By Sheila Read
RALEIGH, N.C. — The most basic reason the U.S. bishops have come out so strongly in favor of revising immigration policies is the belief in the dignity of the human person, said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., in an Aug. 18 talk at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh.
"Anything that takes away from the dignity of the human person takes away from the Gospel," said McCarrick. "The Gospel teaches us that we are all brothers and sisters of one human family and that we are all equal in the love of God.”
The parish hosted Cardinal McCarrick for a talk on faith and immigration as the first in a series of Community Conversations on Faith, the Common Good and the Role of Government taking place in August and September. St. Francis' Justice & Peace Office is sponsoring the conversations in an effort to create a space for constructive political dialogue based on faith and common values, especially the commitment to serving the common good.
In the talk, Cardinal McCarrick highlighted a number of problems of our current system. The number one problem is it "can destroy families," according to Cardinal McCarrick who said that during his priesthood he had seen the breaking up of families when law enforcement officers sometimes abruptly removed a father who had not been born in this country.
Living Jesus' call to love our neighbor is "not easy," Cardinal McCarrick said. He acknowledged that undocumented immigrants may have made mistakes or broken the law. But he asked us to look at ourselves and how Jesus loves us despite "the stupid, dumb things we do." He continued, "You know, if we were not like the Lord and never forgave anybody anything, we would be in terrible shape."
Another major reason to reform the system, Cardinal McCarrick said, is that it divides society and creates two classes of people, with some people being denied rights. "The breaking up of families, the denigrating of some people ... That's not what the Lord Jesus gave us," the cardinal said.
The bishops have not endorsed any particular version of the immigration legislation under debate in Congress. Rather, they have outlined six broad themes that they would like to see in the new legislation, including a path to citizenship, promotion of family unity, and addressing root causes of migration.
Pastor Mark Reamer, OFM, said of Cardinal McCarrick's visit, "It was great to have him here. We enjoyed his company." In addition to giving the talk, Cardinal McCarrick presided at two Masses. "I think his presence was well received by the parish and informative as to the church's position on immigration," Mark said.
There were also members of other ministries at the event. They included Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, of New York City and Louis Camino, OFM, and a busload of roughly 40 secular Franciscans from the Greensboro area of North Carolina. Cardinal McCarrick has been an affiliate of Holy Name Province since 2006. He received an honorary degree from St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y., in 2011.
— Sheila Read is justice and peace administrative specialist at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Raleigh.