Does Pope Francis See Immigrants as Punishment for the ‘Sins’ of Wealthy Countries?

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By John Zmirak, Senior Editor of The Stream, April 30, 2017

The pope is not an oracle. His job is to hand us a box. It holds the Deposit of Faith. That’s what Jesus gave the apostles. Anything else that a pope sticks into the box, we’re free to scrutinize…  The church’s official teaching on immigration appears here: Catechism

This week, I appeared on Dr. Michael Brown’s radio show. The topic? Pope Francis’s politics, especially on immigration. A lifelong, loyal Catholic going on a Protestant radio show. To criticize the pope. That sounds a little strange. But we don’t live in normal times.

When it suits them, liberal media will spin a pope’s opinions. They’ll suggest that his views bind a billion Catholics. Of course, on issues like abortion they’ll highlight “dissenting” Jesuits.

Catholics believe that on eight or so occasions popes have spoken infallibly. That means we believe God protected them from error, not that they have super-powers. Apart from those statements, we Catholics are free to respectfully disagree with the pope, including when he dives into politics. Perhaps the greatest Catholic author in history is Dante. He was appalled by the politicking of the pope of his day. He expressed that by …. picturing that pope in Hell.

When Catholics Have No Choice

Sometimes speaking out is not just our right. It’s our sad and solemn duty. That’s true when what a pope is saying contradicts

  • official Catholic doctrine, taught by previous popes or councils,
  • clearly evident facts, or
  • reason, justice, and natural law.

The pope is not an oracle. His job is to hand us a box. It holds the Deposit of Faith. That’s what Jesus gave the apostles. Anything else that a pope sticks into the box, we’re free to scrutinize. Pope John XXII went around teaching his own crank theory about life after death. So his fellow Catholics had to step in and correct him. In fact, his cardinals had him locked up.

The Pope as the Scourge of God

First Things just reviewed a new book, This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice. In it, two leftist journalists unfold Pope Francis’ public statements. As First Things noted:

According to Francis, the world is divided into haves and have-nots; the impoverished circumstances and dismal prospects of the latter are principally caused by the former; and the current distribution of power and resources on the international scene is arranged and manipulated by the haves at the expense of the have-nots….

Francis presents himself as a friend of the poor, and hence as the great bane and excoriator of their enemies…. He calls for “revolution,” both cultural or spiritual (#114) and structural. His preferred means is “dialogue,” but such dialogue is to lead to enormous changes in thinking and living, to the “radical” reordering of our lives, both individual and communal, at the local, national, and international levels. Francis is a change-agent with comprehensive global designs….

Most telling is Francis’ view on immigration. It seems to go far beyond a humane concern. If the authors are right, he sees immigrants as a punishment that rich countries deserve and ought to accept. The reviewer cites

Francis’s impassioned calls for western countries to receive refugees and immigrants, regardless of security or other domestic concerns. In his fuller thinking, this sort of open-borders hospitality is not just a Christian obligation and not simply a humanitarian one; it has geopolitical significance and consequences as well. Among other things, these can be seen as condign punishment for the north’s colonial and capitalist insolence. More than once, the pope has ventured the theologically remarkable thought that natural catastrophes might be Nature’s payback for ecological assaults; the same would be true for the contemporary exoduses and migrations that he says occur on a biblical scale today. [emphasis added]

Immigrants Are Not a Punishment from God

I haven’t yet read the book. I don’t know if it’s quite fair. Does Pope Francis think this? That the immigration crisis is our fitting “punishment” for being the “haves”? The authors, big fans of his, certainly think so. If the pope disagrees, I hope he will take time to correct it.

What matters most here is the truth: The Catholic Church teaches no such thing. It never has. If Pope Francis were to say it, he would be offering his own opinion, not settled Church teaching. No pope has the power to invent a new teaching from whole cloth, based on his personal biases.

The GOP Platform and the Catholic Catechism

The church’s official teaching on immigration appears below. The whole of it. I took it word from word from our Catechism:

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

Nothing there about wealthy countries being wicked. Or deserving “punishment” in the form of vast waves of low-skilled people who can’t find work in our nations. (How respectful is that of immigrants as people, by the way?)

Not a word about inviting in armies of young men of military age devoted to imposing sharia in Britain or Belgium. In fact, quite the contrary. I pointed out this out last summer: The closest political document to Catholic teaching on immigration is … the 2016 Republican Platform.

That’s sad for me as a Catholic: A political document as a more reliable source than certain public statements of a pope. But then, we don’t live in normal times.

John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream, and author of the new Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. His focus was the English Renaissance, and the novels of Walker Percy. He taught composition at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, and has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention, representing Pat Buchanan.

He has been Press Secretary to pro-life Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, and a reporter and editor at Success magazine and Investor’s Business Daily, among other publications. His essays, poems, and other works have appeared in First Things, The Weekly Standard, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, FrontPage Magazine, The American Conservative, The South Carolina Review, Modern Age, The Intercollegiate Review, Commonweal, and The National Catholic Register, among other venues. He has contributed to American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought. From 2000-2004 he served as Senior Editor of Faith & Family magazine and a reporter at The National Catholic Register. During 2012 he was editor of Crisis.

He is author, co-author, or editor of eleven books, including Wilhelm Ropke: Swiss Localist, Global Economist, The Grand Inquisitor (graphic novel) and The Race to Save Our Century. He was editor of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s guide to higher education, Choosing the Right College and, for ten years, and is also editor of Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind.