The collapse of legitimacy in Washington continues, and the immigration debate is no exception. The rule of law withers away, while partisans wallow in sentimentalism, with curious consequences: consider the religious leaders who are at the forefront of the pro-amnesty movement. Somehow, they're on the same side of the issue as Big Business, the banksters, and the Wall Street Journal.
How did this come to pass?
A little history helps. In the past 40 years, evangelicals have made significant inroads into the once-Catholic populations of Mexico and Latin America. This was due in large part to the Catholic political detour into liberation theology that swept across the continent a generation ago. Protestant missionaries, often sponsored by small, independent congregations in the United States, had a simple message: "the Catholics preach politics, we preach the Bible." Tens of millions of Latino Catholics left the Church.
In the United States, the accusation rings true all too often. The Catholic Church has a strong political presence in Washington. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) spent some $26.67 million on political advocacy in 2009; only AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, spent more ($87.90 million). Most recently, this activity focused on the bishops' battle against the HHS Contraceptive Mandate and homosexual "marriage." But over the long haul, those advocacy efforts have supported key elements of the Left's agenda: national health care, amnesty for illegal aliens, and expansion of the welfare state.
Several studies confirm that Catholics are leaving the pews—on both sides of the border. What happened in Latin America is also happening here: Timothy Cardinal Dolan, President of the USCCB, observes that some thirty million Americans today identify themselves as former Catholics. That is almost half the number of self-identified Catholics (some 60-70 million).
Post-Christian or Post-American?
We have entered a "post-Christian era," says Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin. The bishop was addressing the legalization of homosexual "marriage" in Rhode Island, but I wonder if his insight might also be playing a prominent role in the U.S. bishops' campaign for amnesty.
When it comes to immigration, America's bishops support an agenda so vast that its passage would quickly create some thirty million new Americans, once "family reunification" kicks in (with all of the reunions taking place stateside, of course).
I wonder, do the bishops want all those new Americans because they're so unhappy with the Americans they've already got?
Maybe so. Consider Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez. He's the point man in the USCCB's amnesty campaign. Born in Mexico, he loves his homeland and his people. Like his predecessor, Roger Cardinal Mahony, he has made amnesty his prime political cause. He has a parochial interest—the Los Angeles Times reports that ten percent of the residents of LA County are in the U.S. illegally—but his vision goes much further.
Archbishop Gomez avoids the terms "illegal" and "amnesty," advocating instead "comprehensive reform." More importantly, even when addressing legislative particulars, he speaks with authority, in the name of the Catholic Church. Occasionally he admits that Catholics can differ on the issue, but opponents of amnesty seldom hear an encouraging word from his pulpit.
Is the "Next America" the "New Mexico"?
According to Roy Beck of NumbersUSA, a nonpartisan research group, the average rate of immigration from the 1950s through the 1970s was three million a decade. Since 1990, the rate has been 11 million per decar]de. Of the immigration bill proposed by the "Gang of Eight" passes, 33 million new green cards will be issued in the next decade.
Such a large wave of new Americans raises serious questions regarding the challenge of assimilation, but Archbishop Gomez simply bypasses it—because he opposes it.
Three years ago, Archbishop Gomez described his vision of "The Next America" at a conference in the Napa Valley. For him, the "Next America" will be decidedly better than the current one. Echoing Bishop Tobin, he says that
"Our culture is changing…We have a legal structure that allows, and even pays for, the killing of babies in the womb. Our courts and legislatures are redefining the natural institutions of marriage and the family. We have an elite culture… that is openly hostile to religious faith."[Immigration and the “Next America”: Perspectives from Our History, August 10, 2011]
All too true. So what is to blame for this travesty? Pope Benedict XVI blamed the "Dictatorship of Relativism" that infects the secular societies and Western elites. At Regensburg, Pope Benedict emphasized the need for rational discussion. In Abp. Gomez's view, however, the real culprit is Old America, specifically
"the idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears."
For Abp. Gomez, our national heritage somehow encourages "a wrong-headed notion that “real Americans" are of some particular race, class, religion or ethnic background"; it smacks of "nativism" and "bigotry."
So much for the "rule of law" and the "melting pot."
While Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, appeals to the rule of law to combat the Obama administration's anti-Catholic policies, Archbishop Gomez condemns it: it is motivated by prejudice. He argues that "Old America" aims that prejudice not primarily at Catholics, but at Mexicans—especially illegal aliens.
"America is in need of renewal," says Gomez. But he dismisses assimilation—even attacks it. After all, why "assimilate" into a godless, materialist, and narcissistic society? No, we need a "New America." And where will it come from?
It will come from Mexican immigrants. They "will bring a new, youthful, entrepreneurial spirit of hard work to our economy." They "are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice [and] the vast majority of them believe in Jesus Christ and love our Catholic Church. They share traditional American values of faith, family and community."
Unlike the rest of us, Your Excellency?
There are thirty million ex-Catholics in the U.S. Couldn't our bishops begin with them, rather than bring in thirty million supposedly Catholic foreigners to fill the empty pews? Isn't that what the "New Evangelization" is all about?
Many Catholics disagree with Archbishop Gomez. Is that a sin? Tune in next week.
Christopher Manion, Ph.D., [send him mail] is Director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae, a project of the Bellarmine Forum. He served as a staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College.
This column is sponsored by the Bellarmine Forum, and distributed by Griffin Internet Syndicate and FGF Books.