March 7, 2008

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Law of love is greatest

David SilerSince Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform last year, states have been scrambling to write their own legislation.

Lawmakers in Indiana have been doing so this legislative session, and I have been saddened to see that the bills put forth for consideration are hostile to immigrants here.

I continue to remain perplexed by the response of many of our citizens, and most perplexed by the hate-filled responses by many Catholics.

Members of The Criterion staff tell me that never has the newspaper received such vicious letters aimed at the Church’s efforts to lead us in a love-filled response to the immigration dilemma.

I sense incredible fear, and I simply cannot figure out the source of this fear. The only conclusion that seems to make any sense is that this is more of racism rearing its ugly head.

Racism is all about separation—looking at what is different about us and using this to separate ourselves from that which is different.

This “separation theology” flies in the face of the Catholic principle of solidarity—that we are all members of the same body of Christ. I am not separate from you, and you are not separate from me. No man-made law can change this principle.

In the immigration “debate,” we have a number of laws converging. I most often hear people cry that immigrants have broken our laws.

It seems to me that when many laws converge, we must look to the greatest of all laws—the law of love.

Should we not ask, “What would love have us do?” Or to borrow a phrase started several years ago, “What would Jesus do?”

My wife, Cathy, and I have five children, and if my own country’s laws, conditions, etc., did not allow me to provide adequately for my family, I would do whatever it takes to provide for them—unless my doing so infringed upon others’ rights. I don’t believe I am unique in this regard.

Immigrants to our country do not infringe upon us, but rather add tremendous value to our country. Our current laws are simply not responsive to our own country’s need for workers nor are they kind to those who desire the life that our country affords.

Catholic Charities’ programs in our archdiocese serve as an example of a loving response. We serve anyone who comes to us in need, regardless of their race, religion, sex or residential status. Our staff and volunteers seek the face of Christ in those they serve, hoping to hear the voice of Jesus say, “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

Our own Indiana bishops wrote a beautiful pastoral letter to our local Church in 2007 that outlines how we can compassionately respond to the law of love with our world’s immigrants.

You can find “I Was a Stranger, and You Welcomed Me: Meeting Christ in New Neighbors” at

I invite you to read this response, and the response of our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at, to make a decision based on love, compassion and the desire for each individual to lead a dignified life.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at †

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