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US Catholic bishops: pro-immigration lobbyists?

Writing in the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis, Nicholas Hahn takes on the bishops of his church for their pro-immigration policies. Excerpt:

Another reading of the Church’s political activism on immigration is perhaps a seedier one. In an attempt to help readers decipher its study on American church attendance, Gallup’s Lydia Saad ominously concludes: “Catholics are now no different from Protestants in their likelihood to attend church.” And pollsters aren’t the only ones who see emptying churches.

The bishops’ obsession with undocumented immigrants is selfish. It is a sign of their failure of evangelization. Indeed, the scores of undocumented immigrants come from countries with strong Catholic cultures. So, instead of rolling out a serious effort to convert Americans, the bishops want to replace them. They think this is a winning strategy, but it looks more like desperation.

There’s something off about this. I do think it’s pretty astonishing how active the US Catholic bishops are in pushing a pro-immigration agenda. Their “Justice for Immigrants”  campaign calls on the government to stop using E-Verify to determine the legal residency status of workers before hiring them. The bishops’ campaign even offers a suggested prayer that God will teach us “the ways of peace and justice” regarding welcoming immigrants. In all of this it is simply assumed that all immigration, even illegal immigration, is a good thing. I see no attempt to answer the legitimate concerns of American citizens about the enormous numbers of people breaking the laws by coming into this country. The Catholic bishops are trying to remind Americans that ours is a nation of immigrants — but they’re eliding over the fact that ours was a nation of immigrants who mostly came here legally. People of our nation, and any nation, have to determine who gets into their country. It’s frustrating that the bishops don’t even seem to recognize that fact enough to argue with it.

Still, it’s a pretty cheap shot to argue that the bishops are pushing immigration because they’ve failed to effectively evangelize native-born Americans (and Hahn’s right, they haven’t). Political scientists Robert Putnam and David E. Campbell, in their book “American Grace,” point out social science research showing that if it weren’t for the influx of Hispanic immigrants, the Catholic Church’s numbers would not be growing, but rather would be collapsing as fast as the Protestant Mainline’s. Hahn seems to recognize this. But is it really fair or reasonable to accuse the bishops of pushing for immigration amnesty at every level to compensate for their hemorrhaging numbers among native-born Catholics? Isn’t it more the case that the bishops are a) complete sentimentalists when it comes to immigration, and honestly believe what they’re advocating, and b) can see the future, and that the Catholic Church in America is going to become a majority Latino church very soon, and are serving what they see as the interests of the coming majority of the people they lead? I’m not saying they’re right to follow this program — in fact, I don’t agree with the bishops on this — but I think it’s far too cynical to say that they’ve written off native-born Catholics, and are trying to shore up their power by importing warm bodies from Latin America.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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