Unfortunately, there have been occasions in the history of the Catholic Church when the hierarchy has been silent on issues that cried out for the Church’s voice and moral leadership. Two of those occasions that seem most relevant for the purpose of today’s column were the Church’s silence and on behalf of the Jews during the Holocaust and the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II. The Church has since acknowledged its failure in both of these cases (as well as others) and has pledged to take seriously its responsibility to provide leadership and guidance in the face of injustice.
On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order which suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. The order also indefinitely stops the admission of Syrian refugees and, for 90 days, bands individuals from several predominantly Muslim countries. True to its pledge, on January 28th, Archbishop Vigneron responded on behalf of the diocese with a letter to the Imams Council of Michigan. You can read it at aodonline.org. On January 30th, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued its own statement. Here are highlights form the statement:
“Over the past several days, many brother bishops have spoken out in defense of God’s people. We are grateful for their witness. Now, we call upon all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity. The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice. The Church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers for all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors.
The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom. Often, they could have been spared if only they had surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith. Many are families, not different from yours or mine, seeking safety and security for their children. Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil. We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends.
The Lord Jesus fled the tyranny of Herod, was falsely accused and then deserted by his friends. He had nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58). Welcoming the stranger and those in flight is not one option among many in the Christian life. It is the very form of Christianity itself. Our actions must remind people of Jesus. The actions our government must remind people of basic humanity. Where our brothers and sisters suffer rejection and abandonment we will lift our voice on their behalf. We will welcome them and receive them. They are Jesus, and the Church will not run away from him.
Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but, rather, to proclaim Christ alive in the world today. In the very moment a family abandons their home under the threat of death, Jesus is present. And he says to each of us, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
(Matthew 25: 40 NIV)
Fran, Pastoral Minister