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Bush Doesn't Understand Real Catholic Values
Paul Corrigan

15 July 2001

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops passed a resolution in June calling upon national leaders to strengthen U.S. leadership in global refugee protection. The bishops spoke eloquently about the plight of refugees and illegal aliens. The resolution stated, "As a nation rich in material blessings, we have a moral obligation to assist and protect one of the most vulnerable of populations, the refugees." How does that jibe with a $1.35 trillion tax cut and a redistribution of wealth to the richest Americans? In passing this resolution at this time, the bishops have pressured the Bush administration to put the compassion that it promised into its conservatism.

The bishops speak to two constituencies that Republicans need to capture if they are to maintain their majority in the House of Representatives in 2002 and if George W. Bush is to win reelection in 2004, Catholics and Hispanics. They also speak to Asians and other ethnic minorities that care deeply about refugee and immigration issues. Despite their rhetoric about freedom and compassion, Republicans have led the way in establishing roadblocks to refugees coming to America. Noting that Jesus was a refugee, who fled to Egypt, the bishops place a modern day political question in both biblical and moral perspective.

The bishops' resolution is a virtual indictment of U. S. policy. The number of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide has increased dramatically, from eight million in 1981 to more than fourteen million in 2001. According to the resolution, eighty percent are women and children. The bishops point out that since 1992, refugee admissions into the United States have dropped by forty-two percent. Its hard to imagine Bush improving on the dismal Clinton administration record without Democrats in Congress taking a strong and active role in reversing these trends.

The Catholic Church in the United States is an enigma to many, with its good works receiving little mention in the press. Despite the legions that work with the poor, the media have in recent years concentrated on the stars, Pope John Paul II and Cardinals like O'Connor and Law. The left has often concentrated on the reactionary elements in the Catholic Church and the dogma that subjugates woman and other minorities while attacking "liberation theology." This emphasis hides the important work being done to sustain the lives of the least fortunate among us. More thoughtful writers include James Carroll, an op-ed contributor to the Boston Globe. In fact, the Catholic Church provides refugee and immigration services through a number of organizations including the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Catholic Conference, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, and through its local dioceses and parishes. Assistance is provided across a wide spectrum and includes housing, meals, resettlement, legal, and other essential services.

In addition to the important work done providing services, the bishops have shown a keen social awareness and an ability to place the problem in a broader perspective. The bishops challenge all of us to assess our values and to implement policies worthy of a great nation:

Most importantly, our nation and the international community should seek solutions to the root causes of population movements. Without continued initiatives toward conflict resolution and sustainable development in regions of instability, refugees and asylum seekers inevitably shall become a permanent part of the global landscape. Only through long-term efforts to share world resources more fairly and to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law standards will the world significantly reduce the number of persons who flee persecution in their homelands.

Don't hold your breath waiting for such a policy to come out of a Bush White House. Bush appears to believe that he can win the Catholic vote by supporting vouchers, threatening abortion rights, and pinning medals on dead cardinals. Bush doesn't understand real Catholic values.

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