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January 31, 2017

Reaction to President Trump's immigration orders -
Bishop on implications of nationalism, populism -
Refugees and sanctuary cities

1. Church reacts to president's actions.
2. Sanctuary cities.
3. Current quotes to ponder:
a) 2017 March for Life.
4. "Dark moment" for nation.
5. Won't wall benefit traffickers?
6. A bishop's take on nationalism.
7. Nationalism: three key questions.

1. Church Reacts to Immigration Orders

"Walls and more aggressive enforcement will not make America great again. We need new pathways to understanding," Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said Jan. 26, the day after President Trump issued an executive order to build a wall or barrier along the southern border of the United States.

"Let's keep praying that the new administration and Congress will look for long-term solutions to fix our badly broken immigration system," the archbishop urged. "And let's keep standing together to protect our families and strengthen our communities."

In presidential orders Jan. 25 and Jan. 27, the U.S. president called for the construction of a wall or impenetrable barrier along the nation's southern border in hopes of obstructing illegal entry to the nation.

He also suspended the U.S. Refugee Admission Program for 120 days, blocking entry to the nation by refugees for a period of four months, and he called for a halt to the admission of nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days.

In addition, the president indefinitely banned entrance to the U.S. of those fleeing the violence in Syria. At this time "the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States," the president said.

The positions Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops hold on the plight and the inherent dignity of the world's refugees and on their human rights are well known, and President Trump's executive orders on immigration elicited a major reaction from church leaders. This edition of our online newsletter is devoted almost entirely to coverage of that reaction.

San Diego's Bishop Robert McElroy said Jan. 29 that the president's executive action on refugees "professes to be a necessary step in securing the safety of Americans. But the design of the order - and its chaotic implementation - unmask the reality that this presidential order" did not arise "from a careful effort to balance the needs of security with our commitment to welcome refugees amidst the greatest refugee crisis since World War II."

Instead, the executive order represented "the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice." The "devastating consequences" of this already are "apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart," Bishop McElroy remarked.

He called the executive order's release "a shameful moment of abandonment for the United States."

The president's action "repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression," he said, and he added that "we cannot and will not stand silent."

The president and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles - issued a joint statement Jan. 30 related to Trump's action on refugees. "The church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors," they said.

"The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom," the two church leaders observed. Often, they said, these people "could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors."

Vigilant U.S. screening for "infiltrators who would do us harm" is appropriate, Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez stated. However, they encouraged equal commitment to the welcoming "of friends."

Their joint statement affirmed that "welcoming the stranger and those in flight is not one option among many in the Christian life. It is the very form of Christianity itself." They said, "Our actions must remind people of Jesus."

2. Sanctuary Cities

One executive order signed Jan. 25 by President Trump involved sanctuary cities in the U.S. The president said that "sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States."

His order aimed to "ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable federal law do not receive federal funds, except as mandated by law."

The presidential order said that "many aliens" who enter the U.S. illegally or overstay the terms of their visas pose a "threat to national security and public safety," particularly those "who engage in criminal conduct." During his campaign for the presidency, Trump raised the issue of criminality on the part of immigrants repeatedly.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, N.J., suggested, however, that "threatening the so-called 'sanctuary cities' with the withdrawal of federal funding for vital services such as health care, education and transportation will not reduce immigration. It only will harm all good people in those communities."

The cardinal said Jan. 27 that he understands "the desire for every American to be assured of safe borders and freedom from terrorism. The federal government should continue a prudent policy aimed at protecting citizens."

Nonetheless, he added, the Jan. 25 executive actions by the president related to sanctuary cities and to building a wall along the border "do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation. They are the opposite of what it means to be an American."

Cardinal Tobin's view was that "closing borders and building walls are not rational acts." In fact, he said, "Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities."

In a statement on the president's order regarding sanctuary cities, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Committee on Migration, urged elected public officials "to work together in a bipartisan manner to ensure that all persons -- U.S citizens and newcomers alike -- are protected from individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety."

However, the bishop said he is concerned that the president's order "would force all jurisdictions to accept a one-size-fits-all regime that might not be best for their particular jurisdictions." He added:

"We know that cooperative relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities are vital. I fear that this executive order may be injurious to that vital necessity."

