December 11, 2013
Pope Francis was just named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for, among other things, “pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets.”
There is plenty of debate both inside and outside of the Catholic Church about just how much change Pope Francis actually represents. Is he a revolutionary, altering and challenging Church doctrine, or is he simply shifting the Church’s emphasis and messaging? Perhaps, this new emphasis is itself a meaningfully radical shift.
It is a reasonable and nuanced debate. Certainly, social justice and love for the neediest has long been a central part of the Church’s teaching. However, for Francis it seems to be the organizing principle for all of his public actions and remarks. This includes his remarks (and Tweets!) on immigration.
We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants. God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) July 8, 2013
Because immigration is such a politically charged subject in the United States, we spend a lot of time on this blog promoting the fact that immigration provides a clear economic benefit to native U.S. workers, and to the U.S. economy as a whole. The Pope’s comments should remind us of another fact: immigration is one of the best tools we have for increasing social justice worldwide.
Some parts of the world are ruled by dictators or criminal organizations, are racked by civil war, or are destabilized by outside influences. Some countries are inhospitable to gays, or women, or ethnic and religious minorities. Many hundreds of millions of people live in such places, and most of them will never be able to leave. But some people can and do leave these situations, and many more would choose to do so if they had a hospitable, free, and prosperous country welcoming their arrival.
The United States can be that welcoming country. We have – through determined effort, with considerable luck, and at great cost – developed durable political institutions, a highly functioning consumer economy, modern healthcare services, and a broad commitment to personal liberty and equality. The Pope reminds us that welcoming immigrants and allowing them to experience these benefits of American progress is a profoundly moral thing to do.