The Leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, DACA, and the Common Good

The president, vice president, and chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently released a statement on the administration’s ending of the illegal DACA program, calling the action “reprehensible.”

You’ll notice I called DACA “illegal”. That is because President Obama, after going around the country in townhall meetings and correctly reminding frustrated supporters that he couldn’t just use executive action on immigration because he’s not a king, went ahead and did it anyway. Congress had not passed signficant immigration legislation since the 1980s, and was clearly divided about the issue. Thus, there are no grounds to claim that Obama’s action was merely implementing what Congress wills, or merely working out a vague spot in the law in accordance with Congress’s intent.

I do not remember the the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issuing a similar statement in response to Obama’s action, despite there being a strong case that his action was inconsistent with the common good, after which the Catechism of the Catholic Church requires those in authority to strive. Those in authority are to use their powers legitimately: “Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it.”  But if Obama acted outside of his authority, he did not exercise his authority legitimately. Illegitimate use of power can undermine the rule of law, and that, of course, would undermine the common good.

The leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ failure to criticize illegitimate use of authority, and Trump’s reversal of this illegal program, is especially egregious in light of Trump’s clear indication that he doesn’t want to deport people:

Worse still is the Scriptural reasoning used to bolster their position on DACA:

The Church has recognized and proclaimed the need to welcome young people: ‘Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me’ (Mark 9:37). Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond.

Ah, yes. As you all know, the context in which Jesus said that was one in which he was addressing what modern nation-states should do about illegal immigrants! Such proof-texting is about as awful as I’d expect to hear from a redneck Southern Baptist pastor who hadn’t even gone to seminary.

Walter Montgomery

Walter is a philosophy graduate student in New Hampshire. He sometimes wishes he was a lawyer, and other times wishes he was a basketball coach. Some of his favorite childhood memories involve traveling with his immediate family, grandparents, and cousins’ family in big gas-guzzling vans towing campers. He sees philosophy as a tool for getting at Truth, and thinks too many contemporary philosophers see it as a tool for advancing their ideological preferences.

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  1. A serious problem with statements like this from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is that the Catholic laity and non-Catholics read this and believe that any Catholic that does not support DACA is dissenting from the magesterium of the Church. See here . There isn’t an official position regarding immigration policy, economic policy, or health care policy and Catholics have room to disagree. This is very different than Catholics who actually are dissenters, such as those advocating for abortion and homosexuality. Unfortunately, the U.S. bishops do nothing to clarify this.

    • That’s right, Urban, and thank you for making this point. I’ve noticed that many in the media seem to portray Catholics who disagree with the bishops as somehow hypocritical, or un-Catholic. I would love to see them do that with Nancy Pelosi or Justin Trudeau, who have views that are inconsistent with Catholic teachings–teachings on which there is no wiggle room.

      The media has a love-hate relationship with the Catholic Church. It despise The Church for it’s views on abortion and homosexuality–the Church’s view is every bit as bad as the hayseed southern evangelicals views. But then when the Church issues a statement on the pitfalls of “unbridled capitalism” (whatever that is), they love it. They’d like nothing more than to be able to turn the Catholic Church into yet another leftist institution, and it really irks them that it has resisted so far.

  2. It is my understanding that in your offertory envelope the money you give your parish church part of that money is turned over as a tax to the diocesan bishop.

    However, if you explicitly state that you want your envelope money to go for a specific purpose such energy, renovation, flowers, etc., then the pastor is morally obligated to follow your wishes.

    The entire amount must be used by the pastor for the designated purpose and no amount can be given the bishop.

    It is like the second collection taken up of the missions in Africa; the bishop doesn’t get a cut.

    • Supposing that’s true, the bishop should still get a cut. The RCC works well because of its centrality, not in spite of it.

  3. It “works well because of its centrality.” Right. Except when it comes to rooting out filthy sex abuse, or stopping money-laundering, and others forms of mass corruption.

    Then suddenly nothing can be done, and that big Magersterium that we are told is necessary for preserving the faith against heresy somehow becomes completely immobilized and unable to do a thing. Strange.

    You will know a tree by its fruits, because a good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

    • What are you talking about? Why would the magisterium mobilize against corruption and things of that sort? Do you understand what the magisterium is?

  4. Yes, the magisteriusm is what decides doctrine. but Christ’s doctrine is according to godliness. so if there is rampant uncleanness and filth and sin in your church, then that church is acting contrary to the doctrine of Christ. That should matter to the magisterium, no?

    • yes, it matters, but it’s not what the magisterium does. There are other components of the church to deal with that.

  5. My first post I suppose made the point by mere implication. And even my second post is still somewhat indirect. So let me clarify.

    What I am saying goes to the root of what you think the faith really is. To you as a Catholic, there is a legitimate separation between the Magersterium, on the one hand, and whatever institutional body, on the other, that is supposedly responsible for rooting out corruption–these are different functions on your view.

    But according to the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), you can’t separate the two. The true church is spotless and blameless, because those who are members of the body of Christ are pure and loyal to the Lord. They live after the doctrine which is according to godliness.

    So they are not doing the kinds of unclean things that occur in the Catholic Church. Any “church” that has that kind of stuff going on its midst on a systematic scale is not godly. Hence, it is contrary to the doctrine of Christ. It is teaching false doctrine because it does not produce righteousness.

    As the Lord says, you will know a tree by its fruits.

  6. Mike, please see the following verses from the holy scriptures:

    1 John 2:15-`7
    1 John 3:3
    1 John 3:7-11
    1 John 4:17

    Was the Apostle John a heretic too?

    The fact that you think seem to think arguing in favor of purity and holiness is wrong should be enough to start seriously considering whether you’re in an apostate church. Think about it and question what you’re being taught and what kind of traditions you’re getting yourself into.

    But set aside the question of your church and consider yourself: what about you personally? Are you pure in heart? If not, you will not see God, and it doesn’t matter that your favorite theologian or church says otherwise. That’s what the Lord has said.

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