Friday, November 21, 2014
You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. (New American Bible, Exodus 22:20)
As anyone who has visited the Mirror of Justice knows, my political affiliation is Republican, which I believe is consistent with my Catholic values. But when the two conflict, the principles underlying Catholic teaching must take priority.
So let me give credit where credit is due: President Obama's speech last night was masterful.
I am not saying that I agree with the wisdom of his exercise of executive authority on this matter. Nor do I mean here to come down on one or the other side of the debate on the legality of his executive order.
But, setting the means to one side for a moment, the substance and style of President Obama's address to the nation were admirable. He was conversational, while also being eloquent. He offered thoughtful points, not merely rhetoric, without dragging on at length (as he is wont to do). He explained not only what he was doing, but also the many things he was not doing, exemplifying some measure of prudence.
He was generous toward those who disagree with him, not showing any of the petulance that some have perceived in the days since the Democratic defeat in the midterm elections. He forthrightly addressed the difficult questions, not bypassing them. He explained his reasoning on those issues, seeking to find a consensus path. I do recognize that some will respond to the President's action by refusing thereafter to consider legislative immigration reform. This would be a mistake of both strategy and policy. There remains much work for the Congress to do on immigration. President Obama has not preempted that work. And he will prove, I believe, to be a willing partner in that political process from this point onward.
And President Obama spoke from the heart and reflected well on the American character. His closing with Scripture -- the passage reminding the people of Israel to be generous with those who are strangers in the land for they were once strangers in a foreign land -- was right on the mark and should strike to the heart of every person of faith. (I am saddened that some conservatives, I hope in the heat of the moment, have suggested that quoting the Bible was somehow out of bounds. Recalling what Jesus told his disciples when they complained that some people not of their group were doing works in his name, we should celebrate when others send forth the Word of God. Mark 9:38-40: Jesus: "For whoever is not against us is for us."). I've set out above the passage from Exodus that President Obama used, from the New American Bible frequently used by Catholics.
But please, and I say this especially to my fellow Republicans who are understandably dubious about President Obama's policies and motivations, don't take my word for it. Invest the very few minutes necessary to listen to the speech in its entirety and do so with an open heart before making a judgment. For convenience, I link directly to it below: