Comparing the United States to a large family of mixed immigration status, panelists in a virtual discussion on May 25 said Catholics need to do more to combat racism and defend the dignity of immigrants.
“Human dignity is the bedrock. … It is a keystone for this conversation,” said Nichole Flores, a theologian at the University of Virginia, in the panel, titled “The Ethics of Immigration” and hosted by the Lumen Christi Institute. “[It] helps us to think about the purpose of a border, the purpose of a state authority, the purpose of human rights.”
Flores said Catholic tradition can offer a lot of wisdom to debates around immigration policy. Because the church is global, Catholic perspectives on immigration consider the needs of those in all nations.
The Catholic social teaching principles of preferential option for the poor and workers’ rights support protecting immigrants, she said. The Biblical story of the relationship between Ruth, a young widow from a foreign nation, and Naomi, her mother-in-law, gives an example of navigating intergenerational and intercultural tensions, Flores said.
The Catholic Church, however, hasn’t always taken its responsibility to fight racism and defend immigrants as seriously as it should, she said.
“One of the challenges we face as a church today, at every level, is that we’re a bunch of hypocrites,” Flores said. “We’re over here saying, ‘Every life matters in the womb.’ But we cannot say ‘Black lives matter.’ “