Social media can be hard to assess sometimes, but it seems that Brandon McGinley’s latest piece for First Things, “Catholics Must Resist Ethno-Nationalism,” is generating some buzz (both positive and negative). Most of what McGinley has to say is pretty straightforward. For a good long while, Catholics in America were marginalized for religious and racial reasons; now (white?) Catholics are firmly a part of mainstream American life; and today that means (white?) Catholics have to contend with the racialist nature of contemporary American politics (or, rather, contemporary American conservative politics). Where people seem to take umbrage with McGinley concerns his strongly implied position that Americans (particularly American Catholics) should not support policies which exclude persons based on race or ethnicity. (What about religious background?)
On a certain level, McGinley is right. As I wrote about in my two recent posts regarding the so-called “alt-right movement” (see here and here), racism has no place in authentic Catholic social teaching or politics. A well-ordered society will not discriminate arbitrarily between its citizens, nor will it ignore concrete injustices being inflicted upon particular classes of persons (however defined). That does not mean that a well-ordered society cannot or should not exercise prudence when it comes to the status, rights, and opportunities of non-citizens, particularly if they pose a legitimate threat to public order. And this is where things start to get messy. For while it is no doubt true that some Americans who want to place stricter regulations on immigration (temporary or permanent) are animated by good old-fashioned redneck-style racism, that’s hardly true across the board. Americans — including American Catholics — have a genuine fear that increased Muslim immigration to the United States, Canada, and Western Europe poses a serious security threat which cannot be dismissed with guffawing and some finger wagging. Moreover, while the Catholic Church teaches that we are called to show charity toward all peoples, including refugees fleeing violence or other horrors, it does not state that such persons are to automatically enjoy all of the rights and privileges of citizenship. Under ideal circumstances, refugees should return to their native lands when the opportunity permits. If permanent residency is to be extended to them, that decision must be made with an eye toward the common good.
Where McGinley loses me is toward the end of his article where he seems to justify open-armed acceptance of all with the argument that American Catholics will soon find themselves on the margins of American life. While I agree with McGinley that American Catholics will find themselves increasingly pushed to the sidelines (if not cast out like lepers), I cannot wrap my head around the idea that letting in more people to the United States who profess a false religion which harbors murderous hatred for Christ and His Church is going to improve our situation. If anything, we should be pushing for looser immigration policies for those coming from historically Catholic countries (e.g., Mexico), along with opening our borders to persecuted Christian populations in the Middle East, a number of whom are Catholic (e.g., Chaldeans, Melkites, and Maronites). To hell with “American values” and “our nation’s history.” As faithful Catholics, it is not our duty to appeal to secular-liberal conceptions of tolerance or buy into fanciful ideas of “brotherhood” that have nothing to do with what the Church magisterially teaches. Our duty is to Christ the King and the conversion of society to His rule. Racism can have no part in that, of course, but neither can squishy platitudes.