Monday, September 11, 2017

Immigrant Church

Steve Bannon has ignited yet another firestorm with his obnoxiously "ridiculous" and "insulting" (to use the two adjectives New York's Cardinal Dolan employed) comments about the Church's support for the rights and well-being of immigrants. If anything, the fact that the U.S. Bishops have actually stepped up to the challenge of vociferously defending the rights and well-being of people (who are in many instances their own members. for whom the Church may be one of the very few institutions they can turn to or trust) to me speaks very well of the Bishops and of the countless clergy, religious, and lay Catholics who have devoted themselves to providing pastoral care  and all sorts of necessary social assistance to our immigrant brothers and sisters.

This controversy over immigration reminds us of the Church's inherent universalism, that began by overcoming the barrier between jews and Gentiles in the 1st century and has continued breaking barriers between peoples ever since. This controversy, however, has also shed light on another important dimension of the current evolution in the American Church's demographics, a change which is an important corrective. In his most recent NCR column, Michael Sean Winters said it as well as anyone:

"Where he [Bannon] is right, albeit in spite of himself, is that we need the undocumented immigrants coming to this country largely from Latin America. We need them to fill our churches because the Catholic Church in America has been in danger of becoming an upper middle class club for people with conservative ethics. We need these immigrants to remind us that the Gospel is good news to the poor. We need these immigrants because the secularizing force of wealth and materialism has robbed the Catholic Church in this country of one of its most obvious core beliefs: The Gospel is good news for the poor."

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