By Msgr. Hugh Shields

When we studied philosophy in the seminary, one of the phrases used in the argumentation of a point was the phrase “transeat.” Loosely translated it meant “I, in a gentlemanly fashion, will let what you just said pass for now.” In many debates that phrase allowed the speaker to come to this conclusion and then be responded to by the listener.

In our country’s immigration law reform debate we, as Catholics, seem to have fallen into the habit (hopefully, unconsciously) of symbolically using transeat in the heated, emotionally charged dialogue. {{more}}

To allow speakers (elected or not) to imply that the approximately 12 million undocumented people in our country are all drug dealers, terrorists, “illegal” or here to undermine the values of our country – and we as Catholics say transeat?

To allow speakers to deny the right for people to immigrate seeking a better life for themselves and their families (a right, by the way, supported by the teaching of the Catholic Church) – and we as Catholics say transeat?

To allow the narrowing of “immigration law reform” to simply mean “border enforcement,” when our Catholic bishops are begging for a more comprehensive approach to a very difficult reality – and we as Catholics say transeat?

To allow directly or indirectly the “demonizing” of people as if they are not made in the image and likeness of God simply because they do not have documents – and we as Catholics say transeat?

To permit the “not connecting of the dots” between our commercial contracts with foreign nations and the conditions that drive people to seek a better life outside of those same foreign nations – and we say transeat?

To allow the “debate” and its significance to deteriorate into a shouting match in front of a cheesesteak establishment – and we say transeat?

I think we, as Catholics, are not being the leaven that our Church wants us to be when we withhold by our absence a much needed powerful presence of Christ in a debate on its way to violence.

Transeat or not? I would encourage that at this time, and in this discussion, not.

Msgr. Hugh Shields is the Vicar for Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.