I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of being lectured by Pope Francis about migrants and refugees.

In his latest message on the subject, he suggested national laws strictly controlling the influx of migrants and refugees is akin to “hostility” and “sin.”

I take issue. But first, here’s what he said:

“It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences. As a result, we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves. Local communities are sometimes afraid that the newly arrived with disturb the established order, will ‘steal’ something they have long labored to build up.”

He added that migrants and refugees are also afraid “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure.”

“These fears are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view,” he said in his homily Sunday. “Having doubts and fears is not a sin. The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection. The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor,” instead of seeing it as a “privileged opportunity” to encounter God.

One of the secondary definitions of “homily” is a tedious moralizing discourse. And that’s how I would characterize this message.

Let me count the ways:

  1. Has the pope welcomed refugees and migrants into Vatican City, which he controls? If so, how many? And, if he has, why is he limiting the number? Vatican City is considered a sovereign nation-state. It is a wealthy one that considers its own security seriously. Why would the pope lecture other nation-states about immigration policy without first setting an example with his own?
  2. “Sin” is defined in the Bible – the Word of God – as “the transgression of the law.” So, specifically, which commandment is violated when sovereign nation-states pass laws and enforce them on immigration policy?
  3. By claiming that “fear” and “hostility” is at the root of concerns by nation-states and citizens when they set limits on immigration, he is only half right. If there were no limits and orderly process to immigration policy, there would be good reason to fear. There are good people and bad people in this world. They need to be screened before a sane, rational, responsible nation-state even considers permitting migrants and refugees beyond its borders. The pope wouldn’t consider allowing unchecked, unscreened, unverified travel, let alone migration, into his nation-state and neither should any other. But “hostility”? That’s an insult. Suggesting resistance to open immigration represents “hostility” to foreigners is intentional distortion of reality. In short, it’s deception and the expression of real hostility toward those with whom the pope simply disagrees.
  4. About fear: Does the pope have security? Why? Maybe he’ll say he doesn’t fear what might happen without it, but his security team doesn’t live with its heads in the clouds. Fear of attack is a legitimate motivation for any kind of security. It’s just common sense. It’s not irrational.
  5. I think we all know which nation-state the pope is lecturing – the U.S. America takes in more migrants and refugees and other foreigners than all other nations in the world combined. Is America responsible for that much immigration? Is it responsible for even more? Would any limitation be legitimate in the pope’s eyes?
  6. It’s also an insult when the pope suggests that “prejudice” is behind limits on immigration under the rule of law. Prejudice? That’s pure projection – unfair, speculation, again totally insulting to those of us who believe it is only responsible for nation-states to place limits on immigration, both legal and illegal.
  7. Francis apparently sees all migrants and refugees as “so different from us.” I do not. My family emigrated the U.S. to escape prejudice, persecution and to find a better life. I sympathize with those other families and individuals trying to do the same thing. But they must follow the law – not break it. And the laws governing immigration are the legitimate purview of the sovereign citizens of sovereign nation-states.

Not only is the pope wrong here, I think he should apologize for his comments and avoid such irresponsible lecturing until he takes his own advice.

 

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