June 27, 2019

Moral Theology and Muslim Immigration

In Catholic theology, moral judgment must be grounded in Scripture, sensitive to the complexity of issues, and guided by sound reasoning. If such judgment were to be summed up in a single word, it would be discernment. Lamentably, that quality has too often been lacking in the hierarchy’s guidance on the issue of immigration, as I have shown in essays written in 2014 and 2017. (See “Catholic Bishops and Immigration” and “Catholic Prelates and Muslim Integration.”)

The basic principle of moral theology, as of ethics in general, is the principle of respect for persons. (See my Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, McGraw-Hill). This principle is perfectly compatible with the gospel commands to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. In fact, it places those commands in a larger and more meaningful context by reminding us that in judging the morality of an act, all persons affected by the act must be considered. If an act aids one person or group yet harms another person or group, its moral quality is at very least questionable.

A careful reading of The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB’s) numerous statements and actions regarding Muslim immigration reveals four unwarranted assumptions that have shaped the Bishops’ judgment in a way that violates respect for persons. (An assumption is an idea that is taken for granted rather than attained by reasoned consideration of evidence, and is usually implied rather than expressed directly.)

Unwarranted Assumption 1: That the gospel command to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless was directed not only to individuals but to entire societies—empires and monarchies in earlier times, and nations in present times.

Analysis: Matt 25:31-46 offers the best-known reference to caring for the hungry, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. Some Bible translations, but not all, use section headings within books of the Bible. For this passage, some use “The Judgment,” but The New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, uses “The Judgment of the Nations.” The latter is misleading because Jesus is not speaking about nations but about “people” that He “separates one from another” and judges according to their treatment of those in need. The idea that nations have an obligation to help the poor may or may not be a good idea, but it is not biblical. Nor is the idea that individuals can satisfy their obligation by having the government meet it for them. The Good Samaritan in Luke 1: 30-37 “proved to be a neighbor” to the man “left half dead” by caring for him, not by sermonizing or taking money from others to care for him.

Unwarranted Assumption 2: That the gospel command to care for those in need requires prosperous nations to receive them as residents. This assumption is revealed in many USCCB statements On 1/27/17: “We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope.” On 1/30/17: “The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice. . . 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.” On 1/31/17:  “We join with other faith leaders to stand in solidarity again with those affected by this [President Trump’s immigration] order, especially our Muslim sisters and brothers. . . . And so, to our Muslim brothers and sisters and all people of faith, we stand with you and welcome you.” On 3/16/17:Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation.”

Even clearer proof that the Bishops make this assumption is their involvement in the U.S. government’s refugee program. There are nine organizations that receive the most government grants for resettling Muslim refugees in cities around the U.S., and the USCCB resettles more than any of the others. Moreover, they have never made a special case for resettling Christian refugees. (See Ann Corcoran, Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America, Center for Security Policy, 2015.)

Analysis: The Lord has commanded us to care for those in need, and offered parables that illustrate doing so. But neither the command nor the illustrations constitute specific instructions on how to do so. The “how” he left us to determine using our God-given intellects. If the triune God is in fact omniscient, then Jesus knew that as society and government changed, ways of helping one’s neighbor would also change, and not all ways would be equally wise. Accordingly, He expects us to discern the wisest way, and it is difficult to believe that it is less traumatic and kinder to move people to a new and unfamiliar land with different values and customs than to help them thrive in their own lands. It is also difficult to believe that it is wise—or fair—to force the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of refugees on citizens of a country such as the U.S. against their will.

Unwarranted Assumption 3: That all who present themselves as being in need are actually in need of refuge, and not merely appearing so to hide their intentions to transform the nation into a Sharia state.

Analysis: No one should know better than those anointed to guide Catholics that human beings, though created in God’s own image and likeness, are also stained with Original Sin, and that they therefore can easily be tempted to sin against both God and neighbors. Curiously the Catholic hierarchy tend to portray all Muslim immigrants as posing no threat even though they know that Sharia law requires Muslims to convert or kill “infidels” because they regularly receive incontrovertible evidence of such violence. (See many examples of this evidence at the USCCB website.)

Unwarranted Assumption 4: That refugees and immigrants are willing, even eager, to be assimilated into the welcoming country, rather than determined to replace its legal system with Sharia Law.

Analysis: This assumption ignores an abundance of scholarly evidence against it. I have in mind, among other works, Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe, Nonie Darwish’s Cruel and Usual Punishment, Hsan Mahmud’s Islam and Sharia, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel, Solomon and Maqdisi’s Modern Day Trojan Horse, and Ann Corcoran’s Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America. As Cororan puts it, “the goal of [Muslim} immigration today is not peaceful assimilation . . . it is jihad by non-violent means—known as civilization jihad or Islamization,” explaining further, “Mohammed himself proclaimed that migration is jihad. As such, migration is a religious obligation.”

I believe that the Bishops’ four unjustifiable assumptions have led them to violate the fundamental moral principle of respect for persons in their judgment of Muslim immigration. Let me be more specific.

Over the centuries, three criteria have flowed from the principle of respect for persons and guided moral discourse: obligations, moral ideals (virtues), and consequences. Simply said, an action is considered moral if it honors, or at least does not violate, the relevant obligations and ideals—for example, justice, fairness, and honesty—and that its consequences are not immoral. Sometimes, of course, obligations conflict with one another or with an ideal and we must decide which takes precedence. Similarly, consequences may not be completely good or bad, but mixed, so we must decide what decision represents the greater good or the lesser evil. With these criteria in mind, we can identify the impact of the Bishops’ assumptions:

The assumption that the command to help those is need applies to government as well as individuals has led the bishops to support and even participate in programs that not only create a coercive tax burden on citizens but also, in the case of Muslim immigration, help to replace Judeo-Christian culture with the opposing system of Sharia law. Ironically, such support has the effect of endangering the very people, and the religious Faith, that the Bishops are charged with protecting.

The assumption that the gospel command to care for the needy requires prosperous nations to welcome the needy as residents has blinded the Bishops to the more efficient, economical, and humane approach of helping the needy achieve the goals the seek without leaving their countries. Thus blinded to better alternatives, they have chosen to advocate for extravagant immigration policies and/or open borders, and even to reject the distinction between legal and illegal entry into a country. Such advocacy ignores the moral obligation of the host government to respect and protect its own citizens. It also focuses solely on the moral ideal of charity to illegal immigrants while ignoring completely the equally important moral ideals of fairness to applicants who follow the rules and justice to the country’s citizens. More serious from a moral perspective, such advocacy shamefully disregards the indisputable evidence of the chaos it has caused in the European continent and the British Isles, as I have described in “Islam Examined, Part 1” and “Islam Examined, Part 2.”

The assumption that everyone who presents him/herself as being in need of refuge is being truthful has led the Bishops to deny the documented fact that some are not being truthful. This denial has led them to oppose even the most reasonable efforts of government to ensure that ill-intentioned, dangerous people are not allowed into the country or are deported when identified. It has also violated the Bishops’ own obligation to their congregations and other citizens.

The fourth and arguably the most dangerous assumption—that refugees and immigrants are willing, even eager, to be assimilated into the welcoming country—has led the Bishops to play a leading role in the placement of refugees in 180 American cities and thereby increase the likelihood of cultural chaos and, over time, the downfall of the Western cultural and legal system founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

In Rerum Novarum, the venerable Pope Leo XIII warned of those who, “working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State . . .   [These contentions are] emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community [emphasis added].”

Pope Leo was referring to the Socialists of his day, and his warning that they would wreak havoc from his time to ours was prescient. Even so, he could hardly have imagined that half a dozen generations later, fellow Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church would be acting similarly to Socialists–let alone that they would do so in the name of Christian love! That their intentions are noble in no way lessens the error of their actions or the enormity of the likely consequences.

Copyright © 2017 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

View all articles
Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero