Those who have known me through the years have known that I believe and am willing to defend all that the Catholic Church teaches, whether in her doctrinal or social teaching. But the issue that has always been closest to my heart, the concern that most passionately moves me to action, is the defense of the life of the unborn. While I feel tremendous compassion and sympathy for the woman who finds herself to be expecting a child in a difficult situation, I see the assault on the life of the innocent unborn child as the most egregious attack on the dignity of the human person imaginable.
Lately, and quite a bit to my surprise, I have found myself in a position to speak out publicly on another issue—the issue of unaccompanied children crossing our southern border. Like the unborn, these children are vulnerable to violence, both on their journeys and in their home countries, and the Church is obligated to defend the “least of these.”
Some have questioned why I would take a position more consistent with the Democratic view on the crisis than the Republican view, which looks to enforcement as a solution. What some have difficulty grasping today is that the Church’s teaching is not beholden to any political ideology. The Catholic Church is neither Republican nor Democrat, Conservative nor Liberal. The Church is called to defend the rights and dignity of all of God’s children, born and unborn, regardless of the political wisdom of the day.
For me, involvement in immigration issues, particularly in the question of how we should treat families and unaccompanied children who are fleeing to our border from Central America and Mexico couldn’t be more consistent As I see it I have actually been speaking in the name of voiceless immigrants all along. Both the life issues and the questions relating to those fleeing to our border challenge us to ask how we are to receive the stranger; how are we to treat the one unknown to us.
Even today with technology making the world so small, so transparent, we still seem to struggle to recognize the frail human face of both the child within the womb and the child at the doorway of our Country. In both cases I believe it is fear that raises our defenses against these innocent ones. Fear of the one who is unknown can even lead us to see the most helpless child as a threat–a threat to our way of life, to our health, to our financial well-being.
I would not suggest that we are obliged to keep every child that arrives at our border here indefinitely. Some will need to return home if they can do so in safety. Likewise, the mother of an unborn child who doesn’t feel ready to raise a child is not obliged to keep the child. She may send the child to a loving family. What a radically different choice adoption is than choosing to violently bring an end to that child’s life!
I would implore the people of our nation to receive the child who is a stranger with love and to make that child’s well-being our first priority. I think they could learn much from the response of the people of El Paso. Living on the border with family on both sides we know that these children are not a cause for fear.
A willingness to give of ourselves for the sake of the most vulnerable is the measure by which we will be measured according to the one who said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matt. 25:35) Jesus also told us: “Whoever receives a child such as this in my name receives me.” (Matt. 18:5) Jesus surely loves the little children. We are called to do the same.
+Mark J. Seitz, DD
Bishop of El Paso
July 15, 2014