Abortion vs. Immigration: Don’t take the bait.
It is already happening, and it gives us a bad name. Hearing of the widespread denunciation among our bishops of President Trump’s (now discarded) policy to separate children from their migrant parents at the Mexican border, a certain number of Catholics who read CatholicCulture.org are demanding to know where the bishops were when it came time to condemn abortion. Indeed, it seems this is the knee-jerk response of some people whenever their partisan feathers are ruffled.
Please. The American bishops have never been unclear about their condemnation of abortion, nor about their desire to have American law changed to protect life in the womb. Following upon the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, the pro-life movement was initially led by Catholics with the full support of their bishops. The emphasis on the right to life both at the USCCB and in the vast majority of American dioceses has been uncompromising and unremitting. This remains true today.
Nor is it a sea change that some bishops advocated canonical penalties for Federal officials who separated immigrant children from their families. There is already a severe canonical penalty for those who participate in abortion, namely excommunication.
When Catholics raise such ignorant rhetorical questions in relationship to the bishops’ condemnation of Donald Trump’s recently-withdrawn border policy, they reveal an unacceptable political fervor which badly needs to be tempered by truth. The separation of children from parents—without a particular judgment in each case that the parents are failing so badly as to require removal of the children for their own protection—is, like abortion, intrinsically immoral. It is a grave evil which all persons of good will are obliged to condemn and resist.
Trump caught wisdom in a bottle when he changed this dreadful policy today, because the motive for enacting it in the first place did not and does not matter. The hope of deterring future immigration no more justifies the separation of children from their parents than the hopes of preventing poverty or over-population justify abortion. Lofty ideals cannot justify separating children from their parents. Other goods to be pragmatically gained cannot justify it. Reason of State cannot justify it (or, for that matter, anything else that is intrinsically immoral). And neither can confusing the target by claiming someone else hasn’t done enough about something else.
Engage brain before putting mouth in gear. Better yet, pray before you spout. If you want to make the case that, on the whole, the American bishops have not contributed positively to the discussion of immigration in the United States, because of a common reluctance to take seriously the real problems associated with it, you have our blessing. But don’t be a moral pinhead when it come to the partisan defense of intrinsic evils.
Have I mentioned that such moral stupidity plays into enemy hands? But the main point is simpler: It is just plain wrong, even eternally wrong. As with abortion, all deliberate deflections from the gravity of this evil disrupt friendship with God.
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