Dear BISHOP RENE HENRY GRACIDA,
President Trump has pledged to do what is necessary to keep America safe.
Some Catholics, including several bishops, believe President Trump’s recent Executive Order goes too far, is contrary to our principles, and in some cases, is immoral.
So who is right?
First, we urge you to start with understanding of exactly what the recent Executive Order actually does — and does not do. A story by Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner from today’s Loop is a good start.
Secondly, unlike most of the shouting on the Internet now underway, perhaps we could begin by assuming some goodwill among people on both sides of this issue. To start, President Trump did NOT sign a ‘Muslim ban’ or anything like it. He has pledged to protect America, and justifiably so, given the threat of terrorism here and around the world. He has not signaled a permanent change to our history as nation that welcomes immigrants, or a country that can, and should, be a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution, war, or simply a better life.
…yet he has suspended refugee programs for 90 days from 7 different countries with terrorist connections — to review the vetting process.
In fairness, we should also assume goodwill on the part of those opposed to the Executive Order — at least for those not attempting to score cheap political points. Many well-intentioned opponents are not acting to make America less safe, or more vulnerable to terrorism. There are people of goodwill with legitimate concerns that the Executive Order may result in harm to vulnerable people attempting to flee persecution and violence. Imagine, for example, if you are were a Christian family wanting to flee your country to protect your children from the bloody hands of ISIS.
How should Catholics respond?
At the center of the recent order is a federal government process which we are not qualified to evaluate, namely, the ‘vetting’ of refugees. Is the process working? Is it safe? Is the information provided by the countries of origin is reliable?
President Trump is clearly skeptical. And he believes the best way to get it right is to place a pause on all refugees from these seven countries for 90 days — similar to what President Obama did in 2011 with refugees from Iraq — where the loudest opponents of Trump today were noticeably silent.
Opponents point to those caught in the crossfire, such as students, families, or Muslims working with our military who were implicated by the temporary suspension. Further revisions to the executive order might be required to accommodate certain circumstances.
Quite often when confronted by difficult political questions, we return to the Catechism for guidance. Here again are the relevant portions on this issue.
Be sure to read both paragraphs:
CCC 2241 “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”
So what is our take?
A terrorist attack on American soil, like those in Europe, perpetrated by a terrorists who exploit refugee programs is not an imaginary threat. For this reason, we are inclined to defer to the President and allow him to make certain that the vetting process is working properly during the next 90 days.
We also are hopeful, and confident, that once this review is completed, refugees from these countries can begin anew.
America must continue to be a land that welcomes all people yearning to breathe free.
Doing so responsibly has never been easy.