December 3, 2021
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Catholic Charities’ Role in the Border Crisis

Catholic Charities’ Role in the Border Crisis

In late July, 2021, the La Joya TX Police Department issued a “Public Health Announcement” to the community that included this information: The Texas Inn Hotel in that city told police officers that “Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley had booked all the rooms in his facility to house undocumented immigrants.” The police learned, too, that some of the immigrants had previously tested positive for Covid and been quarantined.  Also, that after they were placed in the care of Catholic Charities, some were observed walking about La Joya without face masks.

A Fox News reporter presented these facts on Fox and Friends and the hosts—Steve Doocy, Rachel Campos-Duffy, and Brian Kilmeade—discussed them on the air, as they often do with newsworthy matters concerning the border.

The next day the chief correspondent of the Jesuit Magazine America, Kevin Clarke, expressed his resentment of the Fox discussion. He could not very well have accused the three of anti-Catholicism, since they are all Catholic. In fact, Campos-Duffy is the kind of Catholic that once was regularly lauded from pulpits around the country. (That is, the kind who is so respectful of Church teaching that she and her husband are not only devout—they have eight children, including one with Down Syndrome.) He chose, instead, to portray all three as ignorant and mean-spirit “slanderers” of Catholic Charities.

What, exactly, moved Clarke to such an attack? For one thing, Kilmeade had asked rhetorically, “If you’re a Catholic and giving money to Catholic Charities in America, weren’t you hoping it was going to help Americans, not other people from other countries to come to America illegally?” Campos-Duffy agreed with his implication. For another thing, Kilmeade had wondered if Catholic Charities was “ethically challenged” and Campos-Duffy suggested that the organization’s acceptance of government grants was driven by the “profit motive.” (For the record, I would rate Kilmeade’s rhetorical question as perfectly reasonable, his comment about ethics premature in light of the facts, and Campos-Duffy’s remark as unfair.)

Clarke then commented archly that the hosts were obviously “taking a break from ridiculing federal efforts to contain the Delta coronavirus variant” and on blaming the resurgence of Covid19 on ”unvaccinated migrants they alleged were pouring across the U.S.-Mexico border.” (Emphasis mine) He offered no evidence that they had ridiculed such efforts; and what he termed allegations were, in reality, documented statistics and video footage.

The rest of Clarke’s response was mostly a defense of the good that Catholic Charities has done here and abroad for more than a century. That good is well known, so it is hard to understand why he felt the need to defend it. After all, the hosts did not dispute the organization’s record—they only raised an honest question about a specific matter—the evident abetting of illegal immigration.

Next, Clarke made a strange, and ill-advised, leap from Catholic Charities to an entirely different organization, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that he gratuitously claimed the hosts might also wish to disparage. I say ill-advised because CRS’s decision to give financial support to CARE, which funds abortion and birth control abroad, was sharply criticized by the very person they chose to evaluate it, Dr. John Hall of the National Catholic Bioethics Center!

Hall gave this evaluation: “Even though the grants going to CARE are for very laudable and indeed life-saving initiatives, I believe that these very strong public positions taken by the President of CARE in complete opposition to the policies and positions of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops would certainly give rise to legitimate theological scandal if not confusion as to why the Bishops would fund such an organization.”

An even greater flaw than Clarke’s ill-advised reference to CRS was his failure to address the context of the Fox & Friends’ discussion. He did not mention President Biden or Vice President Harris by name, nor did he mention the administration policy that is responsible for the chaos at the border. Moreover, he made no reference to the issues at the heart of the Fox & Friends discussion.

Here are a few lines of thought Mr. Clarke obviously did not pursue before rushing to his laptop:

Every country has the moral right to make laws concerning immigration into its country, as well as the moral obligation to safeguard its people and protect their rights. 

For a government to open its country’s borders to all who wish to enter without ensuring that they are in good health and law-abiding is at best foolish. Doing so during a Pandemic is irresponsible and violates its moral obligation to its citizens.

For any individual or group to aid a government in violating its obligation is morally wrong. This applies, as well, to individuals and groups that do so in the name of  the Gospel command to love our neighbors and come to their aid in time of need. The end never justifies the means.

Mr. Clarke will surely recognize these lines of thought as consistent with Catholic teaching. Had he considered them at the outset, he would have produced a fairer and more intellectually sound essay

Copyright © 2021 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero