FEBRUARY 22 2012: New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan joins fellow volunteers distributing food at a breadline at St. Francis Assisi on Ash Wednesday on February 22, 2012 in New York City. Dolan has called Catholics to transcend neat political categories.
November’s election found Catholics divided, with CNN exit polling showing a 50 -48 percent split between votes for President Obama and Governor Romney. Many wrote all-too-familiar stories pitting liberal and conservative Catholics against each other.
Our faith shouldn’t be so easily pigeonholed. As New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said, Catholicism is a ‘”both-and’ not ‘either-or’” faith: we’re called to serve the vulnerable wherever we find them, a task that doesn’t fall into neat political categories. Particularly after this divisive election, it’s time for Catholics to move past a false left/right paradigm and stand together across the broad range of issues on which our faith bears.
Immigration reform provides a perfect opportunity for us to do just that.
The Catholic Church in America has always been an immigrant church, and immigration remains central to our vitality. The Pew Forum has found that Catholics make up around 25 percent of the American population, and that number has remained steady in large part due to robust Catholic immigration. Catholic charitable organizations generously serve immigrants around the country, and the church actively opposes laws that could restrict their ability to do so.
America’s Catholic bishops have been moral leaders on this issue, encouraging family-based immigration reform that includes an earned path to citizenship, security for our borders, and a temporary worker program. Their goals are to “help stabilize the workforce, promote family unity, and bring a large population ‘out of the shadows,’ as members of their communities.” Archbishop Jose Gomez, the chair of the bishop’s Committee on Migration, recently recognized the importance of “work[ing] toward the creation of a system which upholds the rule of law” while also “protect[ing] the human rights and dignity of the person,” and has applauded the framework recently set forth by a bipartisan group of senators as “an important first step.”
Immigration reform has important economic and national security dimensions, and any serious proposal must address these concerns. But Catholics should ensure that the moral dimensions of this issue remain front and center. Thousands have died attempting to cross the Arizona desert, our flawed laws routinely split families apart, and our sprawling detention system too often breaches basic norms of fairness and due process, exemplifying big government at its worst. Violations of basic human dignity must not get lost in the political back-and-forth over details of competing proposals.
Catholic themes of family, the dignity of work, and solidarity with the vulnerable resonate in both political parties. Here, Catholics can help bridge partisan differences. Regardless of party, we can support the bishops’ call for Congress to enact just and compassionate reforms while this issue has momentum. And we can all use this moment to increase our support for the many Catholic groups that assist immigrants through job training programs, English classes, medical assistance, and other social services.
Catholics can also take the lead in bridging denominational differences. Many evangelicals are deeply involved in immigration reform, and just as we work together on social issues, Catholics should continue to work with evangelicals and others on immigration issues. Whatever our particular religious commitments, all people of faith can agree with Martin Luther King that “anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
Above all, Catholics are a family. We’re called to stand together, especially with those most in need. We’re called to unity in generosity. Let’s take this moment to put aside political differences and work together to better the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters.