I am grateful to be invited to give this address tonight; what strikes me at the outset is the scope of this meeting and how it brings together a multiplicity of institutions within the larger Catholic Church in this country to address, together, a problem – a question – a challenge of universal significance because it touches the entire globe. And, while of universal significance, it is also a specific direct challenge to the traditions of this country, to the possibilities of this country, to respond to the universal challenge that is posed by the existence of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, in an age in which many of the circumstances in which people have both the opportunity or, on the other hand, are obliged to leave their country. And that opportunity and obligation must be met with generosity and openness by the nations of the earth. A conference of this scope and style brings together different kinds of levels of the life of the Church; it struck me that we have Fr. Bluhm from the Holy See, Sr. Raymonda who I have seen work at the concrete level of a diocese in Catholic Charities, and then the Bishops’ Conference of this country in its multiplicity of committees and organizations that address this issue; we see the Church from the local level to the national level to the universal level, being brought together in this room, to address both a universal question and a question that has very specific kinds of challenges to this country and to the Church in this country.
Over the next three days you will hear from people who know vastly more about the hands on work of assisting in welcoming migrants, immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees in this country. I do not pretend to have their experience in the concrete sense of the term; but I was asked to set a broader framework, a framework that encompasses in a sense, all of us as we try do address this question. Because we work from a vision; there’s a wonderful phrase from the Hebrew Scriptures, “With no vision, people perish.” The vision by which we live is the vision grounded in the scriptures, the vision enriched by Catholic social teaching, the vision animated by the Second Vatican Council. I’ve been asked to draw on those sources to set a context; all of us do our work every day in concrete specific places. As Bishop DiMarzio said, we have our good days in which we rejoice, we have our days in which it is very difficult to see beyond the square footage in which I must do my work. And on those days it is the time we have to draw on our inner resources to remind ourselves how important this work is, how vitally significant it is to the welfare of human beings, how much it is rooted in the very heart and life of what it means to be the Catholic Church. So, in a sense, I have been asked to draw on resources that may be helpful in those moments when you seek to connect your specific work to the larger framework of Catholic social teaching as it contributes to the vision by which we seek to respond to the this universal question.
My remarks will flow, really, from the wonderful letter that the United States Catholic Bishops issued, “Welcoming the Stranger”; it is like the title of this program this week “All come bearing gifts.” The phrase has a sense of both poetry and biblical heritage about it. We think of how strangers and those on journey populate both the Hebrew Scriptures and the image of the Church in the New Testament; we are a pilgrim Church. Welcoming the Stranger reminds us of the teaching of the prophets who taught Israel that the test of their society would be how the widows, the orphans and the resident aliens fared among them. “Welcoming the Stranger” reminds us of the great text in St. Luke of the Good Samaritan. So this poetic, biblical phrase “welcoming the stranger” sets the context in which my remarks fall; for I would want to argue that the “welcoming the stranger” challenge for us is in fact an opportunity; it is an opportunity that is for us first rooted in the social teachings of the Church; secondly, it is an opportunity that is a response to broad themes in international relations today that make the question of migration and immigration take on whole new significance; and finally, welcoming the stranger is an opportunity to put on display the unique mix of vision, institutions and community that come together to make up the Catholic Church in this country.
The task of welcoming the stranger is rooted in Catholic social teaching. There would be many ways to speak bout the church in the United States and its opportunity and challenge in the face of multiple strangers; there would be a way to review pastoral life, there is a way to think historically of this nation as a nation of immigrants, there is a way to think culturally about this question and about how cultures can be maintained and treated as complementary. But my approach will be to focus specifically on the social teaching; I’ll use historical cultural references, but the core of it is simply to lay out what is there for us.
As we think about the relationship of the social teaching and this question of migration and immigration in the world today, I think it is a two level question. The first is the basic design of Catholic social teaching itself, the basic structure of the larger social teaching of the Church. It refers directly to this question. Secondly, in addition to the basic design, there are very specific recent developments in the social teaching that bear upon this question with particular intensity.
To illustrate the basic design of Catholic social teaching, I need to take advantage of the fact that the year that this meeting is taking place is a very providential year. It is providential in the sense that it is the 40th anniversary of the encyclical letter, “Peace on Earth,” of John XXIII. Having worked with the social teaching of the Church for thirty-five years in my professional life, and with abiding respect for the unique contributions of our present Pope, I still have to confess to you that Pacem in Terris is my favorite text. When I’m given only one opportunity to say what the social teaching of the Church looks like, I always choose this letter to illustrate the basic structure of Catholic social vision.
What does it tell us? It starts with the dignity of the human person; it tells us that the person is the clearest reflection of the presence of God among us. It reminds us that the person is embodied before us as the abiding presence of God; every person in Catholic faith, is doubly consecrated – consecrated by the creative act of God, and consecrated by the incarnation of Christ Jesus the Lord; every person, doubly consecrated, is the beginning of the Church’s social ministry. We have a social teaching, we have a social ministry, we build social institutions because we are under the obligation of faith to protect and promote the dignity of the human person.
Secondly, Pacem in Terris argues that every person’s dignity is the source of both rights and duties. Rights are moral claims to goods that people need to protect and promote their human dignity. Claims that bear upon the spiritual nature of the person - the right to worship, the right to freedom of conscience, the right to the truth; but also claims that bear upon the material needs of persons – to housing and employment, to nutrition and health care. Rights are co-relative with duties; if people do not understand their duties, they will not respect the rights of others; if people claim only their rights, they are not fulfilling the full vocation of what it means to be human. From the dignity of the person to the rights and duties of the person.
Thirdly, Pacem in Terris tells us again what is a conviction of our faith – and that is that the basic moral unit for understanding the world is the human community. We live in a world of independent sovereign states; but while they are important they are not where we begin our understanding of the human situation. We begin with the polarity of the dignity of every human person and the social nature of the person which extends out to multiple communities that the person needs to grow and develop as a person; the community of the family, the community of civil society; but finally and ultimately the human community. The world is divided by different political units, divided by different economic systems; they have their role and place, but we cannot let go of the vision that every person belongs to one single human community and the world in its politics, its economics, its law and its international organization receives justification by how well it responds to the needs of that whole human community. In that human community, Pacem in Terris teaches us that states, politically organized sovereign states, are important actors in world affairs. They have their own rights and duties, as persons have rights and duties; and the rights and duties of states and the rights and duties of persons are crucial to the equation of determining how the world should address, in justice and in truth, the needs of a world in which immigration, migration – chosen freely, sometimes forced on people – has to be addressed in terms of fairness and justice.
That is the basic design, I think, of Catholic social teaching; it goes from the sacredness of every person to the full range of the human community. And in between there are a series of community structures and organizations that, as Pacem in Terris taught us, must be put together, structured according to the values of truth, justice, freedom and love.
Pacem in Terris is only a part of the larger fabric of teaching that we call Catholic social teaching; and within that teaching it is possible to focus on parts of it that bear upon the question of immigration and migration in a very specific way. The history of recent Catholic social teaching extends back into the late 19th century; my way of dividing that history is to say that the Church sought to respond over the last 100 years to three broad developments in the world. The early social teaching, extending from the late 19th century to approximately 1940, addressed the Industrial Revolution and its consequences mainly for Europe and N. America. But beginning with Pius XII and the onset of World War II and the post-war world, there comes into being a second stage of papal teaching; it is the internationalization of the teaching. The focus is less on the individual nation, although it does not forget the individual nation; the focus now is on the question of building justice and peace among nations as well as within nations. There is a third stage that begins with the teaching of Paul VI and continues to this day which I call post-industrial society, societies very much like the U.S. These three stages of development; response to the Industrial Revolution, response to the internationalization of the world, response to post-industrial society – all three make up the full fabric of social teaching. But it is the second stage, the international stage that has the most salience for our thinking about what we are about as we seek to fulfill the ministry that calls us together.
