Statement on Refugee Children Separated from Families at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Who among us was not moved by the crying and pleading of refugee children whom our government has separated from their families? In quoting Sacred Scripture, the attorney general of the United States forgot the most important—and relevant—of Jesus’s teachings: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me … When were you a stranger and we did not take you in? … As long as you did not do it for one of these least brothers and sister of mine, you did not do it for me.” (Matthew 25:35-45) We believe this teaching is not optional for the faithful Christian.

The Christian community is reminded of this each year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Shortly afterward, the Holy Family crossed the border into Egypt to plea for asylum in a foreign country because Mary and Joseph feared for the safety of their child. Today, we would consider them refugees.

Catholics must not succumb to the populist message of the day: “… they are breaking the law … we must protect our borders … without borders we don’t have a country … why do these parents risk their children’s lives by doing this?”

What parent among us would not do the same? As Cardinal Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, says: This is the dignity we Catholics defend when we work to protect the unborn. It is the dignity Jesus Christ called us to uphold by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and, yes, welcoming the stranger. It is the dignity that inheres regardless of one’s nation of origin. It is not forfeited once one crosses another nation’s border, whether to seek refuge from domestic or gang violence or persecution, or to work for a better life for one’s family.

We urge all Catholics to open their hearts and minds to hear the cries of their brothers and sisters, and the pleas of Pope Francis and our bishops.

We urge all Catholics to inform themselves and speak the truth to their elected officials by direct contact.

We urge all Catholics to vote for senators and representatives who share the ideals and values found in the message of Jesus.

Failure to do so makes us complicit in this national sin against the right to life and the abuse of children. To quote Cardinal Cupich again: There is nothing remotely Christian, American, or morally defensible about a policy that takes children away from their parents and warehouses them in cages. This is being carried out in our name and the shame is on us all.