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Being Human at the Border



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The New York Times describes Cardinal Timothy Dolan as being “furious” when he wrote this blog post about the situation at our borders. I hope readers don’t take their characterization without reading the post for themselves.

In a blog post titled “The Dignity of the Human Person,” what Cardinal Dolan wrote was:

A week or so ago, I watched with shame as an angry mob in southern California surrounded buses filled with frightened, hungry, homeless immigrants, shaking fists, and shouting for them to “get out!”

It was un-American; it was un-biblical; it was inhumane.  It worked, as the scared drivers turned the buses around and sought sanctuary elsewhere.

The incendiary scene reminded me of Nativist mobs in the 1840’s, Know-Nothinggangs in the 1850’s, and KKK  thugs in the 1920’s, who hounded and harassed scared immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and Blacks.

I think of this sad incident today, the feast of New York’s own Kateri Tekakwitha, a native-American (a Mohawk) canonized a saint just three years ago.  Unless we are Native Americans, like Saint Kateri, our ancestors all came here as homesick, hungry, hopeful immigrants.  I don’t think there were any Mohawks among that mob attacking the buses of refugee women and children.

Then on Saturday I watched another scene on the TV news.  Again there were busloads of shy, scared, immigrant women and children; again, there were crowds; this time – – in McAndrews, Texas – – the crowd was applauding the arriving refugees, and helping them into Sacred Heart Parish Hall, where parishioners and Catholic Charities workers welcomed them with a meal, a cold drink, a shower and fresh clothes, toys for the kids, and a cot as they helped government officials try to process them and figure out the next step.

 This time I was not ashamed, but relieved and grateful, proud to be an American and a Catholic.

We might argue and yell about policies, processes, and politics; we can never argue about the dignity of the human person or the sacredness of life, or yell at people who need our help.

Now I read that as a shepherd prodding his sheep, highlighting humanity. He does so as one of the most familiar faces of the Catholic Church in the United States today, a Church that has long worked to provide pastoral support and practical opportunities for immigrants, however they got here.

My friend Ed Mechmann, also of the Archdiocese of New York writes reflectively about the issue as well; he sheds light on a contentious debate with the story of his grandmother’s life as an illegal alien.

I wouldn’t describe a rallying cry to see the humanity behind the headlines and debate as furious, but as an impassioned plea, stressing the urgency of the Gospel.

I wrote more about this issue in my syndicated column this week.



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