The international stage is the teaching that runs from the teaching of Pius XII to present pontiff, John Paul II. It begins with the onset of World War II because then you get a dramatic shift in the organization of the world. The French political philosopher Raymond Arunde talked about the world after World War II as the “dawn of universal consciousness”; where the world as a whole was no longer divided into the colonizers and the colonial nations. It was a world in which we moved from 45 nations at the beginning of the UN to something that approaches 200. This extraordinary reorganization of the human family is what is being addressed in this international stage. The documents that run through the stage takes different pieces of the world; Pacem in Terris looks at human rights and international security; Populorum Progressio of Paul VI looks at the international political economy, and then with the teaching of JPII in Solicitudo Rei Socialis and Centesimus Annus, the Pope is addressing the most recent stage of the collapse of the Cold War and the emergence of a world free of what he called the “logic of the blocks” but a world that is immensely complicated to organize. In this journey, from Pius XII to JP II, what you see is the mind of the Church grow, pushed on by events we take traditional ideas we expand them and enrich them so that they can encompass the challenge that we face.
In 1961, John XXIII in Mater et Magistra talks about the international common good. The notion of the common good is ancient in Catholic teaching, reaching back to the middle Ages, but the notion that there is a common good of nations that must be reconciled with the international common good strikes directly at the question of migration and immigration, along with a multiplicity of other questions. The mind of the Church grows in the face of a growing interdependence in the world. Secondly, in Justice in the World (Justicia en Mundo), from the synod of bishops in 1971, they speak of international social justice. The phrase social justice is rooted in Catholic social teaching, rooted ultimately in Aristotle developed in this century; but the notion of international social justice; how we think about questions like trade relations and the world financial structure, that’s a broader concept than one found in the earlier century.
Thirdly, solidarity; Pius XII had talked about solidarity as an organizing concept of Catholic social teaching; but John Paul II took the idea to whole new level of importance and significance as he described solidarity as the needed virtue in a globalizing world; a needed virtue in order to have a mind and a vision and policies that are adequate to a world changing around us in dramatic fashion.
This social teaching must come to grips with a whole set of other ideas; ideas that are not generated in the Church but ideas that have a great deal to do with the way the world is understood in secular terms, the way that nations and national organizations shape their policies. The moral teachings of the Church must be brought into a kind of dynamic interaction of a number of key categories – categories such as sovereignty, the idea that each nation in a sense acknowledges no higher authority unless we place it in the context of the UN charter; but sovereign states are characterized by their sense of independence. Catholicism recognizes sovereignty as a value, but only a relative value. That’s why when we get to questions of principles by which nations shape their immigration policy, there is a right to a nation to use principles, to set limits, as well as to open opportunities, but we are not going to allow the notion of sovereignty to say that we are simply a set of billiard balls with no relationships among ourselves. We believe in the human community; sovereignty has relative value.
The concept of nationalism, as John Paul II himself has said, is a valuable idea; people are to take pride in their culture, their heritage, their roots, but once again, just as there is no absolute sovereignty, there is no absolute nationalism. It is a limited idea, a limited good that must be put in the context of larger needs.
Security, nations need security. Certainly, as has been indicated already, the post-9/11 events bring home to even the most powerful nation in the world that there is no such thing as absolute security. And so, nations will pursue security in a variety of ways, but it must be pursued within the framework of those moral categories about human dignity, human rights and the unity of the human family.
Finally, there is such a thing as a national interest – every nation has one. Once again, they are basic values that can be articulated. But they cannot have absolute significance; they must yield to the needs of others, they must be correlated with the needs of the international community.
So we find ourselves with a vision; where there is no vision, people perish. That vision is rooted in the social teaching. That teaching has to be both internalized and then related to a set of other ideas; because the world doesn’t function only on Catholic ideas or even only moral ideas. The moral must be brought into play with the empirical facts of world affairs.
That is why I want to argue that what we gather here for tonight is both rooted in the social teaching and also shaped by the secular events of world politics. So let us turn to some of those characteristics – rooted in some of the ideas I have just talked about.
