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Fr Frank Pavone: Of Visas, Walls, and the Right to Life

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The human rights of immigrants are important, but as with all rights, they are meaningless without the right to life

Does Catholic teaching permit you to favor building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border?  Yes. Does Catholic teaching permit you to oppose building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border?  Yes Does Catholic teaching permit you to favor keeping abortion legal?  No.  Absolutely not. Abortion is not - one of many issues.  It is not of equal importance with visa restrictions, sanctuary cities, or the resettlement of refugees, as serious as those matters are.  It is fundamental.  Without life, there are no other questions to consider.

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Fr Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life

Fr Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life

STATEN ISLAND, NY (Catholic Online) -

Does Catholic teaching permit you to favor building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border? 

Yes.

Does Catholic teaching permit you to oppose building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border? 

Yes

Does Catholic teaching permit you to favor keeping abortion legal? 

No.  Absolutely not.

There has been a great national debate lately about immigration, both legal and illegal.  We have discussed the entry into the United States of refugees from war torn regions of the Middle East, the restriction of travel to and from countries that are known to be breeding grounds for terrorists, even the policies of American cities that refuse to enforce immigration laws.

From a Catholic standpoint, all of this debate is healthy, so long as we do not lose sight of basic principles of justice.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration and the Movement of Peoples, people have a right to migrate, a country has the right to regulate its borders and control immigration, and a country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy.

Obviously, the first two principles - a persons right to migrate and - the right of a country to control its borders - come into conflict with one another.  That is where justice and mercy enter the picture.  Policies can be debated within this framework.

There is no debate from a Catholic standpoint, however, about whether abortion should be legal.  That is because while all lives are of equal value, all rights are not.  According to millennia-old Catholic teaching, not only is the right to life inviolable and the intentional taking of innocent human lives always and everywhere wrong, the right to life is also paramount.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the Declaration on Procured Abortion states,

The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is - fundamental - the condition of all the others. Hence it must be protected above all others.... It is not recognition by another that constitutes this right. This right is antecedent to its recognition; it demands recognition and it is strictly unjust to refuse it.

Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life),

It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop....Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.

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In short, the human rights of immigrants are important, but as with all rights, they are meaningless without the right to life.  As such, we must not lose sight of our priorities.

The plight of immigrants is real and it is before our eyes.  We see the horrendous videos released by terror groups, we read the stories of people being forced to leave their homes to escape persecution and even death.  The images of widows and orphans are heart wrenching.

But we do not see the daily decapitation of 3,000 American preborn babies in their mothers wombs.  The nightly news does not cover their deaths or even acknowledge their humanity.  The children affected by these events are not left homeless or parentless, they are left dead, their broken bodies sent to landfills.

When discussing public policy, then, we must certainly deal with a wide variety of issues.  Justice and mercy are principles that affect nearly all aspects of law, especially with regard to immigration and abortion.  But let us be clear, as Catholics we have unambiguous and specific instruction as to which of these matters is preeminent. 

Abortion is not - one of many issues.  It is not of equal importance with visa restrictions, sanctuary cities, or the resettlement of refugees, as serious as those matters are.  It is fundamental.  Without life, there are no other questions to consider.

As Catholics, then, we can debate whether justice and mercy are served by building a border wall.  The immigrant seeking a better life must be considered, as must the families whose children are enslaved by the drugs carried into our country every day. 

But abortion policy is uniquely critical. 

We can be good Catholics and hold differing views on immigration.  We cannot say, however, that immigration or any other question is our most pressing issue when a million tiny, helpless humans are being slaughtered every year in our own land.  Let us keep our priorities in order.

First, protect the babies.

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Fr Frank Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life.

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