Last month, The Evangelist published a story from Catholic News Service on its Facebook page pointing out that the Gospel reading for July 14, the day that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was to carry out deportation orders for some immigrants, was the parable of the good Samaritan. 

The article included a quote from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said, “All who are at or within our borders should be treated with compassion and dignity.” Cardinal DiNardo added, “Beyond that, a just solution to this humanitarian crisis should focus on addressing the root causes that compel families to flee and enacting a humane reform of our immigration system.”

From the responses posted on the Facebook page of The Evangelist, this was not a popular position. For example, one person wrote, “It disgusts me that our lawmakers are now encouraging people to break the law. Even giving them instructions on how to do it.” 

Another said, “Catholics are being turned off by the liberal commentary of The Evangelist.” 

You get the point.

What each of these commentators missed was the scriptural basis for the Bishops’ positions. As we read in the Book of Leviticus, “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself ...” (Lv 19:33-34).

More than 100 years ago, Pope Leo XIII issued the first great encyclical on social justice, Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor).?In it, he developed a systematic presentation of principles of the rights and responsibilities of people, including immigrants.

The point is that the Church’s position on immigration is neither new nor partisan; rather, it is based on our Holy Scriptures and the teachings of our Popes.

The issue may divide Americans along partisan lines, but our Church is not the one that has done that. As Pope Francis wrote three years ago in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, “Public opinion also needs to be correctly formed, not least to prevent unwarranted fears and speculations detrimental to migrants.”

Today, public opinion is too often being formed by people who want to use the issue for their own political ends, regardless of the effects that their positions might have on the health of the immigrants.  

As Catholics, we must resist the forces of fear and racism so that we can welcome the stranger. This does not mean open borders. Our Church teaches that every nation has a right to regulate its bor­ders.?The Church also teaches that people have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families. The challenge is how to balance those two competing rights.

It is perfectly acceptable to be political when trying to solve these issues; that is how we deal with matters of public policy in the United States. It is why the Church recognizes that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed con­science.

However, the Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one focused on the dignity of every person, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.

We should not let our partisan views blind us to either our moral convictions or religious responsibilities.