When it comes to amnesty, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops looks to Protestants like the same motley crew of hopeless naifs and calculating sell-outs that we know so well from our own ministers. I don’t think my Catholic friends are very happy, either.
I was raised Methodist. My mother’s people were Welsh seafaring types, and my father’s were Scots-Irish who trickled (or flooded, I should say) into the New World as the English applied themselves to exterminating the clans. In other words, most of my ancestors would have been Roman Catholic in the Old Country well after the time of Henry VIII. I don’t know if their decision to become “heretics” would have been so much a conscious reaction to what they perceived as lack of support or simply a practical adjustment to circumstances where no priest was available. (The Church’s default position on the Irish famines of the 1840s was that they were God’s scourge of the unrighteous and not to be resisted with any civil disobedience; the same response greeted the Highland Clearances—but it was an equally Protestant response.)
I write these things not to imply that the Church has an uneven history of championing the little guy—though that is surely true—but rather to document that I myself have no historically embedded prejudice against Catholicism. Throughout my own mortal span, the Protestant denominations have disgusted me one and all with their cowardly indifference to the sexual revolution, beginning with a silence on “free love” and abortion and now extending to a doped-up, dumbed-down “all you need is love” indulgence of gay marriage. Catholics have held the line comparatively well on such issues—commendably well, in fact. I was prepared to complete the process of conversion in my twenties when, while staying in Ireland, I observed the Church hierarchy to adopt a head-in-sand posture in response to the IRA’s cold-blooded murder of a police officer (and father of six) doing his sworn duty with great heroism. There were political considerations to be weighed, apparently. Having opposed the IRA in the days before the Easter Rising of 1916, the Church of later times seemed intent on doing political penance and would no longer criticize homicidal punks.
I have remained in a state of ambivalence since then which did not dissuade me, however, from sending my only child far away to a Franciscan college last month. I admire that order’s dedication to poverty and service as healthy for the soul, and I think the new environment may somewhat neutralize the toxic effects of the boy’s affluent Episcopalian high school. Yet during Orientation Day, I admit to having been very distressed, and even irritated, at the campus’s smugly flaunted disdain of guns in fulfilling its duty to protect my child and other young people. Religious ascetics who wish to offer up their own lives as lambs to the slaughter should any Vandal or Goth sweep through the monastery are to be revered and extolled: fatuous intellectualist nurslings who dangle other people’s children before the wolves should be held as accessories to murder in the event of the unspeakable’s coming to pass. Human nature and the hard facts of living in a fallen world don’t change just because you ring bells and sing hymns. That’s the insanity of progressivism, and our side is supposed to abjure such hubris.
I have now revived old memories of a murdered Seamus Quaid (for Irish cops were not allowed to carry guns in his day, either, even when running a roadblock to snare armed robbers)… but I have also arrived at the current decision of American Catholic bishops to lecture their congregations (or issue directives that others’ congregations be lectured) on the evils of enforcing our national borders. The only logical argument I have heard attempted in favor of this position (on Bill O’Reilly’s show of 8/27, from a charming and witty cleric whose name eluded me) runs as follows. We told border-trespassers that they were breaking our law, yet we did not punish them when they trespassed. We told them that they could not lawfully work among us, yet we gave them jobs. We told them that they could not lawfully use our schools and hospitals or drive on our streets, yet we turned the other way—or even underwrote their expenses—when they did all of these things. We have therefore tacitly already admitted them among us as fellow citizens. To force their departure from within our borders now, after many have sunk deep roots, would be unconscionably hypocritical and inhumane. Out of respect for “the dignity of the human person”, we must regularize their official status.
I propose an analogy. Say that I see an attractive pair of cast-iron chairs on your front porch. They are not in any way secured, so I load them into my truck and take them away. I am vaguely aware that certain laws forbid this kind of behavior, but you don’t step out of the front door to stop me and no squad car pulls up on my bumper. I come back later for the attractive concrete statuary in your front yard. That also appears to be free for the taking. Finally I see that your wife has left the car’s trunk open as she unloads groceries. Nobody is in sight, so I help myself to some eggs and milk. This time, however, I hear a scream as I drive away; and before I am safely back to my lair, a cop pulls me over and cuffs me.
Outrageous! A violation of the human person’s dignity! I was induced to do everything that led to my arrest by a long sequence of neglect and insouciance… but suddenly I was declared a criminal! This cannot be right!
If my analogy to the bishops’ position is inaccurate or unfair, I should like to know in what respect it is so. On the contrary, I find the bishops to be insulting our intelligence with such bald casuistry. Dignity is not a gift bestowed by others, as anyone should know who possesses a particle of it. One may be stripped almost naked, whipped, and spat upon, yet preserve and even gain dignity by rising above the humiliation. The image of Christ bearing his cross to Golgotha is perhaps the most dignified moment ever produced by our cultural history.
On the other hand, certain acts render a person hopelessly unworthy of dignity, no matter how many bishops bless him. Pilfering unsecured objects from citizens’ private property is not dignified (and this kind of petty larceny has skyrocketed in my community, by the way, since Spanish-speaking “guests” began to inundate it). Stealing clients from Jimbo’s Lawn Service by undercutting Jim’s rates but accepting only cash (which one will not be reporting as income) is not dignified. Sneaking Abuelita across the border to have her warts removed “free” at the emergency room is not dignified. Getting so rip-roaring drunk on Saturday night that you broadside a couple of teenagers returning from a date is not dignified. Fighting cocks is not dignified. Leaving pregnant girls all over the place whom you could not marry and support, even if you wanted to, is not dignified. Selling your political noise and bluster to the faction that offers you the fattest spoils is not dignified.
Naturally, the previous paragraph will draw charges from predictable quarters of being saturated with racist stereotypes. This happens whenever one frames general conclusions based on statistical fact and repeated observation. For the record, at my son’s orientation, I drew his attention to a very cute Latina who happened to have sat at his lunch table. He already had the full scoop on her—and it was positive. I wouldn’t mind if she became my daughter-in-law some day. But the drunk-driving incidents are escalating in my part of the country, and they’re associated with a certain demographic. Hospitals are going bankrupt, and their strain is directly related to servicing an alien clientele that can’t or won’t pay. Catholic bishops and other social engineers don’t wish to draw these patently clear connections that obstruct their empire-building. The rest of us—those with house and car payments, with property taxes, with wives and kids to feed and clothe, with homes to secure and defend, with commutes that grow daily more tangled and polluted, with shopping centers that no longer speak our native language, with insurance premiums that can’t be paid because our elected representatives have ruined the system to woo a gullible subclass—those of us, in other words, who weren’t cradled and coddled as something special through a series of elite schools to nestle, at last, in permanent idle bachelorhood where all our creature comforts are met to the degree that decency permits—WE have to live in this mess.
Two closing points: first, I reiterate that the disruptive behaviors I listed above have only a broad statistical correlation to illegal residents. There remain many of this group “in the shadows” who have never stolen an identity card and who drive ultra-carefully precisely because they do not have a license or insurance. We can do something for them. We can draft a short series of one-page laws that would substantially lighten the burden they carry—and do so without granting them a full citizenship which their conduct should place out of reach, at least for a couple of decades. If the Catholic bishops wish to dabble in politics, then they should learn the rules and play strictly within them, as men of conscience and good will. There are constitutional means available to adjust the treatment of non-violent, relatively benign lawbreakers in the direction of greater humanity. Enfranchising tens of millions of unassimilated bloc voters for statist causes is not one of them.
Finally, I would ask both the bishops and Republicans generally why nobody on the current scene is advancing a plan for reforming the Mexican economy and political system so that refugees would not have to stream into our country, to begin with. Why not pull our troops out of the Hindu Kush and use them in a joint operation with Mexican federales to eradicate the drug cartels waging a civil war that has claimed at least half of the Syrian conflict’s casualties? Or would that denigrate the dignity of the human person—the kind of person, in this case, who encloses the fingers and ears of children in blackmail notes? Why not revive the Mexican tourist industry by cleaning out this human rot? Why not, after the clean-up, open two Major League franchises in Mexican cities as was once done in baseball-hostile Canada? (Mexico has had a long and passionate love affair with the game, including the Pasqual brothers’ raid upon American big-league talent in the mid-forties that shook the club-owners’ ruthless monopoly to its foundation.) Why not irrigate the parched Sonoran desert with the rains that devastate the Gulf Coast area almost every season? I have a plan myself that would pump water upland simply by using water pressure.
All of this assumes a collection of responsible, adult decision-makers who truly wish to help their fellow beings—to give them the freedom to find their own dignity rather than reduce them to pawns in a massive political game. But then, maybe the Catholic bishops understand politics all too well. Like the Republicans generally, maybe they prefer multiplying their personal power within a corrupt system to assisting the growth of the human person.