Election season shines light on immigration

Millennial Reflections
By Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem
We have to talk about immigrants and refugees. Pope Francis from day one has been raising consciousness about the masses of immigrants, refugees, displaced people pouring into Italy and Europe as a result of wars in the Middle East and Africa. The American bishops just made a bold statement about immigration by electing as their president and vice-president two prelates of Mexican origin. Both are outspoken about immigrants and their rights. The Catholic Church in the U.S. has been quite clear about its stand on immigrants, migration and human rights.
Here in Mississippi we have as our neighbors immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, the Middle East, India, Asia and more. They have been contributing in a big way to the economy and bringing diverse cultures and cuisines to our state. Read the Food section of The Clarion Ledger, the Jackson Free Press or whatever local paper serves your area and you see all manner of cuisine from many countries.
Immigrants work hard and give back in many ways to our state. They pay taxes like everyone else, but many cannot vote due to their immigration status. To be blunt, we Catholics have been dependent on foreign clergy keeping the church running smoothly for years, and that is not about to change. We need immigrants.
I say that because during the last 10 years or so the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA) and its allies have fought more than 280 anti-immigrant bills. We need to become aware of the vulnerable populations in our midst, especially minorities and immigrants. A new legislative session will start in January, and emboldened by the incoming administration, I believe we can expect several anti-immigrants bills.
Not a day goes by without a report of some group of immigrants or religious minorities fearful of what could happen to them. Since the election there is a report of a racial or religious attack on some group or another almost daily. We need to speak out and defend these vulnerable groups.
Catholics became numerous in the country as an immigrant church. These were mainly European, but they and their descendants built and made the Catholic Church what it is. We cannot forget our roots. We must be in solidarity with these new immigrants, regardless of their religion, in their struggle for fair treatment in this country.
We are not a church of rigid law and order. We are a church of mercy and compassion. If Pope Francis and this Year of Mercy teach us anything, let it be that. Law and order have been code words to oppress minorities whether African American or Latin Americans. The efforts Catholic Charities and other groups who support immigrants will be tested.
Then there are the refugees. Almost weekly we hear of the massive movement of refugees as great as or greater than after World War II. People don’t always pick up on that because those of us who grew up during and after WWII remember the cities flooded with European refugees and we recall the efforts to assist them. That was then.
Today the flood of refugees into Europe, and even here is generating new forms of xenophobia and racism. Neo-Nazi groups are resurrecting. It is clear where Pope Francis stands on the refugee issue. He says clearly we can do more, and do it well.
Finally, there is the fear issue. This presidential campaign was run on fear. It made vulnerable groups fearful for their safety. It made better-off groups fearful of the economy. The major issues like jobs were diverted by ginning up fear in people. When the people are afraid they turn to what will give them security. Their fear is directed to those who “are not like them” – Muslims, Jews, immigrants, African-Americans. We, as church, have to stand solidly against this.
We have always stood with the oppressed and minorities. We Catholics were once targeted, we cannot forget that. Together, as this Year of Mercy comes to a close let us make it a decade of mercy, and stand with our oppressed brothers and sisters.
(Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem, lives at the Priory of St. Moses the Black, Jackson.)

Formation of conscience for faithful citizenship

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
As the elections loom before us, both national, statewide and local, the Catholic Church affirms the value of one vote as well as the value of contributing to the wellbeing of society and neighborhoods wherever and whenever this is possible. It’s too easy to get caught up in the malaise of a feeling of powerlessness in the face of society’s thorny problems, but the most important thing to focus on is what we can do in a democracy. With regard to elections, loving our neighbor and caring for the least among us means supporting leaders and policies that promote the common good and protect society’s most vulnerable members. Day-in and day-out there are endless possibilities for serving others, empowering, and advocating. Helping Catholics to recognize and act on this social dimension of our faith is an essential task for Church leaders. Therefore, there are fundamental questions that need to be posed in the election season.
Some people question whether religion and politics should ever interact. What do the bishops say in response to this criticism? What is the role of the Church in political life?
What is the connection between our faith and the desire to change the world for the better?
What types of leaders does our society need? For what should they stand and how should they lead?
Why do the bishops and all concerned Church leaders encourage all Catholics, whether able to vote or not, to be involved in political life? What are other ways, in addition to voting, that you can be involved in advocacy for important issues?
What do the bishops mean when they say, “Both opposing evil and doing good are essential obligations?” Why are both, not just one or the other, important for Catholics? What are examples of intrinsically evil acts and why must they always be opposed? What are examples of the basic needs of our neighbors which we must ensure are fulfilled? What might your own actions to avoid evil and to do good look like?
How might public policies and laws be different if the moral principles from Faithful Citizenship were used as a basis for political decisions?
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
Rights and Responsibilities
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Care for God’s Creation
Centuries ago Socrates made the bold statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” There is no doubt that an active life directed toward the common good and solidarity are essential for the just ordering of society and for building up the Kingdom of God. However, the assumption underlying these principles is the capacity for a person to step aside, reflect, pray, study, be still, embrace silence, and engage in meaningful dialogue in order to take a long loving look in search of what is real. This balance adds considerable value to our lives. The formation of one’s conscience flows from both dynamics, the active and the reflective, Martha and Mary so to speak. It is a powerful feedback loop that can bear much fruit, action and contemplation in a lifelong dance.
What is conscience? What is prudence? How does one develop a well-formed conscience and the virtue of prudence?
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart. #1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is a light for our path. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the church
Reflection questions:
When has my conscience guided me to “do good and avoid evil”?
What are some key resources I can use to form my conscience?
Forming conscience is a “lifelong task.” What do I do to regularly form my conscience? What more should I do?
What advice might you give to a friend who is trying to decide between two candidates, neither of which fully share the Church’s commitment to the dignity of the human person? This might require the wisdom of Solomon.
The bishops describe two “temptations in public life” that voters can fall into: first, “moral equivalence” which “makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity,” and second, the misuse of moral distinctions “as a way of dismissing or ignoring serious threats to human life and dignity.” Describe a situation in which you witnessed one or both of these lines of thought. Why are they both distortions of the Church’s teaching?
What role should they play in our decisions about who we vote for and how we advocate for change?
In the words of Pope Francis, “progress in building a people in peace, justice and fraternity depends on four principles related to constant tensions present in every social reality.” These derive from the pillars of the Church’s social doctrine, which serve as ‘primary and fundamental parameters of reference interpreting social and political reality. The four principles include the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity. Taken together, these principles provide a moral framework for Catholic engagement in advancing what we have called a “consistent ethic of life”
Apart from principled living, and the authentic formation of conscience, fear and greed motivate our decisions, or a blind allegiance to a particular political party no matter whom they serve up. Guided by the Holy Spirit, may we choose rightly as we faithfully labor on behalf of the City of God in our world, a dwelling place of greater justice, peace, and hope for all, from the first moment of our existence until our final breath.
(Editor’s note: Read part one of this two-part column on www.mississippicatholic.com.)