Saturday, March 5, 2016
Walls, Bridges and Mercy--A Faith Perspective.
A little over a week ago there was a big bruhaha over Pope Francis' remarks at the US border. The Pope said,"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not bridges, is not Christian." Of course he was specifically focusing on Donald Trump. Now that a little dust has settled I would like to take a deeper look at this message and the reaction to it.
I don't believe, and Vatican response confirms this, that the words were meant to say that we should build a bridge and let everyone who wishes cross it without regard to border security. That would be crazy. What he was doing was calling us to a Gospel, a biblical attitude towards the issue of immigration. He was saying that we should first think of how to respond to the plight of people who are poor and oppressed who wish to migrate here, or to any country. How can we help them? How can we facilitate their transition to a better life? I also believe that while the remarks were focused on Donald Trump that every one of us ought examine our consciences on this matter. Republicans, rightfully so, take a lot of the heat from proponents of just immigration reform, but Obama and other Democrats are hypocritical, talking of reform while deporting many and breaking up families in detention centers.
I am not naive. I understand that some who cross our borders are drug lords and human traffickers. Others may be terrorists. Any rational person knows that there has to be security and screening. That is why the bridge I chose to picture above is the Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo, NY and Canada. There is a US Customs station at one end and a Canadian one at the other.Bridges don't have to be wide open. Restrictions are necessary. The question is "Do we think of the bridge first, and the wall or restriction next.?"
I am in Little Rock, Arkansas this week to preach a parish mission in Spanish. Next week I will do it in English. I am sure that many of the Spanish speaking are also undocumented. This is the case in most of the work I do with Spanish speaking. Most of them are good Catholic hard-working people. The only reason that they are not with legal status is that we don't grant enough visas for unskilled labor. They would rather live here under a cloud than live with the poverty and oppression back home. The Pope has called for a year of Mercy. Mercy, of course, is a Gospel value. It was not invented by Pope Francis. I do not favor a blanket path to citizenship, but I do favor a path to legal status prior to citizenship to the many who can show that they are living good and productive lives and have not committed crimes. I don't think that the crooks would come out of the shadows to apply for this.
Let us use this Year of Mercy to be merciful to the immigrant by ending the insane impasse we are in now. And yes, let us establish a sane method of border security without responding to irrational fears and keeping everyone out.