May 02, 2019

A Chaplain’s Thoughts: Immigrants are Our Sisters and Brothers

By Rev. James F. Quigley, O.P. ’60
Associate Chaplain
PC National Alumni Association

Rev. James F. Quigley, O.P. ’60
Rev. James F. Quigley, O.P.

There is much discussion today about immigrants in many parts of Europe, Central America, and in our own country. It is not a new issue and involves questions of law, economics, security, health, crime, violence, and partisan politics.

It is also very much a theological issue, and at times what is forgotten in brutal, hostile rhetoric and in policies are compassion and mercy. Bishop Daniel Flores from Brownsville, Texas, a brilliant Thomistic thinker, writes:

“We pray for our nation and her leaders, that good conscience and sound judgment open to the call of human compassion might guide us in finding humane ways to address the suffering of the immigrant poor. The immigrant, as immigrant, is not an enemy. To be an immigrant does not make one automatically a criminal to be locked up, either individually or as a family unit.

“Yes, there are lawless elements among immigrants, but surely we can find ways of distinguishing between criminals that cause people to flee, and those innocents who are fleeing because of those very criminals.” (cf. Rio Grande Guardian)

Compassion is a virtue. It is a feeling for the pain and suffering of another. At the same time it is an act of the will; it is action done to alleviate the suffering of another. St. Thomas Aquinas would tell us that a compassionate woman or man is charitable.

But it is also an action of justice. We owe it to brothers and sisters to care about them. As Bishop Flores says, immigrants are not enemies. We can feel for their situation, do whatever we can to help, and we can pray for these women, men, and children.

Why not? We’re Catholics, and that is what we do, isn’t it?