When “Eyes Do Not See, Nor Ears Hear”

When “Eyes Do Not See, Nor Ears Hear”

Cardinal Dolan began a June 2023 essay by lamenting that “religious freedom—our first and most cherished liberty—has wrongly come to be seen by many in the United States as a partisan cause.” What dangerous people hold this disgraceful view? He doesn’t identify them, but it’s a good guess he wasn’t thinking Democrats.

What “religious freedom” is he referring to? Before he tells us, he gives his parish a pat on the back by noting that it was the place from which St. Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants, helped the “rapidly growing Italian community navigate their new lives.” However, he makes no mention that St. Frances didn’t wade across the border but came to the U.S. legally, as did the Italians she helped. Instead, he points out that Catholic Charities is today carrying on her work by caring for “unaccompanied children and other newcomers who have come here, many fleeing violence, persecution and abject poverty.”

How many migrants fit that profile? The Cardinal doesn’t say, nor does he give a head count of those coming in for other reasons, or of the cartel “coyotes” who supervise the migration for purposes detrimental to both migrants and American citizens alike.

What he does say is that the Catholic Church believes, with the support of Sacred Scripture, that all migrants must be treated with “compassion and care.” Furthermore, he claims that if we “respect life in the womb,” we must also respect “the human dignity of immigrants and other people in need” because “these commitments are inseparable.”

Before discussing what else the Cardinal said, let’s examine that last claim more closely. Are respect for the unborn and the human dignity of immigrants even comparable, let alone “inseparable”? Not at all. Respect for the unborn means allowing their lives to proceed rather than destroying them. Respecting the dignity of immigrants is not a life-or-death choice. It simply means helping them rather than ignoring their need, and there are many ways of doing that. Thus, though the Cardinal’s argument of inseparability seems at first glance to be sound, it is blatantly fallacious.

But the dignity argument is not the most forceful of the Cardinal’s positions. He goes on to claim that “a few elected officials on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures are pushing legislation to stop any aid to, or government partnership with, churches and agencies like our own Catholic Charities, and are waging slanderous attacks against us for assisting newcomers, including refugees and asylum seekers.” (He doesn’t name those “slanderers,” but once again it’s a solid guess that they aren’t Democrats.)

The Cardinal does say the villains are in the House of Representatives, and the act in question is called the “Secure the Border Act.” It would, he says, “cut off funds that charities use to shelter immigrants and help them through our legal system.” But what, in his mind, takes the act beyond nastiness to a “religious freedom issue” is “the special vitriol that some of the bill’s backers have directed at Catholic agencies engaged in this work,” one of whom believes it is or should be “a crime to give an undocumented immigrant a hot meal or a place to sleep.” Moreover, this member of Congress “wrote a bill to deny all federal funds to any charity that does not comply.” That, the Cardinal argues would amount to “criminalizing the exercise of religion.”

We can agree that such the denial of all federal funds is strong, perhaps even too strong. But it would be unreasonable, even irresponsible to say, “that’s all there is to say about the matter” as the Cardinal apparently has done, and ignore this looming question: Don’t the charities in question deserve some penalty for what they have been doing? After all, they have made clear to millions of people that they will receive food, clothing, and a place to stay if they enter the country illegally. That translates to providing incentive to enter the country illegally, which makes the charities complicit in violating U.S. law. And complicity in crime warrants penalty.

Cardinal Dolan’s notion that religious organizations should be free to violate an ethically sound law (and yes, U.S. border law is ethically sound) is not only illogical; it has led to dangerous consequences. That was obvious to observant people in June when he wrote his essay. It has since become more abundantly clear in recent days when the mayor of the Cardinal’s city has stopped calling it a sanctuary city and is loudly crying out to Washington for help in dealing with hundreds of thousands of migrants and other homeless people filling hotels and lining the city’s streets.

Thus, it has come to pass that New York politicians have at last discovered what other Americans have known all along—the U.S. has been on the road to disaster since the first day President Biden took office and overrode President Trump’s sensible, perfectly legal, and thoroughly ethical border policy.

The Cardinal is far from alone in believing that the only way to help the world’s poor and disenfranchised is to open the U.S. border wide. Many other prelates and even more politicians have embraced that belief. But though their motives maybe honorable, and their intentions pure, their reasoning is shamefully foolish and the consequences it has produced are appalling.

How would Cardinal Dolan and many of his fellow prelates answer my argument? I have no doubt they would have three responses. First, that to be true followers of Jesus, they (and we) must obey His command to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. Second, that the only way to do this is by opening our borders and welcoming those in need into our country. Third, that to set requirements for entry into our country is to violate Jesus’ command.

Their first response is unquestionably true, but the second and third responses are demonstrably false. Together they create a textbook example of the principle that a virtuous END—in this case obeying Jesus—does not justify immoral MEANS—violating the moral/legal rights of the American people. The Catholic hierarchy certainly learned the Ends/Means principle in college, in the seminary, and in their graduate studies. They could, I suppose, have forgotten it, but that is unlikely.

The solution to the dilemma is to find moral ways of helping the poor. The bishops have the influence and means to accomplish this in countries around the world and, equally important, to meet their moral obligation to support border integrity in this country. Alas, it seems that “their eyes do not see, nor their ears hear, nor do they understand” the lesson that the border crisis is making clearer every day.

Copyright © 2023 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero