Until today I had never read a single word penned by Bret Stephens, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Wall Street Journal who caught some eyes with his recent opinion piece, “In Defense of Christendom.” It’s a mixed bag, reminiscent of George Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral and any number of other dystopian takes on Europe’s future. Arguably, Stephens isn’t all that interested in preserving European Christendom so much as he—like many others—is worried about the tidal wave of Muslim immigrants that has hit the Continent in recent months. Better the Cross than the Koran, I suppose. Some have taken umbrage with Stephens’s piece, including Artur Rosman, a pedestrian Patheos blogger emblematic of that site’s intellectual vapidity. Rosman’s main beef with Stephens concerns the latter’s brief reliance on Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Without Roots to advance the thesis that Europe has lost its sense of self. According to Rosman, Stephens “proof-texted” from the former pontiff’s words because he failed to take into account Benedict’s positive appraisal of multiculturalism. So what? As we’ve come to see over the last two years, popes aren’t always right, especially when speaking outside of a magisterial context.
The immigration crisis in Europe is, to put it mildly, messy. Rosman believes that basic Christian hospitality ought to guide the European Union’s (EU) hand, though he fails to clarify why. States have a duty first and foremost to their own citizens, which cannot be separated from their duty to the true religion. Although the world is now bereft of any authentically Catholic state, that does not mean the nations of the world have a right to religious indifferentism. Although some of the refugees pouring into Europe are Christian, most are not. As such, it behooves the EU, or any individual state, to balance charity with its first-order obligations. If mass Muslim migration to Europe threatens the rights of the Church and Christ the King—and there is good reason to suspect it does—then a blind “open door policy” would not only be imprudent, but contrary to right order as well.
None of this is to say that Muslims should be automatically excluded from finding safe haven in Europe or any other Western country. As Pope Pius XII taught, immigration is a right and the goods of the earth belong to all peoples. However, states are still entitled to take measures to maintain social order and to defend themselves from existential threats, external as well as internal. Should the ongoing violence in the Middle East come to a close, there is no reason why the EU or any state which has taken in Muslim immigrants shouldn’t request them to return if the common good demands it.
But let’s not forget what is often at the heart of many states’ immigration policies, and it has nothing to do with either charity or justice. It’s greed. Immigrants are a useful source of cheap labor which can keep bloated social programs running and white retirees happy. Capitalist greed, not Christian ethics, drive state-level decisions on who to let in, when, and under what conditions. And in the case of Europe, that greed may very well be the EU’s undoing as it trades off short-term maintenance of its economic ordo for civilizational surrender.