Bishop Vasquez said that while ensuring the integrity of U.S. borders, immigration law also ought to protect people fleeing persecution in their homelands.

3. Current Quotes to Ponder

Sanctuary for the Unborn and Sanctuary for Immigrants, Refugees; January 2017 March for Life: "Throughout church history, those scared, in trouble or need, those on the run escaping pursuers, would claim the right of sanctuary as they rushed frightened and breathless into the safety of their Father's house, the sanctuaries of great churches like this one. The pilgrims who left religious harassment in England sought such sanctuary in this land we now, with them, gratefully cherish as our earthly home. Our grandparents and ancestors continued that grand tradition, coming to this country as immigrants. . . . Today, refugees and immigrants continue to believe that this nation is still a sanctuary. . . . We come together this evening in a church we call a sanctuary, in a land historically termed a sanctuary, on a planet the Creator intended as an environment of a sanctuary . . . to reclaim the belief of nature and supernature that a mother's womb is the primal sanctuary, where a helpless, innocent, fragile, tiny baby is safe, secure, nurtured and protected. Should it shock us, as Pope Francis asks in his ongoing global examination of conscience, that a culture that violently intrudes upon the life of a baby in the sanctuary of his or her mother's womb would soon lose reverence for all places intended by God as safe, secure and nurturing; that such a society would begin to treat the sanctuary of the earth's environment as a toxic waste dump; would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries where families are protected and fostered; would commence to approach the poor as bothersome instead of brothers; would lock the doors to a nation celebrated as a sanctuary to scared, scarred, and shivering immigrants eager for a new home, and would burden the dying with guilt for peacefully and patiently savoring each day until God takes them, pressuring them instead to suicide? Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother's womb protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged? . . . Once [the sanctuary of the womb is] violated, once a society deems it legal to invade it, the integrity of the natural and the supernatural are ruptured . . . and we have no place safe and secure left to go." (From the Jan. 26 homily of New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan for the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington; the vigil precedes the annual March for Life on the National Mall.)

4. "A Dark Moment in U.S. History"

The weekend that began Jan. 27 "proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history," Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich said Jan. 29. He called President Trump's executive order banning refugee admissions to the U.S. over the next four months and halting for at least 90 days the admission of nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations "contrary to both Catholic and American values."

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, Texas, also issued a statement reacting to the president's Jan. 25 and Jan. 27 executive orders on immigration - orders, said the archbishop, that "dramatically alter the refugee program in the United States, build an expansive new border wall on our boundary with Mexico and heighten immigration detention." He called these actions "truly disheartening and profoundly disappointing."

In a statement the archbishop agreed that "concerns about security must be strongly addressed," but not "through political measures which do more harm than good."

Statements such as those by Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop Garcia-Siller and many others would appear to guarantee that immigration and the plight the world's refugees will remain leading concerns for the church in the U.S. for some time to come.

"We are told," Cardinal Cupich remarked, that the Jan. 27 executive order on refugees "is not the 'Muslim ban' that had been proposed during the presidential campaign." Yet, the cardinal noted, "these actions focus on Muslim-majority countries."

The "design and implementation" of the president's executive orders on immigration "have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States," said the cardinal. "The world," he commented, "is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values."

Recalling Pope Francis' September 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress, Cardinal Cupich proposed that "it is time to put aside fear and join together to recover who we are and what we represent to a world badly in need of hope and solidarity." He noted that Pope Francis said in his speech:

"If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities."

The pope added, "The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us."

Archbishop Garcia-Siller stressed that the San Antonio Archdiocese and Catholic Charities agency, along with other groups and U.S. dioceses, "will continue to stand in solidarity with refugees, immigrants and their families" and "will work for responsible and comprehensive immigration reform."

Speaking of the church, he said that "we cannot escape our responsibilities to the poor and vulnerable who are desperately fleeing their countries to escape violence. While acknowledging the rights of the nation, we are also called to compassion for the weak and those in need."

Pray, he urged, that the nation will be filled with "compassion and concern for the stranger."

5. Will Wall Benefit Traffickers and Smugglers?

A wall built along the southern U.S. border will "make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers," Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration, said Jan. 25, the day President Trump issued his executive order to build such a wall or barrier.

Moreover, a wall will destabilize "the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border," the bishop believes. He said that instead of building walls, "my brother bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will 'look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.'"

The Trump administration held, however, that construction of a wall, which was a cornerstone of the new president's campaign, would "stem the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigration" along the border. Press spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump's top priority was national security.

The statement by Bishop Vasquez expressed concern about the executive order's "announced increase in immigrant detention space and immigration enforcement activities." That "is alarming," the bishop said. "It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities."

The U.S. bishops "respect the right of our federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans," Bishop Vasquez said. However, he added, "we do not believe that a large-scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals."

Rather, he said, "We remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate and commonsense reform." The fear is, however, "that the policies announced [Jan. 25] will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country."

6. A Bishop's Take on Nationalism in the U.S.

New power is being given to a "nationalist impulse" through "the merger of populism and nationalism at work in the cultural and political currents of the United States" today, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, Calif., said in a Jan. 10 speech.

He acknowledged that "in Catholic social teaching the love of country is a virtue." However, he commented, "the nationalistic impulse itself has no moral identity."

This impulse, he said, "can signal the most virtuous patriotism," integrating love of country into a "spectrum of moral obligations." However, it also "can be rooted in pride, isolationism and discrimination."

Addressing a conference at The Catholic University of America in Washington, Bishop McElroy examined "three potent framing forces" that are witnessed today and that "are becoming directive" for life in America at this time. In addition to nationalism he mentioned "the technocratic paradigm, which seeks dominance over the environment and culture," and "the drive for the sovereignty" of financial markets.

It is "the sustained conviction of Catholic doctrine" that the human person's dignity is "the measure of every system and institution, and that markets must be structured to reflect that perspective," he said.

U.S. culture today "presents free markets as morally uplifting for society," the bishop observed. In fact, however, market mechanisms "are morally neutral. They are ethically beneficial when they serve the common good in society by their creation of wealth, the enhancement of freedom and their service to distributive justice."

Turning attention to what he called the "technocratic paradigm," the bishop pointed to a tendency in society to assume that "there are no limits to human achievement" and that "enlightened engineering provides the soundest pathway for human progress."

But "the technocratic paradigm is a devastatingly corrosive form of erroneous autonomy," he insisted. "It claims moral status through its ability to capture one element of reality," and it "promises that this one element has the capacity to produce human flourishing."

Pope Francis testifies in his encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si'," that human beings are called to serve as stewards of creation "rather than its masters," said Bishop McElroy. It is a teaching of Catholic theology, according to the bishop, that "culture is a spiritual and ethical enterprise, richly interwoven with the lives of a people."

The text of Bishop McElroy's speech appears in the Feb. 2, 2017, edition of Origins, CNS Documentary Service.

7. Three Key Questions About Nationalism

Nationalism, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said in his Jan. 10 speech at The Catholic University of America, "is a moral good only when it is connected and subordinated to the order of justice and freedom." But "it is immoral when it functions autonomously from that justice and freedom."

Bishop McElroy spelled out three questions that America "must wrestle with" at this time "in order to ensure that the nationalist impulse coursing through our society evolves into a true patriotism that is morally sound and unitive" for the country.

The first question asks who the people of the nation are. "Populist movements in American history have raised important and substantial claims of injustice" against various elites, he noted. However, populism also often has claimed "that 'the people' are really only some of the people."

Thus, populism can be "marred by exclusionary rhetoric" and proposals that drive "deep wedges into our culture."

A second question asks what "greatness" means at a time when the U.S. president and many citizens speak of making America "great again." "In short," the bishop asked, "is it a material greatness or a greatness of the soul?"

The final question involves the international order. Bishop McElroy asked, "Does the nationalism which we are experiencing today view our country as brother and sister to the other peoples of the world?"

The bishop concluded that "it is not in their internal structures that the drive for free markets, the technocratic perspective or nationalism are dangerous. It is when they are morally autonomous, when they in themselves" direct "cultural thinking and public policy," and become "perilous for the well-being of our nation."

The task for Americans "as a people" at this time is "to reconnect" the cultural currents he discussed in his Catholic University of America speech - nationalism, the technocratic paradigm and the drive for the sovereignty of financial markets - "to sound moral anchors," said Bishop McElroy.