Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent Arrives: My Fellow Catholics Debate Immigration, and I Watch Appalled from the Sidelines

Advent's here now, and I'm once again in one of those watching-appalled-from-the-sidelines moments in my spiritual journey, as I look at how many of my fellow Catholics are responding to the debate about the immigration issue now roiling the American public square. As the national holiday of giving thanks ended (a holiday, let's not forget, featuring a mythic story about immigrant Puritans relying on the mercy of native peoples to feed and keep them alive), at several National Catholic Reporter discussion threads dealing with the immigration issue (e.g., here and here), things got so bad that multiple comments had to be deleted and the threads locked down.

As Commonweal contributor Helen notes in a thread at that site discussing a posting about American Catholic attitudes towards immigrants,

Yesterday, I read an article from CNS posted on the website of the well-known Catholic newspaper from Kansas City, MO. 
A third of the comments were deleted and the comments were closed the same day as the article was posted. 
The posts by some commenters were mean-spirited, full of innuendo, and, in some cases, slanderous.  In addition, commenters were attacking and attributing the lowest of motivations to other commenters. It was sickening.

"Sickening" is exactly the right word for it. I felt sick at the pit of my stomach as I perused the hateful comments before they were deleted by NCR moderators — sick at knowing that I am in some way identified with the people making these comments, many of whom profess to be Catholic and are making their comments on the discussion board of a leading U.S. Catholic publication.

Hence my Advent stance of watching appalled from the sidelines . . . . What these fellow Catholics understand our Catholic faith to be about, I clearly see very differently — because I'm Catholic. The 60% of white Catholics who just voted Republican in the fall elections, who want a "correction" to the Affordable Care Act (meaning, they want it dismantled, and millions of indigent Americans barred again from access to healthcare): they inhabit some religious universe far from my own which I cannot understand as Catholic.

One that has little to no understanding of the communal, we're-in-this-together emphasis of Catholic social teaching that is absolutely foundational to the Catholic worldview . . . . One that can look at strangers in the land and shriek, "What does that bible verse about welcoming strangers have to do with me?" One that can look at Michael Brown and see a menacing hulk who somehow merited being gunned down in broad daylight, no gun in hand. Just because. Because he was black, male, and walking the streets.

One that can participate in shameful national hysteria about imagined epidemics being introduced  by diseased immigrants, but turn a cold shoulder to sound, overwhelming scientific evidence that the destruction of the environment now poses the most serious threat possible to the well-being of the whole planet, and will soon be irreversible if it's not addressed proactively right now.

When I hear Archbishop Chaput's sidekicks John and Carol Saeman eviscerating Catholic social teaching in order to create a firewall in American Catholicism against anything Pope Francis says about solidarity with the poor, I hear the voice of the 60% of white U.S. Catholics who just voted Republican speaking loud and clear. The voice of American Catholics who count, if money and power count above everything else.

The voice of the Supreme Catholic men sitting on the Supreme Court.

And I want, once again, to be miles and miles away from these fellow Catholics and what they stand for. And from their liberal Catholic enablers who let their voice sound in Catholic publications, who lend them credence by printing their work, who never lift a finger to contain them and their toxins while doing everything in their power to marginalize Catholics to the left of the political and religious center. 

It's going to be some Advent this year for many of us, isn't it?

The quotation by Anne Lamott is from this Salon article.

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