there is a “right to refuse admittance to foreigners,” which right should merely be tempered by charity, with piety and the other virtues and prudential judgments being weighed in the balance.

    Those who study Vatican II and the heretics during and after the Council, will quickly learn that these people knew what they were doing. They deliberately used language which would fly under the radar of all but the most informed and staunchly orthodox people, knowing that in due time the deliberately ambiguous and (seemingly mildly) heretical language could be exploited to the most fully heretical extent possible. Many of them spoke publicly of this exact intent. Here, they float the immoral and unorthodox concept of a “right to immigrate,” but they hem it in with language that makes it seem reasonable to people who aren’t carefully logical thinkers (“subject to juridical controls,” “respect for the host culture,” etc.), knowing full well that the qualifying terms – which are advanced as subjective – will have to yield to the more objective “right to immigrate,” especially in a culture which has been morally conditioned for centuries, now, to view restrictions and saying “no,” as an intrinsically mean, evil, bigoted, “pharisaical,” etc., approach.

    The teaching of the Church, is that nations exist for the benefit of their citizens and arise from sharing blood, language, culture and land; a State exists to help its own people attain their natural and supernatural ends. While charity and cooperation between peoples is desirable, the virtue of piety imposes certain duties that make mass immigration immoral and unthinkable in almost all circumstances; the idea of a “right to immigrate” is completely absurd and could not be rooted in any principle of our religion, nor even of reason itself. It’s that simple: reject the heretical “catechism.”

  3. Strange. We’re called to such a sacrifice in times when religion is supposed to be about everything except sacrifice.

    The sentence “Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the […] spiritual heritage of the country that receives them” just smells of indifferentism.

    On a related note, Bonald, have you read this letter published at The Josias: https://thejosias.com/2017/03/11/letter-on-the-needy-immigrant/ ? I think it might capture your own thoughts quite well.

    (It’s a reply to an article, which you may also find interesting, defending Pius XII’s teaching on immigration by recalling the doctrine of the universal destination of goods as found in St Ambrose and St Thomas Aquinas.)

  4. For the love of God, let us give up on papal infallibility! To paraphrase Cromwell, go, already, be gone!

  5. “In these times of liberal dominance, the most useful role for the Church’s social witness is to remind people of communal and spiritual goods, even if the goods in question are ones that we must sacrifice.”

    The prelates are cowards! All they care about is keeping the house and the job!

    ”You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go!”

  6. Good post Bonald.

    There is a certain naivety with regard to human nature on display in that document which I think points to a far deeper problem in the Church. Christian Charity certainly demands that we help those in need and not be jealous of our goods but what the Catechism seems to downplay is the prudential aspect of our Charitable acts. i.e. There is a presumption of Charitable recklessness.

    Furthermore, the instinctive human biases of human nature are given “no rights” with the Church’s approach. The foreigner is to be loved just as much as our parents and ancestors and any natural bias we have toward our own is delegitimised. It’s a problem of modern Catholic moral philosophy where human nature is seen as something to be battled instead of understood.

    Finally, it really shows a profound lack of understanding with regard to economics, tending to view the world in economic “zero-sum” terms.

  7. Aquinas in De Regno also mounts a provable defense of borders.

  8. If one were going to lawyer this language, one could insist on strong readings of “under the protection” and “respect with gratitude.” This would mean that the would-be immigrant is stripped of everything but their physical body at the border. Impossible to do, of course, but this language would seem to allow for very rigorous assimilation programs, and very rigorous assimilation programs would make immigration less appealing.

  9. Bonald, which texts of JPII do you have in mind? He was certainly not insensitive to the value and even theological significance of nationality, so you would have found a striking contradiction in his thinking.

  10. JPII should be given credit for at least recognizing that a real sacrifice is demanded by the natives. This discussion at View From the Right
    quotes him acknowledging “The path to true acceptance of immigrants in their cultural diversity is actually a difficult one, in some cases a real Way of the Cross.” So he realized that he was demanding the crucifixion of Western cultures and even expressed a tiny bit of empathy for us. Just not enough to keep him from proposing to turn the machinery of the Church to bear against our “racism and xenophobia”. Still, this is what I’m looking to see more of. Just to mix in with the insults a bit of acknowledgement that yes, the Church is demanding of Westerners a huge, unprecedented sacrifice.

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