We’d often run errands on the way home from school when I was a little girl. That meant we’d be spending the afternoon in red plaid jumpers. And if we got into mischief while our mother was shopping, she’d pull us aside and sternly remind us that we were wearing our uniforms and had to behave. She’d tell us that everyone who saw us could see that we were Catholic and that we were representatives of our school and our faith. That people would form opinions about all Catholic children based on our behavior.
You know how you grow up and have kids and hear your mother’s words come out of your own mouth? Sometimes that’s not a good thing, but I don’t regret repeating the same warning to my children when we were out in public and they were in uniform. In heavily Protestant East Tennessee, where Catholics number only two percent of the population and prejudice and misunderstandings still exist, the way visibly Catholic people behave in public makes an impression.
You know where else it makes an impression? On social media. I don’t wear a red plaid jumper any more, but I have made myself very visibly Catholic on Facebook and elsewhere. Not just because people who know me in real life know that I am Catholic, but because I often write on Catholic topics and (try to) explain Catholic doctrine.
On Friday thousands of Catholics marched for life. They boldly and publicly proclaimed the counter-cultural truth that unborn life is sacred and deserves legal protection. They were cheered on by supportive Facebook posts from other Catholics who could not attend.
The following day many of those same Catholics expressed support for the Executive Order signed by the President which will result in great human suffering by preventing refugees and migrants from entering this country: men, women, children, and yes, the unborn, all our brothers and made in God’s image. All part of one human family.
From the Catechism, 2241: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.”
Pope Francis has said: “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help . . . If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”
The USCCB just released a statement which reads in part: “We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope.”
Matthew 25:35 is just one of many Bible verses that speak to our Christian duty to refugees and migrants: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
I am a bad Catholic. I am as sinful as anyone. But I try to be an obedient Catholic, and I welcome and accept the guidance of the Church in all matters. As I try hard to avoid scandal by never publicly proclaiming dissent from anything the Church holds to be true, I will also not remain silent in the face of this offense against our vulnerable brothers and sisters. I will not let my actions confirm the unfortunate impression many people have formed that Catholics must be Republicans or Conservatives, or are only pro-life when it comes to the unborn.
I reject this Executive Order. I welcome the stranger. Not because I am a Liberal or a Democrat. Because I am a Catholic, and I am in uniform.