Obama flying with the angels, or, at least, our bishops

As the political storm grows fierce keep a focus on the human dimension, beginning with lives of some of the most vulnerable among us.

Oh, we can expect plenty of huffing and puffing, and threats to blow the house down. Republicans, angered by President Obama’s executive order yesterday, simply deferring deportations and family separations, cry foul and speak “outrage.”

Such concern. Then why, for years, did they do nothing – nothing! – to relieve suffering and solve a pressing US challenge by passing bipartisan legislation, formed out of compromise, that would have greatly relieved, if not solved, the U.S. immigration challenge? "The package," has it has been called.

One simple up and down vote in the House of Representatives would have done the trick.  The House leadership never allowed the vote. And it remained unlikely the new more conservative House, set to take office in January, would at any time soon. 

So Obama took the plunge, another bold move by our suddenly re-energized president. He acted within the legal boundaries of his executive authority. Just about everyone believes it is good policy. But if it is such "good policy" why, then, did congress not pass it?  What was holding it up except a desire to see Obama fail?  He should have acted sooner. 

Now the political storm. A price will be pain. The winds will be fierce.

This time, however, Obama has the protection of the angels, or at least the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Admittedly, it’s been a while since we have seen Obama line up with our bishops. It will be interesting to see how these new bedfellows cozy up. How vocal some bishops will be remains to be seen. 

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, yesterday issued a timely statement.

“We have a long history of welcoming and aiding the poor, the outcast, the immigrant, and the disadvantaged. Each day, the Catholic Church in the United States, in her social service agencies, hospitals, schools, and parishes, witnesses the human consequences of the separation of families, when parents are deported from their children or spouses from each other. We’ve been on record asking the Administration to do everything within its legitimate authority to bring relief and justice to our immigrant brothers and sisters. As pastors, we welcome any efforts within these limits that protect individuals and protect and reunite families and vulnerable children,” said Bishop Elizondo.

For his part, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, and president of the USCCB chimed in: “There is an urgent pastoral need for a more humane view of immigrants and a legal process that respects each person’s dignity, protects human rights, and upholds the rule of law. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said so eloquently: ‘Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved.’” 

The Catholic starting and ending point is not - should not - be politics. It should be responding to human needs with compassion. Pope Francis, in Korea, last August, after meeting several times with family members of victims who drowned in a tragic ferry capsizing, was asked why he was entering Korean politics. He response was that he could not ignore human suffering.

“The fear is over,” Maria Martinez, a 33-year-old housekeeper from El Salvador told a reporter tearfully. “All I can think about is what I’m going to tell the kids.”

The president’s orders are bold but in the greater scheme of things, modest. He waited years. Despite loud protestations, there was little chance a strengthened Republican congress was going to act soon to compromise with the president and reach pass immigration reform.

What especially disturbs the GOP now is that it will become more difficult by the month for any potential GOP presidential candidate to stand up against this popular action (most specifically in Latino communities) and promise to cancel this executive order.

Always proud to see Catholics responding to pressing human needs.


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