Have the last two popes called for open borders?

Ortelio writes:

… quibbling aside, you’re really mistaken in saying that John Paul II and his successor are open-borders advocates.

JPII’s message “On Undocumented Immigrants” for “World Migration Day 1996” (dated 25 July 1995) said, quite straightforwardly: “Illegal immigration should be prevented, but it is also essential to combat vigorously the criminal activities which exploit illegal immigrants. The most appropriate choice, which will yield consistent and long-lasting results is that of international co-operation which aims to foster political stability and to eliminate underdevelopment. The present economic and social imbalance, which to a large extent encourages the migratory flow, should not be seen as something inevitable, but as a challenge to the human race’s sense of responsibility.”

Everything that follows “illegal immigration should be prevented” is just a bureaucratic way of saying: the long term solution is for these people to stay in their home countries (stable and no longer under-developed). There’s no qualification here or anywhere else in John Paul II’s teaching that retreats from the proposition that “illegal immigration should be prevented”. Which of course means “borders are not and need not be open”.

Benedict XVI’s message is the same: “single believers are called to open their arms and their hearts to every person, from whatever nation they come, allowing the Authorities responsible for public life to enforce the relevant laws held to be appropriate for a healthy co-existence.” (Address to Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, 15 May 2006)

The distinction is fundamental: you and I—and any Christians willing to be generous to individual strangers—are nonetheless morally free, even welcome, to argue for the most severe legal restrictions on, and reasonable discriminations in, immigration that we believe are needed not only for healthy co-existence within our societies (and between our societies and others), but also for living up to this teaching of Vatican Council: “Christians belong to the nation in which they were born. They have begun to share in its cultural treasures by means of their education. They are joined in its life by manifold social ties… They feel its problems as their very own… they must give _expression to this [Christian] newness of life in the social and cultural framework of their own homeland [patriae], according to the traditions of their own nation, a culture which they should get to know, heal, preserve, develop in accordance with contemporary conditions, and finally perfect in Christ” (Decree Ad Gentes (1965) s. 21)

LA replies:

The only thing above that makes me have second thoughts is Benedict’s statement of last May, about “allowing the Authorities responsible for public life to enforce the relevant laws held to be appropriate for a healthy co-existence.” Maybe—maybe—he’s not as radical as JPII. But JPII was as radical as one can get. The relative moderation of his statement for the 1996 World Day of Migrants and Refugees that you quote and of the 1965 Vatican Council statement you quote, was transcended by his statement for the 2002 event, which Jim Kalb discussed in a superb article originally posted at VFR and then at FrontPage Magazine, which I highly recommend. In particular, Mr. Kalb showed how the supposedly merely “personal” obligation of individuals to care for illegal migrants logically implies an official open-borders policy:

First, it appears that every country should have open borders. If they aren’t open, some migrants will be undocumented and therefore become the special objects of hospitality and care. But if we have to welcome and care for them anyway, why not make it official and give all comers papers at the border?

Here is a further response by Mr. Kalb to a reader last May who doubted that JPII’s position added up to open borders. Mr. Kalb shows how, given Catholic teachings, there really can be no separation between the moral obligations of individuals and of society as a whole.

Jim Kalb writes:

I don’t doubt that in sober prose Church teaching is as Ortelio says.

The Church is generally quite cautious in formulating her teachings and she’s big on reason and natural law. In politics she’s much more likely to favor prudence than extreme positions.

It seems to me though that JP II often spoke in ways that were not sober and made the teaching seem something other than it is. As Ortelio puts it, his “rhetoric escalated one-sidedly.” In particular, I don’t see how the 2002 message makes sense as a statement of actual sober Church teachings for reasons I give in my 12/7/2002 comment.

In particular: if the distinction between public and private is so key, and he’s talking about private obligations, why bring in the “vast educational and formative resources at all levels” of the Church and use them in conjunction with the efforts of those outside the Church “to form societies in which the cultures of migrants and their special gifts are sincerely appreciated”? If what is called for is something as moderate as Ortelio says, why does he say the path “is actually a difficult one, in some cases a real Way of the Cross”?

It seems to me that everything the Pope says carries a lot of weight.

To my mind that means that when he talks about some public issue he should make it clear what bearing his comments have on the issue—for example, whether he’s talking about public policy or private obligations. He should also, I think, not sign things drafted by other people that don’t give his own considered judgment. In the case of papal pronouncements, less is more.

I think B XVI is more cautious in that respect than his predecessor although I’ve admittedly found fault with rhetoric he shares with other high churchmen of recent decades that has found its way into media sound bites (see http://turnabout.ath.cx:8000/node/1522).

I should thank Ortelio by the way for identifying the Pope’s May 15, 2006 statement. I noticed it when it came out, but could not find it later. If I ever return to this issue I will also look at the other references he mentions.

Ortelio writes:

I agree with virtually everything Jim Kalb’s email says. And I agree that my construction of the papal statements would be intolerably strained if they were to be read simply as political messages. But they are messages from a church teacher who, even when he’s being imprudently political, is also teaching the faith. So the “little qualifying language” is actually the backbone doctrine, and its presence in the messages, small in bulk but potent in implication, reassures good Catholics in their judgment that it’s fully consistent with the faith to think (for example) that Muslim immigration on any significant scale must urgently be stopped and indeed, by morally acceptable means, reversed, and that where Muslims are admitted on grounds of their dire necessity, their stay must be subject to various restrictions about where they can live, how their children can be schooled, how long they can stay, and so forth. That’s all obviously necessary for the common good of any community that holds to principles with the same content as Vatican II’s teachings about patriotism and religious liberty.