At the beginning of the century, the way the social teaching was often talked about was a response to the Social Question. It was Paul VI in 1967 in Progressio Populurum, in the development of the international dimension of the Church’s teaching, who said the Social Question is now world-wide; it’s not limited or confined to any single nation. John Paul II himself has commented on this theme, arguing that we have to think about both the national Social Question and the international Social Question. One does not absorb the other but the larger Social Question sets the framework for how nations are to think about their responsibilities to others.
The purpose of the Church’s social teaching in this second stage, the international stage is to shape norms, ideas, principles, rules, that try to shape the complex interaction that we call world affairs or world politics. My colleagues, who teach international relations, often refer to the world from a secular point of view as a “world of anarchy.” By that they do not mean constant kind of confusion, they mean anarchy; meaning that there is no central political authority to which all nations think of themselves as in submission. We have that political authority within nations – we have a political center of authority, we have laws that govern our society, and we have a certain consensus of values by which people shape laws and policy. In the international arena, anarchy means that there is no single center of political authority; secondly that laws exist but are fragile, and that consensus of values is still emerging by which we will shape our life.
In that framework, the Church’s social teaching seeks to provide not empirical insight, but moral vision and ideas by which you can shape a world that may be anarchic in its empirical characteristics but, once again, is a world of a single human community how ever difficult it is to bring that sense of a single community to visibility in daily life.
As the Church has tried to shape empirical realties in international affairs, the journey of this 2nd stage of the social teaching - from 1940 on to our own time - might be described as a journey from interdependence to globalization. The term “interdependence” appears first in the social teaching with John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra. By that time the growing linkages among sovereign states were already deepening and broadening. As we look at them from today’s perspective, they were not nearly as deep and as broad as the world we know today - the world described as globalization - but the journey of the last 50 to 60 years has been a journey from interdependence to globalization. Once again, it is a world rooted in the notion of sovereign states but never contained within sovereign states. I have said there are limits to sovereignty from the moral order, but it is also absolutely clear, in any empirical analysis of the world today, that no single state can live in isolation from the rest of the world; no matter how powerful it is, no matter how rich it is, we are part of a fabric of relationships that run through every nation of the world. The sovereign state still exists but it is a porous reality. The moral challenge to sovereignty, even in secular discourse, is set by human rights. The emergence of human rights in the UN system meant that the old notion that what a government did within its boundaries was the business of that government alone and no one else had a right or a duty to do anything about it; that has now come under the most severe challenge. We have made progress on the notion that sovereignty is relative because human rights are absolute.
Secondly, there is not only the moral challenge to sovereign states; there is the material challenge to sovereign states. The journey from interdependence to globalization is a constant process of the integration of various national economies; tied together by relationships and treaties, but tied together by a multiplicity of organizations called trans-national actors that act across state boundaries. Trans-national actors are based in one place, present in several places, have a trained core of personnel, a single guiding philosophy, and a sophisticated communication system. That’s the IMF, Philips Petroleum and the Jesuits – all have the capacity to function across national boundaries in an integrated, interdependent world.
Globalization takes interdependence to a new level. It is sometimes called integration of nations and peoples faster, farther and deeper. Now integration here is a complex term, it sounds universally positive. Globalization is more complicated. It has positive possibilities and can have negative possibilities. And both of them can affect immigrants, migrants and the world as we know it. In fact, globalization, deepening interdependence, deepening interaction in the political, economic and even cultural range among nations, globalization is not to be treated as a force of nature; that is to say that it cannot be shaped at all – like a hurricane, a force of nature. Globalization is not a force of nature, it is a human creation and it can be given a humane shape. But that is a work that must be undertaken. My way of thinking about globalization is that it has its own logic; it does not have its own ethic. In that sense it’s like technology; modern technology is interested in crossing the next boundary, making the next discovery, producing the next product. But there is a way in which you have to stop every now and ask, is the next step a good step; is the next step the one we want to take; what are its consequences, what are its costs as well as its benefits. Globalization has its own logic but not its own ethic. When the Church seeks to shape the fabric of the relationships among nations and world affairs, it seeks to provide an ethic for a world of sovereign states and globalizing forces. All of this bears directly on refugees, migrants, immigrants, asylum seekers; the forces of both sovereignty and globalization create refugees; the forces of sovereignty and globalization invite people to move, at times, to enhance their well-being, to meet demands that arise in their personal lives. And so these kinds of impersonal forces that cut across the world, that the social teaching tries to shape, they stand behind the daily stories that you confront every day and seek to minister to. The function of the social teaching is to help us have a sense of the whole, the wider moral goal that we should be seeking and the factual reality that confronts us in the world. Think of the uses of state power and how they bear upon the lives of migrants, immigrants, and asylum seekers. State power can be used particularly as an instrument of force and war. Its persistence in a globalized world is one of the reasons that people undergo forced migration. Think of World War II and the refugees created from that; institutions in the Catholic Bishops Conference were created, like Catholic Relief Services, to respond to the refugees of World War II. Think of the Cold War where there was flight from repression within authoritarian regimes, and were there were refugees created by interventions of both superpowers as they played out what the Pope calls “the logic of the Block.” You can trace in American foreign policy the wars we fought and the refugees in this country; Vietnam in the 70s, Central America in the 80s and then on into the 90s; this is part of the phenomenon of that causes forced migration.
Secondly, state power can be used not only in war but also as an instrument of oppression; authoritarian rule creates once again forced migration. And it can come from east and west, north and south.
Finally the phenomenon of poverty in a globalizing world; as I said globalization and interdependence offer extraordinary opportunities for organizing the resources of science, technology and economic knowledge to produce goods for the welfare of the whole human family. But that does not happen automatically and it does not happen easily; and it, as yet, is not where it ought to be. So poverty also is a pre-dominant cause of sources of movements of people, precisely because larger forces of the world are not appropriately structured, governed, created, institutionalized in order that the dignity and the human rights of each person can be recognized.
We stand therefore at the matrix between our vision of what the world ought to be and a knowledge of what the world is. We stand, in this country, as a Church in a nation whose decisions, for good or ill, have enormous impact on the rest of the world. And we stand in a country that has a heritage of welcoming the stranger, but, as you have already heard tonight, once again, it is no sure thing any longer that the heritage will simply be continued.
Where there is no vision, people perish. Where there is vision, we have to work at shaping those forces in our own society that make the difference between whether there are more refugees in the world or less, and how they are received here.
This of course, is a Church that has described itself, and been described, as an “immigrant” Church; that refers to a history that reaches back to the 19th century. But I like to say that a description of this Church as either immigrant or as sometimes described “post-immigrant”; neither of those fit adequately. We are both a “post-immigrant” Church and a “newly-immigrant” Church. The “post-immigrant” phenomenon is evident in this country; Catholics, whose ancestors came here from the middle of the 19th century into the middle of the 20th, now sit in every major profession in this country; they sit in every major institution of this country. Catholics are now at the center of American life. That means post-immigrant. But that is no longer the whole story; we are a newly immigrant church. The immigrants now don’t come from Northern Europe or Southern and Eastern Europe so much; they come from Asia, Latin Am. Cent Am, and more recently the Balkans and Africa. And we, therefore, are now a Church that is both at the center of American life and back out at the edge again. We are a “center-edged” church. There are few institutions in this country that sit at these two places; at the center of the life of the country but also edge of the society where new members of this society are welcomed.
That is not just an interesting fact; it is a fact with potential. People at the center of the society often do not know people at the edge; people at the edge have few contacts with the center. A Church that is a “center-edged” Church cannot be two Churches. Where there is no vision, people perish. It is necessary that there be one, encompassing vision that meets the possibility of this Church. As we think about that possibility, it is a mix of both our policy capability and our pastoral response. There are large decisions that have been referred to tonight; decisions made in the last decade that prejudice the possibility of immigrants finding a welcome here. They are in law and some of them need to be changed; others need to be shaped anew. The policy possibility of the Church is simply an extension of the pastoral response to migrants, immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.