Why the Church loves immigrants Print
Thursday, Sep. 21, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

Some people seem to feel the Catholic Church’s love of immigrants comes from a selfish point of view.

This opinion came to light in an interview airing on September 10 on the CBS-TV program 60 Minutes. Steve Bannon, former White  House chief strategist for President Donald Trump and now executive chairman of Breitbart News, said on the program that the Catholic bishops of the United States have “an economic interest in illegal immigration” as “they need illegal aliens to fill the pews.”

I beg to disagree. The Catholic Church’s love of immigrants is certainly not based on an economic interest. It is true that many immigrants do contribute of their time, talent, and treasure to Catholic parishes. But many of them start out living in poverty, and it may take years for them to be able to give anything back to the Church as they get settled in their communities here.

An immigrant Church

Bannon (who apparently is Catholic) seems to have forgotten that the Catholic Church in the United States is essentially an immigrant Church. It has a long history, the U.S. bishops point out on their website (, “of embracing diverse newcomers and providing assistance and pastoral care to immigrants, migrants, refugees, and people on the move.”

Our Church has indeed responded to Christ’s call to “welcome the stranger among us.”

I myself come from generations of immigrants from Ireland, Belgium, and Germany. They — like immigrants today — came to America to seek a better life. They did not have much money, but they worked hard and became citizens of their new country.

They kept their Catholic faith alive, building Catholic churches and schools. My ancestors emphasized the importance of education; many of their descendents went into respected professions.

Welcoming immigrants today

Today, the bishops of our country continue to call upon all Catholics to welcome our immigrant brothers and sisters into our parishes, schools, and communities. Many of our parishes offer outreach to Hispanics, including Masses in Spanish.

Places like the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison provide services such as free English as a Second Language classes, beginning Spanish classes, and citizenship classes.

In their document Welcoming the Stranger among Us: Unity in Diversity (November 15, 2000), the U.S. Catholic bishops said, “We bishops commit ourselves and all the members of our church communities to continue the work of advocacy for laws that respect the human rights of immigrants and preserve the unity of the immigrant family.”

As Catholics, we should join with our bishops in welcoming immigrants and supporting efforts to respect their human rights and oppose measures that demean them.