The Divisive, Political Pope

By Marguerite Telford on February 18, 2016

Pope Francis' six-day visit to Mexico ended yesterday with a mass at the U.S.-Mexico border, a symbolic location for those who have entered the United States illegally, those who died making the attempt, and those who plan to cross the border. But the Pope continued to take advantage of an election year in the United States even as he sat on his departing aircraft, weighing in on Donald Trump.

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," said the Pope.

The Pope is not building bridges. He is not building bridges with Americans and legal immigrants who have watched helplessly as their government allows employers to bypass them in favor of cheaper foreign workers, or who have been harmed by criminals who take advantage of lax enforcement of our laws, or who want national sovereignty respected; and he is not building bridges with the majority of Catholics who share the view that border security should be a priority.

The Catholic Church recognizes that sovereign nations have the right to control their borders and to enforce their laws. The U.S. system of legal immigration is the most generous in the world, allowing in over one million legal permanent immigrants annually, more than all the rest of the nations of the world combined. These numbers do not even include the hundreds of thousands of guestworkers, foreign students, and illegal immigrants offered temporary protected status, parole, or asylum. Our immigration ceilings are set through a democratic process and try to balance openness with the need to screen for national security purposes, to allow immigrants to assimilate, and to avoid disadvantaging American workers at a time of high unemployment, underemployment, stagnant wages, and increasing economic inequality.

Policymakers must recognize the facts about our immigration policy. They do not have the luxury of only measuring those coming across our borders "with names, stories, [and] families".

Pope Francis mistakenly declares, without any support from the Catholic Catechism, that the U.S. government, the majority of her citizens, the majority of America Catholics, and Mr. Trump are not Christian, as we do not support allowing tens of thousands of illegal aliens to flood across our border. The Church has encouraged it and, as the Pope pointed out this week, an enormous number of people have died making the trip and an even larger number have been victimized and injured, both physically and emotionally.

The Pope did so much this past week to draw attention to the poor in Mexico, and to bring them hope and the message that no one is beyond God's reach. But he is wrong to become involved in U.S. immigration policy or electoral politics. When is the Pope going to acknowledge the distinction between fundamental moral questions and "prudential judgments" in regard to complex social and political issues? Immigration, unlike abortion and euthanasia, is not a key theological issue on which Catholics are obliged to support his stance.

With such statements and actions, the Pope encourages foreigners to break our laws and come into the United States illegally, to make the dangerous journey, and to leave their families in order to enjoy the standard of living offered here. For those who are truly refugees, the United States is very generous. But the Pope's continual use of the term "forced migration" does not apply to most of the illegal migrants, and it is divisive to the American Catholic community to even insinuate that those who want U.S. laws obeyed and enforced are un-Christian.