Catholic World News

Texas bishop on immigration, violence, battle for the 11-year-old’s soul

November 04, 2011

Speaking recently at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville discussed the changing dynamics of immigration, the satanic roots of the culture of violence, and “the urgent necessity of our evangelization efforts, our catechetical and formational efforts” towards youth.

“The situation we are facing is much more complex than it was just five years ago,” he said. “What I speak about tonight is a matter that flows from a sense of pastoral urgency as a shepherd on the border.” He continued:

The dominant fact is that the women and children are here. The men are often still in Mexico working to support them. They visit when they can. This is a new phenomenon, and not one that fits into the usual descriptions of immigration that we hear about on the news.

The new reality is rooted in what each of these families have in common: fear. They do not live in the Valley, or in Laredo, or in San Antonio primarily for economic reasons; rather, fear of kidnapping, random shootings, being caught at the wrong time in the wrong place, these are the pressures moving them. They are driven also by the fear that their children will grow up in, and know only, a lawless and cynical community if they remain at home …

If the middle class and the employer class are leaving because of violence, then we can expect the effects will be felt in an increase in poverty in Mexico. And this will surely put more pressure on immigration into the United States, only it will be doubly propelled by fear of violence and by poverty.

“The violence has had a corrosive effect on the most basic of human relations” in his diocese, Bishop Flores added. “This deadness of conscience then creeps like a silhouette into our local communities and manifests itself as a sense of fear and hopelessness marring the thoughts of children and old people, of parents and siblings.”

Satan, he continued, is contending for the souls of youth.

The border violence is not simply about security around the line of demarcation between two sovereign nations; battles are being fought on the borders of the soul that mark the difference between life and death, grace and sin. The conscience of an 11-year-old is the principal battle ground in the current border wars.

Between Christ and despair there is no middle ground; there is no safe secular space where we all happily mind our own business. We in the Church must re-engage the urgent necessity of our evangelization efforts, our catechetical and formational efforts on behalf of our families, our young people, our young adults, indeed on behalf of the whole world

If a 12-year-old does not believe that in the end, love and life wins, than the options open to him or her are fairly obvious. If in the end, death triumphs, then nothing really matters. …There are too many statues of la santa muerte in our neighborhoods for me naively to think that this evil we face is simply a political and economic and social problem. The ancient enemy of the human race is drawn by the smell of death, and he disseminates it. He is not a bystander in the tragedy unfolding along the River and beyond. He is the ultimate purveyor of this cynical “nothing really matters anyway” attitude that can infect a young soul or an old one at any time

“It takes both conscience and courage to be good in this world,” he added. “Conscience is rooted in the natural law, but the inclination toward the good is both wounded and rudderless without early, age appropriate guidance and formation in grace. And courage is lacking if there is no conviction that the victory is possible.”

Bishop Flores continued:

If our younger children do not find the right place to belong in the wider community of the parish, they will easily find themselves invited to belong to a gang or a cartel.

We have to do much better at teaching this younger demographic about the beauty and nobility of a call to goodness and holiness. The lives of Saints can be powerful in this aspect of youth formation. If someone had not told me about the life of Maximilian Kolbe when I was starting high school, and handed me a book about him, I doubt I would be here today.

“There is a temptation for some to say ‘arrest all the undocumented, and deport them all,’” he said, turning to the topic of immigration laws. “There is a moral distinction we as a civilized people should maintain: someone who overstays a tourist visa out of fear for their life is not in the same category as someone who is running a prostitution ring in the Valley to support the drug trade.”

“When it comes to the urgent need to craft a more just and reasonable immigration law in the United States, our attention should be focused on Congress and the President. But when it comes to how we work in our communities, it is in everyone’s interest that all the resources of the community, including the civil community, law enforcement and the Church, marshal their resources together in an effort to push back the looming darkness that gathers south of us, and projects its shadows over us.”


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  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Nov. 05, 2011 10:09 AM ET USA

    Are you just now recognizing this! Thanks be to God that you see it now. long must abortion continue; how long will we allow addictions to be sought in place of the family - inner-city males just trying to make it to 22; corporate growth in the name of profit; advertisement and entertainment sensationalizing sensuality in the name of feel good to make money - we can keep doing this or we can live our Catholic Faith and identity. Make a difference - build, stand up, live the faith.

  • Posted by: Brad - Nov. 04, 2011 7:32 PM ET USA

    I understand this issue is complicated but it doesn't help to talk in ambiguity. We can "marshal the resources" but to do what? There is a fundamental problem when these men are not with their families. Why not sit down with each of the families to understand their situation and then taking the men aside to determine what is preventing them from being with and supporting their family and deriving a plan for that to be resolved. That's the bigger issue than which country they live in.