EVANSVILLE, Ind. (CNS) — Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami cut to the chase about halfway through his Oct. 8 keynote at a Respect Life celebration sponsored by the Diocese of Evansville.
“The story of the Holy Family is instructive,” said Archbishop Wenski, who devoted his remarks to migration and immigration. “Joseph took the child and fled with Mary to Egypt.
“Jesus was a refugee. And you can be sure that Joseph did not waste any time trying to get a visa to go into Egypt. So Jesus was just as illegal as the illegals we hear about on our talk show programs we love to listen to.”
Earlier in the day, during a news conference with Evansville Bishop Charles C. Thompson, the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development minced no words when describing long-standing church teaching on human dignity.
“No human being … can be reduced to a problem,” Archbishop Wenski said in the offices of Catholic Charities — and again during his keynote at Nativity Church, which hosted two talks by the prelate. He spoke about immigration at both the diocese’s Spanish-language Respect Life celebration Oct. 7 and the English-language celebration the following day.
“Just as we can call Jesus the King of Kings, we also can rightly refer to him as the Migrant of Migrants,” Archbishop Wenski told a large crowd in Nativity’s parish hall Oct. 8. “In becoming a man like us, Jesus migrated from heaven. He became a citizen of our world so that we, in turn, might become citizens of the world to come. And those who will enter into his heavenly homeland will do so because, as he himself will tell us, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’
“In this way,” he added, “perhaps we can contemplate the image of Jesus in the visage of the immigrant.”
Archbishop Wenski, who also serves on the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, opened his remarks by focusing on the nature of laws — and what Jesus had to say about them.
“To those who accused Jesus of breaking the laws of his day, he replied, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,'” said the archbishop, adding that “when laws fail to advance the common good, they can and they should be changed. Laws that fail to advance the common good are bad laws … unjust laws. Our immigration laws need to be changed. They are antiquated and inadequate for the promotion and regulation of social and economic relations in 21st-century America.”
He emphasized the church will — and must — continue to speak out on behalf of migrants everywhere. “(Catholics) must model to the rest of the world what a reconciled world looks like. We have to show that diversity enriches the church. … Language doesn’t divide us; diversity doesn’t divide us. What divides us is sin; everything else should enrich us.
“As Jesus reminded the embittered zealots of his day,” Archbishop Wenski added, “laws are designed for the benefit — not the harm — of humankind. Of course, we have to listen better to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and pay a little less attention to Sean (Hannity), Rush (Limbaugh), Don (Imus) and whoever else is talking.”
At the news conference, Bishop Thompson said, “We have about 20,000 Latinos in our diocese, and it is very key for us to provide outreach to them as church, as people who embrace all cultures in our church.”
Archbishop Wenski referred to immigration reform as the “unfinished business of our Congress.” “The immigrant is not a problem,” he said. “He might be a stranger — but a stranger that should be embraced as a brother or sister.”
Archbishop Wenski added, “Sometimes people will come up to me and say, ‘Well, what part of illegal don’t you understand?’ I would say that instead of describing them as breaking the law, it’s better to say that they are being broken by the law. The law is inadequate and antiquated, and (as a result) it is unjust.
“Our country has been able to honor lawbreakers. We honored the lawbreakers of the Boston Tea Party,” he continued. “We honor the lawbreaking of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white person on a bus.
“A country that can recognize those people for breaking those laws can somehow come to a resolution of the present inadequate system of our immigration laws that leave too many people excluded. Pope Francis talks about the culture of exclusion,” Archbishop Wenski added, “the throwaway culture … and we cannot allow ourselves to throw away these people.”
Lilley is editor of The Message, newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville.
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If you are a believer, what don’t you “understand” about welcoming the stranger, compassion for your neighbor, loving your brothers and sisters as yourself, laws are to be made for the protection and welfare of human beings not vice versa, responsible parents must do all they can in order to nurture and protect their children, and it takes a (global) village to raise a child???????
If you are a parent, what would wisdom and common sense tell you to do if you and your family were living in fear for your lives while your government is part of the problem? If this country spends billions of dollars on killing peoples in other lands, in the name of freedom, why do we not have the will to accept vulnerable families who need us and will contribute to our welfare if given the chance?????
I would have found it more helpful if Archbishop Wenski had been more specific concerning what is wrong with the present immigration laws of the U.S. Is it that the U.S. quota for immigrants is too low? How high should it be? Is it that the waiting period is too long? How long should it be? Is it that the allocation by each specific foreign country is unfair? What should the country by country allocations be? Is it inadequate funding? What should be spent? Well we would probably be told by the Archbishop that the Congress should answer these type questions. Simply saying the present immigration laws are inadequate and antiquated is not enough in my opinion. How are the laws inadequate? In what ways? Is enforcement adequate? What kind of enforcement is proper? The matter of citizenship versus legalization is another angle on this subject. Should someone who enters illegally be put ahead of someone who attempts to enter legally but comes from a country that has a low “quota”? It reminds me of someone 30 years ago saying that air pollution is a big problem. Well since that time lots of research, legislation, programs and funding have accompanied the improvement in air quality. Thirty years ago saying the air smelled was not enough to cause a significant improvement. So yes, lets welcome the stranger, focus on the person as a member of the human race and a child of God, and at the same time get beyond the slogans and mantras. Perhaps USCCB has produced detailed proposals. If so, lets hear them.
I’m afraid you’re going to get the same response as the pope when asked specifically how he would solve the hoax that is global warming: none.
The Catholic Bishops have put out a number of statements regarding the basic principles on which any immigration reform should be based. I refer you to their website, justiceforimmigrants.org. Here is an excerpt from one of them:
“US Conference of Catholic Bishops—Elements Necessary
in a Just Immigration Reform Proposal
1. Broad-based legalization: a legalization program which provides an opportunity
for permanent residency for undocumented residing in the United States.
“Earned” legalization should be achievable and independently verifiable.
2.New Worker Program: Worker program which includes:
• Path to permanent residency which is achievable/verifiable
• Family unity which allows immediate family members to join worker
• Job portability which allows workers to change employers
• Enforcement mechanisms and resources to enforce worker’s rights
• Mobility between U.S. and homeland and within U.S.
• Labor-market test to ensure U.S. workers are not harmed
3. Family-Based Immigration Reform: provisions which reduce backlogs in
2A category—immediate family of legal permanent residents–without
harming other preference categories.
4. Restoration of Due Process Protections: provisions which restore due
process protections lost in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and
Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) which separate families, including
repeal of the 3 and 10-year bars and restoration of judicial discretion in
5. Addressing Root Causes of Migration: examine root causes of migration,
such as lack of development in sending countries, and seek long-term
6. Inclusion of the DREAM Act and AgJOBS: Two proposals addressing specific
groups should be included in any reform legislation. The Development, Relief,
and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) would place minor
undocumented students, who came to the United States with their parents, on a
path to citizenship and would make them eligible for in-state tuition. The
Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, and Benefits Act (AgJOBS) would address the
legal status of migrant farm workers in the United States.”
Hope that helps.
The Holy Family were escaping persecution when they fled to Egypt, but they had no plans to stay there. This is not the same situation in the U.S. today. Our immigration laws are not unjust, America allows up to a million immigrants to enter our country legally every year.