CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

Print Version    Email to Friend
United States bishops protest maltreatment of refugee children

WASHINGTON (CNS): From Denver to New York City, the Catholic bishops of the United States (US) have joined a chorus of organisations, institutions and high-profile individuals urging the administration of the president, Donald Trump, to stop separating children from their parents as they seek respite in the US from dire conditions in their home countries, largely in Central America.
 
None have been more outspoken, however, than the bishops with dioceses on or near the border between the US and Mexico, where many migrants, adults as well as children, are being held in detention centres in geographic areas where many of the bishops come into contact with affected families.
 
“Refugee children belong to their parents, not to the government or other institutions. To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil,” San Antonio’s Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said via Twitter on June 14.
 
“Their lives have already been extremely difficult. Why do we (the US) torture them even more, treating them as criminals?” he continued.
 
In a June 5 interview with CBS News, attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said, “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them,” meaning they shouldn’t bring them along when trying to cross the border, which many do as they seek asylum. 
 
The furore had already started in late May, but the outrage began in earnest after a June 14 speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when Sessions said the practice of separating families is consistent with the teachings of the Bible because “persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
 
The following day, Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, said on the Cuomo Prime Time with Chris Cuomo on CNN that the quote he used was not the best.
 
“For one, St. Paul always says we should obey the law of the government if that law is in conformity with the Lord’s law, all right? No pun intended but God’s law trumps man’s law, all right?” he said.
 
“And St. Paul himself who gave the quote that the attorney general used, he wouldn’t obey Roman law when it said it was mandatory to worship the emperor,” the cardinal continued. 
 
“He wouldn’t obey that law. I don’t think we should obey a law that goes against what God intends that you would take a baby, a child, from their mom. I mean, that’s just unjust. That’s unbiblical. That’s un-American. There could be no Bible passage that would justify that,” he said.
 
Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, compared Christ’s time as a refugee in the Holy Land to the migrants. 
 
In a June 15 statement, he urged Christians to think about the families fleeing and seeking asylum in the US and what they are going through, saying that what’s at stake “is the fundamental question of being Christian today, of being a person of faith today in our country and on the continent that is suffering an hour of Christ’s passion.”
 
Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez, from Denver, Colorado, said in June 18 statement, that while borders must be protected, the policy of separating families is immoral and urged that it be terminated immediately, saying those being detained are in need of protection.
 
“These children and their parents are often fleeing violence and our country should not add to the inhumanity of their situation,” they said.
 
In mid-June, The Associated Press reported that this year “nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the US border over a six-week period during a crackdown on illegal entries,” according to documents from the Department of Homeland Security, which operates Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

More from this section