Pope Francis’s moralising on immigration discredits the church

African nations are characterised by persistent ‘injustice’ so European countries must open their borders to Africans, whose circumstances often ‘force’ them to migrate, Pope Francis has said in his Christmas message.

At no point does Francis acknowledge the complexity of questions around immigration and the issues the recent mass migratory movements from Africa and elsewhere cause for countries. He doesn’t acknowledge the challenges nations face of housing so many newcomers, and the pressure on public services, infrastructure and jobs. He doesn’t mention the huge impact an influx of largely poorer newcomers has on the poor of a country in particular and their communities and neighbourhoods. He doesn’t make any allowance for the challenges for the culture, traditions and identity of a nation when its ethnic minority populations grow quickly and integration is weak. Neither does he show awareness of the impact on migrants’ countries of origin when their young and most energetic citizens emigrate in large numbers to richer countries, rather than stay and be part of the solution to their countries’ problems. He rightly shows great concern for those who perish on the journey,  but gives no recognition that it is partly the lack of adequate border security that drives the deadly market in illegal transportation of people.

The Pope’s understanding of immigration appears to be very one dimensional, evincing no grasp of the many and complex issues that affect a responsible country’s approach to the issue. It is overly moralistic in its approach to what is a very political issue, focusing exclusively on individuals and their plight, apparently assuming all who emigrate have no real choice in the matter, and failing to locate issues of immigration in their wider context of the history and destiny of nations.

At this point in time we need nuanced interventions from church leaders on an issue of great concern for the public. We don’t need simplistic moralising that shows no understanding of why nations and peoples might want to control and limit immigration, and why it might be reasonable and fair for them to do so.

5 thoughts on “Pope Francis’s moralising on immigration discredits the church

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  1. I believe Pope Francis was simply drawing our attention to the needs and plight of these vulnerable people through the eyes of Christ without nuances , without the understandable political perspective that might otherwise obstruct simple and straightforward expression of love and compassion. In perhaps challenging us to replicate the action of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son who overlooked all in favour of expressing His love. Challenged we may be to look at all the angles, but challenged more to respond to Gods call not to be afraid but place our trust in Him.

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  2. Good one!

    There needs to be a lot more attention given to the varied circumstantial composition of “all who immigrate”, without implying that all are refugees of some kind.

    Ian

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  3. Jesus calls his individual followers to personal lives of self-sacrificing love, but a national government has to care for all its citizens: religious, anti-religious, rich, poor, secure, vulnerable, healthy and sick. It is irresponsible and therefore un-Christian to take a personal, sacrificial way of life and turn it unaltered into government policy.

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    1. I was not presuming to impose a life of self sacrifice, unaltered into government policy. Nor I believe was the Pope offering a solution, but simply and gently reminding we Christians of rising to meet the call to follow Christ’s example in serving those who for whatever reason are marginalised, with dignity and kindness, and as the Pope said, “thank the Lord for all those who have decided not to remain indifferent and do their utmost to help the victim, without asking too many questions about how or why the poor half-dead person wound up on their street,” and indicating that, “It is not by blocking their boats that the problem is solved.”
      I don’t believe Pope Francis presumed to offer a solution to the root cause, but challenged us not to be indifferent, or find reasons (which are plentiful, and all with rational justification) why we should not offer sanctuary to these poor people.

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      1. Hi Damian,
        I agree that a follower of Christ should show compassion to anyone who needs it, without questioning, but the Pope’s message seems to go wider than that. If a state decides that “blocking their boats” is the only way to dissuade people from starting their journeys in the first place, and if you lobby to reverse that policy, then indeed you are not “imposing” a self-sacrificial way of life on a government, but are you not trying to persuade a state to commit slow suicide? Would it not be better to lobby for a government to act to improve conditions at the migrant’s points of origin, even if that leads to accusations of neo-colonialism?

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