Abortion vs. Immigration: Don’t take the bait.

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 20, 2018

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raise such ignorant rhetorical questions in relationship to the bishops’ condemnation of Donald Trump’s recently-withdrawn border policy, they reveal an unacceptable political fervor which badly needs to be tempered by truth.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.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Fr_TW - Jun. 25, 2018 12:59 PM ET USA

    Thank you Dr. Mirus for telling the truth on this issue.. You are one of the few Catholic conservatives to do so, my hat is off to you sir!

  • Posted by: steve.grist2587 - Jun. 25, 2018 7:02 AM ET USA

    While traveling to New England regularly for 35 years, I have NEVER heard a prolife sermon or prayers for the unborn during Mass. So much for your claim that Bishops "have never been unclear about their condemnation of abortion" Silence is not clarity. Yet yesterday, the priest read the Bishop's statement on the immorality of separating children from parents at the border. Such a statement AFTER the policy was "discarded" creates the appearance that the Bishop is carrying water for Democrats.

  • Posted by: Jefesabella1011 - Jun. 22, 2018 11:07 PM ET USA

    Dr. Mirus, I’m not sure referring to people as morally stupid who believe immigrants breaking the nation’s laws by entering under false pretense or without legal permission is the best approach. Although some of the many thousands who illegally come claiming asylum may have legitimate cases, let’s not pretend that the majority don’t come knowing full well that bringing children with them (who’s to say they’re even these peoples children in all cases?) will allow them a free pass after 20 days.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jun. 22, 2018 10:41 PM ET USA

    At the risk of being singled out as ignorant consider the following: 1- In abortion the child is dead, he gets no second chance. 2- Child separation does not murder anyone. 3- Child separation is a minor thing for a 16 y/o, while it is traumatic, but not lethal, for a 1 y/o. The bishops are consistently against abortion, but mostly refuse to call out promoters of abortion.

  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Jun. 22, 2018 6:12 PM ET USA

    wsw33410: I'm sorry you're unhappy. But I hope you are not implying that either you or those you cite have argued that (a) It is OK to support taking children away from their parents to make a political point; or (b) It is OK to ridicule the bishops' condemnation of this practice because some bishops did not do what you wanted them to do on some other issue.

  • Posted by: wsw33410 - Jun. 22, 2018 9:04 AM ET USA

    Sorry to say but you must have taken that bait casted by the liberals. Please listen to a discussion of the "papal posse" last night (Arroyo's World Over on EWTN) or spend a few minutes listening to M. Voris at https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/episode/vortex-they-wont-stop --- they do good job explaining moral grounds of the Catholic teaching. I am not happy about your message to us.