Culture

Films that take you into the wilderness with Jesus

Deal W. Hudson

March 14, 2019

It’s hard to understand why any director making a film about Jesus would ignore the face-off with Lucifer. Cecil B DeMille has his mind elsewhere in his 1927 King of Kings. Himself succumbing to carnal temptation, DeMille opens his film with a barely clad Mary Magdalene, now a prostitute in love with Judas. In his Jesus of Nazareth (1997), Franco Zeffirelli, I’m guessing, could not conceive of a suitably Botticelli-like way of depicting the wilderness encounter within his five-and-a-half hour mini-series.

By far the worst wilderness scene is in the King of Kings (1961), directed by Nicholas Ray. Jesus (Jeffrey Hunter) climbs with bloody feet over rocky terrain when Miklós Rózsa’s powerful film score is interrupted by Lucifer’s arrival in the form of a plummy voice-over (Orson Wells). The subsequent dialogue is so clumsy, so literal, so cardboard stiff, I was reminded of teenage actors at my local Catholic school.

As he walks out of the wilderness, Jesus meets John the Baptist (Robert Ryan) sitting with John and Andrew. At the Baptist’s recommendation they stand up and start following Jesus like zombies, no questions asked.

In the much-admired 1964 film, The Gospel According to St Matthew, director Pier Paolo Pasolini is anti-Hollywood. Shooting in black-and-white, Pasolini uses non-actors in a 1st-century setting, using language from the Gospel account. There was no screenplay.

We meet a Jesus (pictured) who is ordinary, even frail; he lacks all charisma. As he prays on his knees in the wilderness, a dark figure approaches from a distance. Jesus stands to meet him, and Satan arrives dressed as a priest. Except for a 20-second trip to the top of the temple and back, there’s no drama in the three temptations; neither face changes expression. Satan walks away, but Pasolini’s panoramic shot of Jesus walking out of the desert is worthy of David Lean.

The best of the wilderness scenes are found in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) directed by George Stevens. The screenwriting and direction move in a surprising direction. Jesus (Max von Sydow) hears some laughter and a voice from a cave. It’s Satan (Donald Pleasance), whose voice is gentle and coaxing: “Long hard climb?”

Satan tempts Jesus with the voice of a friend trying to offer a favour. Their faces are barely seen against a night sky filled with a large, cratered moon. Satan explains: I can give you this and that, because “life should be easy”. Jesus struggles for a moment but pulls himself away from the edge of the cliff, and Satan goes back to eating his snack.

Satan, after all, should be depicted as having some touch of St Paul’s “angel of light”.

A painter of pure, radiant happiness

Deal W. Hudson

February 14, 2019

Ali Cavanaugh’s figurative art has deep spiritual roots, discovers Deal Hudson

Ali Cavanaugh is a painter in pursuit of the miracle of human existence. A Catholic convert who was received in 2002, she says this of her faith: “The Blessed Mother is my constant and helps me with every step of my journey as a wife, mother and artist.” With that in mind, we should not be surprised that young people, mostly female, inhabit her work, perhaps reflecting the life she leads with her husband and four children in a small town, Ste Genevieve, outside St Louis.

Her orientation towards the visual world began early: Cavanaugh was only two when she contracted spinal meningitis and lost most of her hearing. She calls the loss “a blessing in disguise as I learned to depend on body language and reading lips to communicate”.

Cavanaugh’s reputation has grown rapidly over the last decade. In 2018 she was listed by BuzzFeed at 26 in the “The Top 100 Figurative Painters Working Right Now”. The first collection of her paintings, Ali Cavanaugh: Modern Fresco Paintings, will be released on March 15, following a showing at the Strand Book Store in New York City on the 13th.

Cavanaugh’s medium is a modern version of fresco. Prompted by her delight in the “mirror finish” after laying plaster on walls, she discovered kaolin clay, a soft, absorbent surface that lasts a long time. After some experimentation, she exhibited her first group of paintings at a NYC gallery in January 2007. They sold out immediately and her career took off after that. By 2014, Cavanaugh was being exhibited by 10 galleries in the US and abroad, and she had been commissioned by Time magazine to paint Taylor Swift.

Modern Fresco Paintings is arranged chronologically from 2007 to 2018. At the front of the book, Cavanaugh relates her life as a person and an artist. A marvellous essay by Daniel Maidman follows. He describes Cavanaugh’s paintings in terms of happiness: “The elements in her work support her depiction of pure, uncorrupted happiness: sunlight – wind – female youths – contour lines – luminous colour – translucency – symmetry – language – and focus.” I agree. The pictures start with wonder, what she calls “the unique presence of the human person”, and portray those moments when “presence” is made manifest. Cavanaugh’s happiness, frankly, took me by surprise: her depictions of playfulness, innocence and joy are moving and contain no feigned naiveté or self-conscious effort to market herself to an audience weary of a topsy-turvy world.

The first image you see, Listening without hearing (2011), across from the title page, is of a teenage girl with shimmering red hair in profile looking to the right. Her arms, bent at the elbow, have raised her hands palms-outward in front of the left side of the head as if to look away from the viewer. She wears white sock arms: socks starting from above the elbow over her hands, the stripes matching the red of her hair. She wears a modest sleeveless shirt with a slight hint of budding adulthood. She’s a classic beauty, lovely red lips, upturned nose and lashed eyes that look even further away from the viewer. The hair as it falls over her chest has a deeper, sensual, luxuriant red of the woman-to-be. The entire effect is one of innocent modesty, of a young woman comfortable in herself but wanting the freedom of being left alone.

Maidmain again is on target: “She summons happiness not from her figures but from us.” This not the happiness of teenage self-indulgence. Cavanaugh found happiness the hard way: dealing with the burden of childhood deafness and a father who abandoned her and her mother.

Unlike many who are hurt early in life, she does not turn from suffering. After moving to Ste Genevieve, Cavanaugh met Milly, a teenage girl who had “a compelling presence”, in spite of the hair loss and scarring from treatments for severe cancer. After photographing Milly, she waited a year before painting her. These are my favourite paintings in the book regardless of the backstory. This sequence maps the life of a teenage girl. As a father of a 30-year daughter, I recognise the teenager wrestling with the onset of the adult world – the shyness and insecurity, the perk and charm, the creativity and fantasy, the determination to make it through.

Not until the final chapter, “chroma”, do boys enter Cavanaugh’s visual world. This makes me wonder what lies ahead for this brilliant painter, only in her late 40s: what other lives will she explore, what ages and genders? I’m confident that whatever subjects she turns to will be revealed in a way that recognises the good that lies deeply within all of us.

Ali Cavanaugh’s paintings will be shown at the Strand Book Store in New York City on March 13 at 7.30 pm. For more information, visit alicavanaugh.com.

Deal Hudson is the Catholic Herald’s US Arts Editor

Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’ is badly misunderstood

Deal W. Hudson

February 7, 2019

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, recently condemned the New York Times for using a picture of “a nun in habit standing behind a jail-like façade” to accompany a review of Jacques Rivette’s 1966 film La Religieuse (“The Nun”). Based on a novel by Diderot, it depicts the life of a nun who is constantly beaten, tortured and, finally, pressed by a lesbian Mother Superior for sex. Donohue asks, “Now who would concoct such trash?”

Well, Diderot had his reasons, but another writer and film-maker told an equally disturbing story about nuns. Aldous Huxley’s 1952 novel, The Devils of Loudun, was based closely on historical events of 1652 that took place in that city, and in 1971 a Catholic director, Ken Russell, released The Devils, based on that novel. The Devils starred Oliver Reed, in the best performance of his career, as Father Grandier, and Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne, who convinces us of an almost unimaginable character – an Ursuline Mother Superior with a badly humped back and an erotically obsessive crush on the handsome Grandier.

One aspect of the film now jumps out at me: Loudun was a city with high, impregnable walls that allowed the persecuted Huguenots to live in safety alongside Catholics. In one of the opening scenes, Father Grandier celebrates the walls, created by special dispensation from Louis XIII, as providing both protection from religious persecution and individual freedom.

It’s understandable why Mark Kermode, in his introduction to my Criterion Collection DVD of the movie, calls this Russell’s greatest film, because for the first time he combined his extraordinary visual and musical sensibility “with a solid political underpinning”. Wait? Isn’t this a film about the Catholic Church? Yes and no, because Cardinal Richelieu is merging the power of Church and state while Louis XIII entertains at his decadent court, brilliantly portrayed in the film’s opening scene where a practically naked king arises on stage as Botticelli’s Venus.

I watched The Devils one more time after having just seen Robert Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962), another film based on historical fact – the script is taken directly from the court record of
her trials. St Joan and Father Grandier are each put to death for political, not religious reasons, though churchmen used accusations of heresy to burn them, in spite of knowing these were not true. So it follows, at the moment of Grandier’s burning, the city walls of Loudun explode and come tumbling down. And Grandier’s last words are: “Don’t look at me, look at your city, your city is destroyed, your freedom is destroyed also.”

The orgiastic scenes with lots of female nudity have aroused intense controversy since its appearance, but they are secondary to the plot. Compare those scenes, and the characters central to them, to the figure of Father Grandier. The former are cartoonish and recognised as such by the townspeople who look on. The latter, Grandier, has enjoyed carnal love with women and become secretly married to a woman he loves, but undergoing severe torture will not confess to a heresy he did not commit. He dies a true martyr with a nobility similar to St Joan of Arc.

Those who, in the name of God and decency, have condemned The Devils, have been ill-served by their preoccupation with nakedness and sex. They missed the meaning of Russell’s masterpiece.

The extraordinary power of ‘transcendental’ films

Deal W. Hudson

January 24, 2019

Deal Hudson on the shattering effect of movies that defy our expectations

In 1971, Paul Schrader, a film student at UCLA, published a book called Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. Although he was only 24 years old, his theory of “transcendental style” – expressed in formal academic language – created a scholarly sensation. He is more famous, however, for writing film scripts that definitely do not use formal language – Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, for example (“You talkin’ to me?”).

Schrader’s “transcendental style” is still influential, however, and now the University of California Press has republished his book with a new 33-page introduction: “Rethinking Transcendental Style”. Its republication is long overdue.

Some years ago, I began watching the masterpieces of world cinema found in various “Top 100” lists to find out why they were so highly praised above my American and British favourites. I was immediately intrigued by the three directors Schrader chose, and particularly by Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu), Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson) and The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer). Each had a shattering effect on me: an elderly couple visiting their ungrateful children; a French priest, nearing a physical and emotional breakdown, scorned by his parishioners; and the trial and execution of the Maid of Orléans played out on the face of Joan, portrayed luminously by Maria Falconetti.

The stories they told appealed to me, but I knew something more was going on that gave them extraordinary power. These films were not designed to buy a few hours of distraction. It wasn’t until I read Schrader’s book that I realised that they employed a peculiar sort of style – the “transcendental style” discussed by critics and theorists for the past 47 years.

Schrader is bold in this book, a boldness that does not flag in his new introduction. He grew up a Calvinist, in the Christian Reformed Church, which forbad “worldly amusements”, but he makes constant reference to the Mass and Christian iconography to explain what he means: “Transcendental style, like the Mass, transforms experience into a repeatable ritual which can be repeatedly transcended.”

Consider the example of Robert Bresson. What he repeats through his films is “everydayness”, says Schrader. He refuses to feed the ordinary expectations of a moviegoer: beautiful images, a straightforward plotline, including a happy ending, manipulative film scores, charismatic actors (Bresson preferred non-actors), creative camera movement (he shot only at chest-level) and film editing that creates an emotional climax. As Schrader puts it, “Bresson despises what the moviegoer likes best.”

Bresson’s austerity creates a “disparity” for the viewers, frustrating whatever natural emotional responses an audience brings to a film. His everydayness is “unfeeling”. Transcendental style postpones emotional reactions, creating “a need, although not a place, for emotion”.

The release of emotion comes at what Schrader calls the “decisive action”, such as the martyrdom sequence in Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc, represented by the image of the charred stake after a shot of a flying dove and the sound of three bells ringing.

The decisive moment is followed by “stasis”. The shot of the charred stake becomes an icon. After an hour of “inexpressive faces and cold environment”, the viewer reaches stasis in a “spiritual expression of Joan’s martyrdom”. This is the point at which we can accept the disparity of being faced not by a typical moviegoer’s experience but an “an expression of the transcendent”. I find this convincing – though not exhaustive, because meeting the transcendent can never be fully described.

In the new introduction, Schrader explains the origins of “slow cinema” with its use of the “time-image” rather than the “movement-image” – concepts taken from French philosopher Gilles Deleuze.

Anyone who has tried watching, successfully or not, the films of Béla Tarr or Andrei Tarkovsky has encountered this slow cinema. “They all have the same purpose: to retard time,” writes Schrader. Tarr’s Sátántangó, a drama about scheming Hungarian villagers, runs to more than seven hours, asking the viewer to become part of the film and create “meaning where none exists”.

Schrader admits that slow cinema has a small audience and fewer enthusiasts. I have found the films of Tarkovsky draw me in, while Tarr’s are a bridge too far. But Schrader’s book remains authoritative and should be read carefully by anyone interested in the spirituality of many great movies.

Schrader’s own First Reformed contains aspects of the transcendental style – flat-toned dialogue, expressionless faces, sparse interiors and exteriors, all creating disparity. A decisive moment is followed by a powerful iconic image of stasis at its conclusion. The film contains clear references to Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, and the country priest of George Bernanos and Robert Bresson, while taking Ingmar Bergman’s risk of the voice-over and dialogue addressing philosophical and theological questions. Schrader has made a profound and moving film, transcendental but with some, minor, accommodations to audience expectation.

Paul Schrader belongs to the select group of directors he names who are working with the transcendental style, such as Eugène Green, Pawel Pawlikowski, Carlos Reygada and Jessica Hausner. First Reformed, in my view, is something of a miracle in the wasteland of sequels, action heroes and saccharine romance films.

Deal W Hudson is the Arts Editor of the Catholic Herald (US edition)

Tim Kaine must not get away with styling himself a ‘Pope Francis Catholic’

Deal W. Hudson

August 9, 2016

With the nomination of Senator Tim Kaine, American Catholic voters once again face a decision about whether to send a pro-abortion, dissenting Catholic to Number One Observatory Circle, the official residence of the Vice President of the United States.

For the past eight years Vice President Joseph Biden has lived there, an abortion supporter for sure, but he never pitched his Catholic credentials to the voters in the way that Hillary, her surrogates, the Democratic Party and Kaine himself have done from the get-go.

Kaine, unlike Biden, was chosen because he’s Caucasian and Catholic. But not just any Catholic. He’s a product of a Jesuit education: Rockhurst High School in Kansas City and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Honduras. As Mayor of Richmond, Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Virginia, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Virginia’s sitting Democratic senator, Kaine has remained true to the now dominant Jesuit version of Catholicism: love the poor but don’t make a fuss about the unborn. The poor deserve “preferential treatment” but the babies belong to Herod, so let him have them.

From the perspective of Catholic teaching, of course, this is schtick of the deadliest kind. A recent, and very telling, example was published in the Jesuits’ own magazine, America, following the announcement by the Clinton/Kaine campaign that the vice-presidential nominee would join Hillary in eliminating the Hyde Amendment. (The amendment, first passed in 1976, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of incest, rape or to save the life of the mother.)

The editors of America found Kaine’s capitulation a bit too much for the newly nominated Catholic VP candidate, so they opined, “Defend the Hyde Amendment”. Why? They explained: “The only nuance Mrs Clinton has shown on abortion in this campaign may be in her selection of Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate.”

As I said earlier, Kaine was chosen because he was Caucasian and Catholic, the intended effect being to mollify enough “swing” Catholic voters to ensure control of the White House. But Kaine’s sudden willingness to completely compromise all Catholic principle to be on the presidential ticket spurred the editors at America to demonstrate their political savvy by hauling their student into the boiler room for a few hard whacks.

It worked. The next day America magazine proudly reported that Senator Kaine did, in fact, support the Hyde Amendment in spite of what was announced by the campaign.

To cover his tracks, however, Kaine had to adopt another Hillary tactic: outright lying. When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about the flip-flop, Kaine replied: “That is not accurate, and I don’t think Robby has said that, Jake.” (“Robby” Mook is Hillary’s campaign manager, and here is a tweet that tells a different story.)

Lest the reader be moved to congratulate America’s editors for their success, I should point out that the editorial is just another example of eloquent Jesuit schtick. They rightfully take on Kaine’s dichotomy of being “personally opposed” to abortion but publicly supportive, but spin it this way: “But incoherent as it is, being ‘personally opposed’ at least maintains some minimal contact with the difficult moral reality of abortion” (emphasis added).

Are we to conclude that the editors of America consider Kaine’s “minimal contact” enough to rescue his Catholic conscience, and theirs, and make him worthy of America’s support as well as that of Catholic voters?

Indeed, America’s editorial suffers from another sort of dichotomy. How can the magazine not conclude that Kaine, viewed as a Catholic politician, has failed to meet the minimal standard of the values a Catholic politician should represent?

“But as long as Mr Kaine refuses to recognise the unborn among the marginalized and to include them among the children for whom he promises to fight, he has not yet fully embraced the mission of social justice,” the editorial says. “As long as he continues to accept the moral myopia that pretends abortion can fix our society’s failure to offer women the support necessary to feel secure even in unplanned or difficult pregnancies, he has not yet fully responded to the Gospel’s call to care for those in need.”

I’m all for incrementalism, but this stretches it beyond breaking point. Kaine’s “minimal contact” with the “moral reality of abortion”, coupled with his 100 per cent pro-abortion voting record and his full support for abortion provider Planned Parenthood, provides no foothold at all upon which to work towards even the lowering the number of abortions – a position espoused by America’s editors.

Kaine is already on the stump reaching out by name to “Pope Francis Catholics”, as he did in Philadelphia on August 1. The last time I looked, Pope Francis had not changed the Church’s teaching on abortion, contraception or, for that matter, the selling of a dead child’s body parts – all of which Kaine implicitly supports.

Will the editors of America, and the Jesuits in general, allow Kaine to describe Pope Francis in this way? Or will Pope Francis, and his Vatican spokesmen, allow Kaine to describe Pope Francis in this way?

I’m guessing that Senator Kaine will get bitten for invoking the Pope’s name – and he should, for a multitude of reasons.

Deal Hudson is the publisher and editor of The Christian Review

Pete Buttigeig: What You See Is Not What You Get

Deal W. Hudson

March 31, 2019

Mayor Pete Buttigeig of South Bend, Indiana is a full-blown relativist. He views the world through the lens of multiculturalism, historicism, gay rights, and radical feminism.

Buttigeig hopes to secure the Democratic Party nomination in order to become President of the United States. If elected, there would be no First Lady. He married his partner Chasten Glezman in June 2018.

His candidacy is showing traction, as Buttigeig puts it, “There’s this intangible energy you can just feel when I walk into a room.”

Like Bill Clinton, Buttigeig attended Harvard and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Like Bill Clinton, he speaks well, dresses conservatively, and has sizable charm. And also like Bill Clinton, what you see he is not what you get.

Like Barack Obama, Buttigeig opposes laws forbidding partial-birth abortion. In spite of allowing newborns to be killed, Buttigeig believes in “inclusion and love”! For Buttigeig, love means ignoring Scriptural teaching that “reflect the moral expectations of the era in which they were recorded.”

I wonder where Buttigeig stands on “Thou shall not kill”? Do we toss that out too? Sorry, I forgot, Buttigeig already tossed that out by supporting partial-birth abortion.

His reason? Buttigeig worries “the involvement of a male government official like me is not helpful.” I’m not sure why maleness should preclude us men from objecting to killing babies at the moment of birth.

An Episcopalian, Buttigeig also ignores the scriptural teachings on marriage and homosexuality as a product of the past. My gut tells me being in a gay marriage will help him get the nomination. If the Democrats can’t elect the first woman president, they would settle for the first gay president.

Charles Kaiser writing for The Guardian describes a plausible scenario which pro-life Catholics should take seriously:

Is it too much to imagine that America could elect a gay president? I don’t think so. If the disaster of George Bush’s administration was sufficient to elect the first black president, I believe the catastrophe of Donald Trump could be just enough to put the first openly gay man in the White House. Especially a man like this.

The new ultra-liberal leadership of the Democratic Party would be ecstatic to have a gay nominee. They’ve thrown any notion of truth out the window, especially if it benefits Donald Trump.

Case in point, another Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, refused to recognize the devastation of Venezuela by President Maduro and support the global effort to legitimize Juan Guaidó.

If elected President, Buttigeig hopes the United States will take the lead on LGBT issues. In the same interview, Buttigeig accuses the Trump White House of dividing the country with “white identity politics.” He promises a “political rhetoric to make people feel big-hearted.”

I guess the protection of innocent babies isn’t part of feeling “big-hearted.”

As mayor of South Bend, Buttigeig has been a leader in denying the rights of pro-life groups. He used his veto power to negate a zoning decision of the South Bend city council allowing a pro-life organization to relocate to property next to an abortion clinic.

That’s the kind of “inclusion and love” we can expect from Buttigeig if he’s elected President.

Buttigeig has made it clear he will talk about his faith on the campaign trail. He believes there is a “Religious Left” which will help him get to the White House. That’s the same crowd who backed Hilary Clinton to the hilt on the issue of immigration.

From a Catholic perspective, Buttigeig can count on the Nuns on the Bus,AmericaCommonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter. No doubt ninety percent of the Notre Dame faculty will pitch in to help.

Having watched Buttigeig interviewed, what struck me the most what his calm response to challenging questions. Buttigeig doesn’t depend on the histrionics of Bronx Congresswoman of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to make his point. This will earn him the attention of a public tired of the screaming.

We are tired of far-left politicians flailing us with hardly-repressed anger and hardly-disguised accusations of bigotry. Buttigeig knows this, and his communications strategy is to get his foot in the door just by projecting a nice-guy image.

Make no mistake, this is a nice guy who wants to strip America of a moral legacy that he considers outdated. He will use as excuses his sensitivity to the ways whiteness and maleness have “misshaped” our cultural attitudes.

Buttigeig promises “inclusion and love” for everyone who agrees with his pro-abortion and pro-LBGT agenda. The rest of us will be dismissed as “divisive” and “puritanical.”

At present, Buttigeig is enjoying the “intangible energy” he feels walking into a room of supporters. Buttigeig, if nominated, will find the waters less calm, and his earnest conviviality will be tested by encounters with less infatuated voters.

Immigration and the Golden Ticket

Deal W. Hudson

February 24, 2019

In the last decade, the topic of immigration has become as divisive in the Catholic Church as the issue of abortion. Like abortion, immigration is now at the center of national politics—it was the centerpiece of the 2016 presidential election. The election of 2020 promises more of the same debate but more fierce in tone and, also, more significant for the future of our nation.

Some argue that the principle of solidarity should inform a public policy that allows immigrants to enter the United States with only a minimal challenge at the border. The USCCB has consistently taken this position as stated in “Welcoming the Stranger: Unity In Diversity” (November 2000). The Bishops’ “call to solidarity” calls for the utilization of all governmental and church services to provide total care for immigrants who cross the border whether or not they cross illegally. In “Welcoming the Stranger,” the Bishops explain it this way:

“Without condoning undocumented migration, the Church supports the human rights of all people and offers them pastoral care, education, and social services, no matter what the circumstances of entry into this country, and it works for the respect of the human dignity of all—especially those who find themselves in desperate circumstances. We recognize that nations have the right to control their borders. We also recognize and strongly assert that all human persons, created as they are in the image of God, possess a fundamental dignity that gives rise to a more compelling claim to the conditions worthy of human life.” (Emphasis added)

In other words, although the Bishops recognize the right of a nation to control its borders, they trump that right with a “more compelling claim.” That claim is nothing less than persons are created in the image of God. Possessing the imago Dei, persons can claim “the conditions worthy of human life,” meaning enter the United States freely and receive all the goods and services “worthy” of their human dignity.

If the need for secure borders and national security is overridden by the created nature of each person, one wonders how far the Bishops want to extend this as a principle. Does the imago Dei get people released from jail?

If the imago Dei is a “Golden” ticket enter the United States illegally and remain here illegally, then the imago Dei is being made the enemy of the rule of law. Without laws, human solidarity is impossible. Solidarity demands order and respect for lawful authority. Look at countries like Mexico where the rule of law is ignored and see the human misery that results. This is a very dangerous principle to put in place.

The Catechism teaches that persons should be subject to the governmental authority that “seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it” (#1903). Why, then, are those who support secure borders, even the building of a protective wall, so quickly accused of contradicting the principle of solidarity? In other words, it’s the prerogative of the government to create and enforce laws consonant with the common good of society.

The more specific question is whether the Bishops consider the present immigration laws as “morally licit” when immigrants are stopped, questioned, and housed before the U. S. government makes a decision about admitting, or not admitting, them to the country. From all that I have read and heard the answer is ‘no.’

What we see right now at our all-too-porous southern border is beginning to resemble Mexico: sex trafficking, drugs, crime, gangs, not to mention potential terrorists. The Catechism recognizes the necessity of laws to regulate immigration:

The common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense. (Emphasis added, #1909)

The Bishops’ statement also brings us back to passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the obligation of wealthy nations, “to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” (Emphasis added, #2241). Who decides the “to the extent they are able”? Answer: Our Congress and President working cooperatively to weigh national resources against the needs of immigrants.

The Bishops, as they often do, are attempting to influence both lawmakers and voters to regard our nation as able to provide more resources than are doing. With all due respect, they are not in the position to know the requisite facts regarding the nation’s resources. They do, however, know better than anyone what the Church can do at the diocesan and parish level. I’m certain they would not want politicians judging their use of resources.

The Catechism makes it clear whose job it is to make these prudential judgments: “Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions.  . . . ” (Emphasis added, #2441).

The Catechism, at least, states that a nation’s laws should me obeyed by persons, regardless of their imago Dei.