Thursday, March 3, 2016

Immigration: The Roman Catholic response

Crisis moves at a glacial pace in the eternal and universal church.

Starting in the 1950s, a movement known as "Liberation Theology" became fashionable in the Latin American church.  Many of the tenants of Liberation Theology read like Marxist tracts.  Private property is repudiated.  The human condition is held to be transcendent over any and all property rights.

Private property is perceived as a human (or satanic!) construct designed solely for the oppression of the less powerful.  That "human/satanic construct" concept was also extended to national borders.  Thus, the priests advocating "Liberation Theology" felt divinely sanctioned to preach that borders should be ignored and taught that people have license to help themselves to other people's property.  This is sometimes known as stealing and is prone to all of the pitfalls of other "relativist" moral systems.

More than one pundit observed that Liberation Theology had all of the earmarks of a Soviet initiative aimed at destabilizing traditional institutions (Example).

The Church's response

Pope John Paul II sent an Polish emissary to investigate Latin American Liberation Theology:  After extensive investigation
They both found the Latin American fascination ... naive, alarming, uncritical, bewildering, inaccurate and above all theoretical.  Source
As Poles, they had lived under the reality of Socialist/Communist rule and had no illusions about its material and spiritual outcomes.

Primarily, they saw that the omnipotent State needed to run Communism created a systemic moral hazard to personal salvation.  "Temptation" is universal when all resources are first coerced from the population and then doled out by faceless, anonymous bureaucrats.  Jesus taught us to pray..."Suffer us not to be tempted."  To embrace Communism is to run headlong into the flypaper of moral hazard.

The Roman Catholic church formally responded to "Liberation Theology" in the mid-1980s.  The Church spoke to the Biblical underpinnings claimed by Liberation Theology.

The first picture at the top is a close-up of elephant skin.
The Church claimed Liberation Theology, as it was most commonly preached, was in error because it deconstructed Scripture.  It cherry-picked certain political/material elements out of Exodus as its spiritual foundation.  The Church contends that the Divine message in Scripture must be prayed about and absorbed in its totality

When, under the influence of the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit), people discover the divine dimension of their being and life, both as individuals and as a community, they are able to free themselves from the various determinisms which derive mainly from the materialistic bases of thought, practice and related modes of action.  -John Paul II quoted from HERE Page 42

Capitalism, however, did not get a free ride.  The Church tempered its "endorsement" of capitalism by stating that the only morally acceptable capitalism is one that is heavily seasoned with a social conscience.

Bonus reading material  Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation

Extending this to the issues of immigration

The Church recognizes sovereign borders and self-determination of the peoples within those borders.

The Church challenges us as individuals push our leaders to formulate and administer fair and just immigration policies.  That is, fair and just for both the receiving and sending nations.

The Church challenges us as consumers to make moral purchasing decisions.  It is not possible for every consumer to make perfectly moral decisions in every circumstance, but in aggregate we can make a huge difference.  A better world would be one where people have productive labor close to their family, a world where families are not split up by economic forces.

Above all, the Church implores us to pray for wisdom, fortitude and for good outcomes.

Addendum:  Pope Francis, the current Pope, is from Latin America and his sermons often have elements borrowed from Liberation Theology.  This is part of the oscillation of history.  Those Liberation Theology elements are probably triggered by too few Catholics acting on our social conscience.


  1. Francis grew up, so to speak, under the influence of the South American Bishops who espoused that theology... No wonder he uses it!

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    1. Back when I taught 9th graders in Sunday School, the goal was to produce adults with "well formed conscience."

      Quoting: " Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality; their application in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed. The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with this judgment."

      Mindless robots need not apply.

      Another factor is that people rarely value or care for things they have been given. It is one thing to discount the sale of a used vehicle to a needy person a few hundred dollars. It is another thing to just give them a vehicle. We live in a world of finite resources and giving any object to somebody who will flat-out trash it is a waste.

      Cars are tools. Tools can be used to increase wealth. Are you using both cars wisely, are you increasing human capital?

      Thanks for reading and thanks for writing.