Where I disagree with Jim Kalb is just where he asks how the “public/private” distinction explains the papal calls for vast church efforts etc. It doesn’t, which I why I added “and [the distinction] between the common good of the state and the common goods of churches, families”. Sure, the church efforts are not private. But they’re not state efforts either, and the rhetoric remains silent about what individuals as voters or legislators should judge about their political community’s rights and obligations.

Of course, the distinctions I’m making are very often neglected by bishops, priests and others, from top to bottom. That’s a shame, and you’re right to be very concerned about it. They remain.

Vincent C. writes:

A problem I have with Ortelio’s comments is, among other things, they are OBE—overtaken by events. The material quoted is from 1995, and several factors, aside from the passage of nearly a dozen years, have rendered the pope’s words stated in that document, just that … words. Although I would respectfully disagree that calling the previous and current pontiffs Johnny and Benny is sufficiently respectful, in stating that the Church seeks amnesty for illegal immigrants … and not only in the U.S … LA is quite correct. My experience has demonstrated that point beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Ortelio might have consulted a more recent document, the statement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) of October, 2005 which is nothing less than a clerical rewrite of S.2611, a.k.a. the Hagel-Martinez Bill. In their statement, the bishops call for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” (Sound familiar?) In seeking to achieve this nightmare in the making, the document also cites the Koran to bolster their appeal for amnesty, presumably for Muslims who are illegal aliens. What is at work here is the USCCB has revised—or ignored—the previous pope’s words, and have, subsequently, proceeded to disregard any measure that prevents amnesty for illegal aliens from coming to fruition. Like so many other official documents that emerged from the previous pope—Ex Corde Ecclesia of 1991 being another example—the U.S. bishops have proceeded on their own terms. I will leave to others to question if this indifference to papal announcements would have taken place in the pre-Vatican II Church. Hence, previous papal statements on this subject are, essentially, meaningless.

As a member of American National Council for Immigration Reform (ANCIR), I attend specifically targeted sub and full committee hearings at the state legislature in order to provide information to lawmakers about the baleful state of our battered immigration system at the federal and state levels; I’ve spoken to appropriate committees regarding the menace to our public health system brought on by diseases carried by those “unlawfully present.” However, if enforcement of current immigration law is the subject at hand, as night follows day there are always representatives of the Diocese of Richmond invariably present to persuade lawmakers that implementation of the law would show their lack of humanitarian concern. The basis they most often cite for this position is, they claim, the USCCB’s and the Vatican’s stand on immigration. Within the post Vatican II Conciliar Church are centrifugal forces which have weakened the papacy’s central authority, and have, for all intents and purposes, relegated Vatican documents into gathering dust on the shelves in American dioceses. A papal statement on immigration is just one such example. Another glaring example of this trend: the current refusal by the diocesan heads of New York and Washington to comply with specific papal announcements regarding the offering of communion to Catholic politicians who are faithful believers in the unlimited abortion license?

Several years ago, Giacomo Cardinal Biffi of Bologna, Italy, in a homily delivered in that city’s cathedral, railed against Muslim immigration into Italy (U.S. and EC immigration laws vary as to what is an “illegal alien”), citing the situation in France as what would inevitably happen in all of Italy. Within two days Cardinal Biffi was silenced by the Vatican, and apologized, apparently for insisting that Italian borders should be respected. Neither Biffi nor any other prelate in Italy has ventured into this subject as a theme for another sermon.

Salus animarum suprema lex est—the good of the souls is the supreme law of the Church. When priests and nuns were politicized in the 60’s, many of them lost their purpose, and, perhaps, their vocation. In too many areas, the Church has come to regard man’s physical existence as being as important as his spiritual one. Nowhere is that more evident than the current Church’s abandonment of its previous role as a non-participant, and its new one as an active major player in seeking amnesty for illegal aliens.

Pax tecum.

Jim Kalb writes:

On my remaining disagreement with Ortelio:

“Sure, the church efforts are not private. But they’re not state efforts either, and the rhetoric remains silent about what individuals as voters or legislators should judge about their political community’s rights and obligations.”

In my understanding, Catholicism (unlike the ACLU or Mario Cuomo) usually does not make a radical distinction between private morality and what government should do, because similar principles of natural law apply in both cases. It seems to me that the call to use vast resources in conjunction with the efforts of non-Catholics “to form societies in which the cultures of migrants and their special gifts are sincerely appreciated,” together with the hyperbolic description of what is involved in our duties to migrants, makes it difficult to make sense of the 2002 statement without accepting that it has a great deal of relevance to what the political community should do. Of course, not every statement the Pope signs need clearly present Catholic teaching in all respects.

Bruce B. writes:

Mr. Kalb wrote: “In my understanding, Catholicism (unlike the ACLU or Mario Cuomo) usually does not make a radical distinction between private morality and what government should do, because similar principles of natural law apply in both cases.”

I keep having this sort of thought. It makes me uncomfortable with the “render unto Caesar” argument that we use when we try to make (Christian) distinctions between public and private morality regarding immigration, multi-cultism, etc. Why doesn’t this (“render unto Caesar”) apply to, say, sexual morality and the proper sphere of government?” Can’t a liberal turn “render unto Caesar” against us in this way?

I’d guess that they would say “how do we decide which aspects should be public and which should be private?”

One thought is that when we “legislate an article of faith,” a distinction we need to make is that we aren’t legislating (and can’t legislate) the Kingdom of Heaven. We are legislating the wisdom inherent in the Word and the social and moral order that results. There’s no morally neutral worldview, so something has to be legislated.

Also, I’d think that natural law would argue against anti-racism. Why is regard for common ancestry and continuity of ancestry so inherently sinful?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 25, 2007 08:03 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):