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  by  Roy Beck

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 23 -- Today, Pope Francis avoided giving his opinions about what the U.S. should do with its immigration policies and instead stuck with broad principles.

He called on the support international efforts to protect vulnerable people around the world. He praised a gathering of bishops for their efforts to "welcome and integrate" immigrants. And he introduced himself at the White House: "As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families."

Much was made by the news media about a young girl in the crowd who managed to deliver a message asking the Pope to support Pres. Obama's illegal executive amnesty of last year known as DAPA. We'll soon find out it the Pope decides to give his opinion on such specific policy issues during his address to Congress on Thursday. (The pro-amnesty crowd's shameless use of children as political theatre props reminds me of the professional street beggars who manipulate their children into objects to increase their daily take. Interestingly, Pope Francis in his lengthy written "exhortation" to church leaders in 2013 referred to "children used for begging" in his paragraph about his distress for those "who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking.")

If the Pope does endorse anything that sounds like DAPA or other legislative solutions in his speech to Congress, it will be good to remember the humility that Francis claimed for such policy suggestions when he wrote his long "apostolic exhortation" last year to the bishops, clergy and lay leaders of his worldwide church. (Although not a Catholic, I read the exhortation that was published as a 212-page book and studied its 288 numbered paragraphs in a weekly discussion group through last summer.) Francis makes many statements about social and economic issues, but he also says:

" . . . neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems. Here I can repeat the insightful observation of Pope Paul VI: 'In the face of such widely varying situations, it is difficult for us to utter a unified message and to put forward a solution which has universal validity. This is not our ambition, nor is it our mission. It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country.' " (Francis: para. 184)

That is supportive of the context on papal authority provided by our Eric Ruark in his blog last week:

Today, some journalists suggested that Francis was referring to the Mideast migration crisis when he stated:

I would like all men and women of goodwill in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity, which God wills for all his children."

If he was referring to the migration crisis, one can imagine how that principle is interpreted differently by those who believe the best way to protect the vulnerable migrants is to resettle at least a hundred thousand Syrians in the U.S. or by people like us who believe the best way to uphold the Pope's stated principle is to provide safe, healthy conditions for the most people with internationally run refugee camps and not by enticing people to risk their lives and those of their families through dangerous unauthorized journeys to get to wealthy countries.

In his prayer service with bishops, the pope said:

I am well aware of the immense efforts you have made to welcome and integrate those immigrants who continue to look to America, like so many others before them, in the hope of enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity."

There can be much to parse in such a simple statement. In the official meaning of "immigrants" as people who have been accepted for permanent settlement by the host nation, NumbersUSA stands fully behind the idea of non-government and government groups working to welcome and integrate them fully into our country's life. If the Pope was stretching the meaning to include those who have come or stayed uninvited without the legal right, I do not object to churches and others providing pastoral and emergency support, but do object to their crossing the line to break the law in order to keep unauthorized foreign citizens in this country. The ending of the Pope's sentence also might suggest that merely wishing to have the freedom and prosperity of the United States is somehow justification for anybody in the world to move to the U.S. I'm sure Francis and even most American open-border advocates would recognize the impracticality of that.

At this point, though, I choose to interpret the Pope's brief comment to the bishops about their work with immigrants to be a benign one about which I do not object.

In his Exhortation last year, Francis made it clear that he does not regard the Vatican as an American-style think tank that offers legislative solutions for each nation:

In her dialogue with the State and with society, the Church does not have solutions for every particular issue. Together with the various sectors of society, she supports those programs which best respond to the dignity of each person and the common good." (Francis: para. 241)

I applaud any influential figure who points societies toward those kinds of principles. I am certain that our NumbersUSA policy goals on immigration do indeed respond to human dignity and the common good, as well as to the Pope's many admonitions to deal with income inequality. But I also am sure that our political opponents who support open borders and the end of national communities as we have known them the last few centuries believe they also are adhering to these principles. This is why we need open public debate about these issues where our claims about the common good of various policy proposals can be tested without the silencing and intimidation that we so often encounter from the American elites in media, religion and academe.

ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA

religious leaders
Pope Francis

Updated: Thu, Oct 8th 2015 @ 12:35am EDT

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