A Catholic Reader Defends His Church Against Some Immigration Reform Critics—And Bishops

[Previously by Tom Piatak: War Against Christmas 2005 Competition [V]: Resistance Rampant, Whether National Review Likes It Or Not!]

I have read some justified criticism of the Catholic bishops and bureaucrats' immigration position in several VDARE.COM columns and Today's Letters.

But I was astonished by the letter from an anonymous federal employee in Massachusetts who seems to garner his meager historical knowledge of the Church from PRAVDA and his current knowledge from its journalistic cousin, the Boston Globe, claiming that the Church is now, and always has been, motivated solely by money, and arguing that the only way this "bankrupt" institution can continue to line its pockets is by importing gullible illegal immigrants to replace the Americans who are abandoning it. [Today's Letter: A Massachusetts Reader Says the Roman Catholic Church Is Heartless, April 27, 2006]

So let me offer a dissenting view.  

All of my grandparents and both of my parents were taught to read and write by selfless women who dedicated their lives to helping others, living lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

I realize such women aren't as common as they used to be, and the anonymous bureaucrat from Massachusetts has obviously never heard of them. So I will let him know what they are called: they are called nuns.

When my grandmother's Alzheimer's became too severe for my parents to deal with, they were lucky enough to find a nursing home where she was treated with dignity and respect until she went to meet the Lord. Nuns, too, ran this nursing home.

When my girlfriend's father was dying of cancer, he was fortunate enough to be admitted into a home run by the Hawthorne Dominicans, an order of nuns founded in this country by the daughter of one of our greatest writers, Nathaniel Hawthorne. These nuns dedicate themselves to caring for those with incurable cancer, and they refuse all payment for the loving care they provide, either from the patients and their families or even from Medicare and Medicaid.

The Massachusetts bureaucrat has obviously never heard of these women either.

The finest teacher I have had at any level was my high school history teacher, a Jesuit priest who taught me Western Civilization and helped instill in me a love for that civilization and a desire to defend it.

Of course, this civilization would not exist without the Catholic Church, but that's another story.

This priest has also continued to instruct me as an adult, offering valuable counsel during times of difficulty. And he has been there for my family as well, saying my grandmother's funeral Mass and baptizing two of my sister's children. And, oddly enough, given the Massachusetts bureaucrat's obsession with money, he has done all this gratis, as a friend. He lives a very simple life, at least in terms of material possessions.

Throughout my adult life I had before me the example of Pope John Paul II, a figure of great personal holiness and exemplary courage whose leadership inspired the brave people of Poland to defy the Communists and ultimately help destroy the Soviet Empire.

I recently watched a movie made in Poland to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Solidarity, in which Lech Walesa forthrightly gave credit to John Paul for inspiring his union, and which contained footage of one of the most remarkable events I have witnessed: John Paul's triumphal entry into Krakow in 1979, culminating in his Mass at the Blonie fields, before the largest gathering in Polish history.

Perhaps the Massachusetts bureaucrat missed this but I didn't.

My view of John Paul was hardly idiosyncratic: some four million people came to his funeral. I guess they didn't realize, as the Massachusetts bureaucrat does, that the only people left who believe in the Catholic Church in America are illegal immigrants.

And, strangely enough, John Paul left behind virtually no material possessions, even though the Massachusetts bureaucrat assures us that all the Church cares about, or has ever cared about, is money.

Nor is the Church shrinking in the United States. In fact, the Catholic Church in the United States continues to grow at a faster pace than most Protestant denominations, both as a result of infant baptisms and adult conversions—at least 80,000 in 2005.

According to the most recent National Council of Churches Yearbook, the Catholic Church in the United States has more members than the top 19 Protestant denominations combined. The notion that the Church needs to import illegal immigrants to make up for Americans abandoning it simply is not supported by the data.

Nor would a strategy of importing Mexicans make much sense, from a Catholic perspective, since so many Mexicans join evangelical Protestant denominations after crossing the Rio Grande.

To be sure, some of the bishops have brought this great outcry upon themselves, both as a result of their mishandling of the clerical abuse scandal and as a result of their idiotic comments against immigration reform and for amnesty.

The antics of Cardinal Mahony, for example, serve both to give ammunition to anti-Catholics and pause to ordinary Americans who harbor no animus against the Catholic Church, but who wonder why so many of our bishops seem to prefer illegal immigrants to them.

After all, in areas of the country not inundated with illegal immigrants, Americans do the "jobs Americans won't do" at higher wages and under better conditions than in areas where the flood of illegal immigrants has helped impoverish the American working class.

Cardinal Mahony is notorious for more than wanting to deconstruct America through mass immigration. Among orthodox Catholics, he is also infamous for tolerating heterodox theology, presiding over heterodox liturgies, and engaging in the petty and vindictive persecution of another great nun, the redoubtable Mother Angelica.

But immigration reformers need to keep some sense of perspective about what the bishops are saying and doing.

Most Catholics seldom hear political sermons. The political topic most often addressed from the pulpit is abortion. The fact that abortion is still enshrined in U.S. law shows just how little weight the bishops' pronouncements is given—even by Catholic politicians. In fact, most Catholic Democratic politicians are pro-abortion, despite the Church's clear and unequivocal opposition to abortion.

The reason amnesty is on the front burner now is because that is what the Bush Administration, the big corporations who fund both parties, and the multiculturalist elite want—not because of the Catholic bishops.

The only reason the media is paying attention to the bishops in this area is because, as in other areas where the bishops have strayed, they are choosing to follow liberal piety rather than Catholic doctrine.

As the bishop of Charleston, South Carolina has noted, correctly, the immigration policy of the United States is a matter left for the prudential judgment of the laity.

Immigration patriots need to realize that, if they attack the Catholic Church itself, and not errant bishops who have joined the Treason Lobby, they will alienate potential allies.

They would be waging a battle they shouldn't fight and can't win.

This is a battle they shouldn't fight because it is a battle against the core beliefs of millions of Americans, who might otherwise join us in supporting immigration reform.

And I think it can't be won because of my own core belief: that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail.

For me, this belief has been reinforced by what I have read, seen, and experienced, throughout my life.

And nothing I have read from the Massachusetts bureaucrat, or the many other malcontents who rail against the Church, has convinced me otherwise.

Tom Piatak (email him) writes from Cleveland, Ohio.