By Archbishop Jose H. Gomez (Our Sunday Visitor, 2013)
As chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez has been one of the country’s leading advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. In his concise new book, Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation, Gomez appeals to American history and ideals as well as to scripture, Catholic social teaching, and American Catholic history in issuing a personal and pastoral plea to reluctant U.S. Catholics to get to know the neighbors too many of them despise as “illegals.”
Gomez has his work cut out for him. He does a great service in providing what he calls the “missing pages” in the prevailing narrative of American history and in reminding today’s hostile Catholics of their ancestors’ own painful encounters with anti-immigrant nativism. “If we knew them,” Gomez writes about today’s undocumented immigrants, “we would know that they are a lot like our ancestors were. . . . I believe the more we get to know them, the more we will want them to be our neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens.” He notes that even the early Christians had to be admonished to “practice hospitality ungrudgingly” (1 Pet. 4:9).
Gomez is at his best when he distills basic principles and concerns of Catholic social teaching on immigration. However, in an apparent nod to pro-life critics of the church’s social justice advocacy, he unfortunately undermines his own argument by contrasting the “clear and unquestionable . . . moral obligations” of Catholics on “abortion or the defense of the family” with immigration, on which, he says, “there is no single authentic ‘Catholic position.’ ”
Despite this weakness, the book makes a strong case for the church’s advocacy for immigrants and would make a great Christmas gift, especially for those “reluctant” Catholics in your life.
This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 11, page 43).