In 1984, the U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote a CST documents entitled, The Hispanic Presence: Challenge and Commitment. It insisted that as Catholics, we open our hearts and our church to a newly emerging community and encounter those persons within it with a “welcoming attitude.”
There was an unprecedented wave of Latino migration in the 1970’s and 1980’s in the United States. This CST document was the U.S. bishops’ response to the Latino community in need of a Catholic ministry and a social justice movement that supported their spirituality, safety, and well being in their new home.
This document is important because it highlights in theory and practice the theology of dignity of migrants and the Latino people. It calls the Latino community in America a “blessing from God.” It gives voice to their plight as undocumented workers, as well as a voice to their hopes for a better life for their families.
And most importantly, The Hispanic Presence is a call to the Catholic church and all persons of good will to work towards social justice for the American Latino migrant community as their own.
This call to the church is important, particularly today, when the migrant community from Latin America is being threatened by an anti-immigrant politics put forth by the Trump campaign.
Mr. Trump began his bid for the GOP presidential nominee as an anti-immigrant candidate, calling for the mass deportation of our Latino brothers and sisters. This political platform goes against our CST tradition that argues that as a church, we are obligated to ensure that not only the migrant community is welcome in our country, but that we fight for public policies that ensure their dignity and well being.
Q. Does the theology of dignity of migrants and undocumented workers that the bishops put forth necessarily reject an anti-immigration political platform found in the Trump campaign? How are the candidates’ public policies ensuring the dignity and well being of migrants and how are they degrading it? Can mass deportation be a public policy that Catholics defend?
(*The Hispanic Presence is a published document and cannot be provided in full here, but here is an outline summarizing key points presented in the following book: Catholic Social Teaching, Our Best Kept Secret (Fourth Revised Ed.) by Edward DeBerri, James Hug with Peter Henriot and Michael J. Schultheis; Washington, DC: Orbis Books and Center of Concern, 2003.)