Pope John Paul II and Immigration Law and Policy
Eyster, James Parry, Ave Maria Law Review
The immigration debate in the United States and in other developed countries has proved vitriolic and divisive, one view espousing limited immigration based on a stringent selection process reflecting the interests of the inhabitants and the other advocating a more open border in which the needs and desires of intending immigrants are considered. (1) The debate is fueled by the unlawful presence of millions of foreigners in the United States, as well as by concerns for security from overseas terrorists. (2) Some also point to the risks of entry by terrorists due to porous borders. (3) Conversely, others favor making immigration easier, and giving those here without status the opportunity to obtain work authorization and eventual citizenship. (4) Both sides tend to view immigrants as objects--either as workers or as welfare recipients or criminals. While one side sees a benefit to their presence, the other views them as a burden. Neither side considers immigrants as subjects, with both rights and responsibilities. The Catholic Church has proposed an alternative solution to migration issues, which addresses the immigrant as a subject, through its social teaching, as expressed in encyclical letters, (5) addresses, and other public statements of church leaders. The late Pope John Paul II was a particularly active advocate for this position, calling for respect for the humanity, dignity, and needs of the immigrant, while recognizing the impact on both the community the migrant leaves and the one he enters.
The first secular viewpoint in the immigration debate can be characterized as Communitarian Particularism. (6) As articulated by Michael Walzer, citizens have an absolute right to select who can join them in their nation. (7) This view was first formally espoused in 1889 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the "Chinese Exclusion" cases. (8) The Court held that a nation's right to exclude noncitizens was unlimited, without regard to binding treaties or due process. (9) In fact, from 1924 until 1965, Congress effectively limited immigration to economically sound applicants from Northern Europe. (10)
Those holding the opposing view, Liberal Egalitarianism, as enunciated by John Rawls (11) and enhanced by Bruce Ackerman, (12) would open national borders for all to enter absent a specific reason for exclusion. As Ackerman wrote, "The liberal state is not a private club.... I cannot justify my power to exclude you without destroying my own claim to membership in an ideal liberal state." (13)
The political results of these contrasting views can be seen in the conflicting, recently drafted legislative initiatives in the U.S. Congress: one group seeking to build a fence (14) and criminalize unlawful presence, (15) and the other espousing a guest-worker program and even amnesty. (16)
The Catholic Church, through its presentation of social doctrine, has been resolute in examining the plight of migrants (17) and suggesting responses to the underlying causes of migration. While John Paul II generally based his views on prior Catholic social teaching, the strenuousness of his efforts and the pointed vehemence of his comments leave little doubt that he spoke with sincerity and particular conviction on these matters.
This Article begins with suggested reasons for John Paul II's deep commitment to migration issues, followed by a discussion of those key principles of Catholic social doctrine that provide a foundation for the Catholic approach to migration policy. The Pope's views on migration policy are then examined. I conclude with an analysis of the lasting impact of John Paul II's efforts on the current immigration debate, in the United States and internationally.
I. BASES FOR POPE JOHN PAUL II's VIEWS
Before John Paul II was pope, (18) he was a bishop in a repressive communist country. (19) Before he was a bishop, he was a philosopher, and before he was a philosopher, he was a poet, (20) a playwright, (21) and a laborer in a stone quarry.
In 1939, Nazi occupiers arrested all of the professors at the Jagelonian University, where Karol Wojtyla, who would become Pope John Paul II, was a student. (22) Wojtyla himself was forced to work as a laborer for four years in a quarry and later at a chemical plant. This was dangerous, brutal work. (23) Later, as pope, John Paul II repeatedly spoke of his veneration of work, including hard physical labor. (24) It was one of the bases for his continued insistence on the right of men and women to migrate so that they could find meaningful work. (25)
In addition to his experiences as a quarryman, several other experiences in his youth may have guided John Paul II to take a special interest in the rights of migrants and the causes of migration. (26) Karol grew up in a house owned and occupied by a Jewish family and played on a Jewish soccer team. (27) Throughout his life, Karol Wojtyla showed uncharacteristic concern for those of different faiths and backgrounds. (28) His humanistic education and artistic activities deepened his interest in the details of the real world and sharpened his visual acuity of life's processes.
When the Nazis invaded Poland, it became evident that they would occupy Krakow, where Wojtyla was living with his father. (29) The two of them became refugees along with tens of thousands of other Poles and headed east to avoid the Nazi occupation. (30) They traveled more than ninety miles before they turned back because his father could not handle the journey. (31) Having temporarily been a refugee himself, it is easy to see why John Paul II had a special sympathy for immigrants and refugees.
While Karol Wojtyla's youthful experiences may have influenced his views, one cannot overstate the innate strength of his feeling of self-giving love for others, which manifested itself in his respect for others regardless of their position in life. According to Derek Jeffreys, in his biography of the Pope, John Paul II exhibited a profound self-giving love in his words and in his actions. (32) In one of his writings as Bishop, Wojtyla stated that the gift of self is essential to promoting the universal common good. He wrote that such love can be "a force which joins and unites, of its very nature inimical to division and isolation." (33) This deeply felt altruism gave him special sympathy for the disadvantaged, and specifically for European refugees following World War II and during the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe.
The Pope's views on migration were also clarified through application of his philosophical viewpoint, which developed his feelings of unity with others, especially the oppressed, and his passion for this world. Using the tools and methods of philosophy, he believed he could create a unified structure for explaining and defending his views. (34) His philosophical training began in secret in an underground seminary in Krakow during the Nazi occupation. (35) As he related:
My literary training, centered around humanities, had not prepared me at all for the scholastic theses and formulas.... I had to cut a path through a thick undergrowth of concepts, analyses and axioms without even being able to identify the ground over which I was moving. After two months of hacking through this vegetation I came to a clearing, to the discovery of the deep reasons for what until then I had only lived and felt. (36)
Pope John Paul II's brand of philosophy classified him as a phenomenologist. (37) Biographer Jaroslaw Kupczak commented in his treatise that the Pope trusted experience more than words and liked to reflect on the whole of things. (38) Based on the work of Edmund Husserl, John Paul II used the methods of phenomenology to link Christian ethics to the real world. (39) This strong interest in exploring the phenomena of existence encouraged him to examine social issues and human activities for their deeper meaning, rather than concentrate solely on more abstract theological and philosophical issues. The challenges facing migrants and the causes of forced migration were among the phenomena he contemplated. Biographer Samuel Gregg concurs that John Paul II directed Catholic social thought by stressing the "moral-anthropological dimension," which focuses upon "man as a free and creative subject capable of self-realization as that which he ought to be." (40)
John Paul II's experiences as Pope also strengthened his interest in migration issues. A remarkably energetic man, (41) he traveled more than any other pope, to more than one hundred countries; he was seen by more people than anyone else in history; and he was able to greet people in more than one hundred languages. (42) His exposure to so many different cultures must have instilled in him a sense of both the unity of man and the struggles that inefficient or corrupt societies place on the ability of individuals and families to realize and to maintain their innate human dignity.
Thus, we can find reasons for John Paul II's advocacy for migrants in his childhood friendships with those of other religions, in his life under Nazi and Soviet occupation, in his philosophical training, and in his experience as a leader in the Catholic Church. It is misleading and demeaning, however, to see the Pope as merely reacting to exterior forces in zealously advocating for migrants. He synthesized his experience, his education, and his training to create a powerful and detailed argument for welcoming the stranger.
II. UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL DOCTRINE
One cannot neglect crediting the traditions and mission of the Catholic Church in providing a firm foundation for Pope John Paul II's views on social issues, including the right to migrate. He was not the first pope to concern himself with the plight of migrants. Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) inaugurated the practice of publishing encyclicals that present solutions to social issues from a Catholic perspective. (43) While the Bible makes frequent mention of the duty to welcome strangers and give protection to sojourners, (44) Leo XIII and subsequent popes richly developed the Catholic Church's position with numerous references to migration, the rights of migrants, and the need for greater social justice to counteract the causes of forced migration. (45)
Before discussing the substance of John Paul II's views on migration, it is useful to briefly present relevant core principles, several of which are distinctive of Catholicism, that serve as the basis for Catholic social doctrine. These core principles include: concern for the sacred nature of the human person, solidarity, subsidiarity, and concern for the …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Pope John Paul II and Immigration Law and Policy. Contributors: Eyster, James Parry - Author. Journal title: Ave Maria Law Review. Volume: 6. Issue: 1 Publication date: Fall 2007. Page number: 85+. © 2007 Ave Maria School of Law. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.