The Gospel for Sunday could not have been better timed for those who support President Obama’s executive order to give legal status to 5 million illegal immigrants.
It was Matthew 25:31-46, about judgment day, when God will separate out for salvation those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and welcomed the stranger. Those who didn’t, well, they’d be heading someplace far less enjoyable — forever.
With organized Catholicism welcoming Obama’s move — and several Catholic groups saying he did not go far enough — GOP presidential contenders for 2016 who’ve opposed the order, and are Catholics themselves, may have some difficult finessing to do.
Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania come immediately to mind. Both have repeatedly said Church doctrine and social policy has shaped their opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and, in Santorum’s case, birth control. Yet Santorum has already criticized Obama’s order, claiming it will hurt, not help, Hispanics. And at the Republican Governors Association meeting last week, Jindal said that in retaliation for Obama’s unilateral move, a government shutdown should be on the table — and blamed on the president.
Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Catholic as well, has declined to say what he thinks about the immigration order.
Since Pope Francis has elevated welcoming the poor to the top of his agenda, it’s unclear how Catholic Republicans who don’t do likewise can reconcile their immigration positions with Francis’ teaching. Perhaps they can embrace the term that used to be reserved for Catholic liberals: “cafeteria Catholics.” That is, those who embrace the Church teachings they agree with, and ignore the ones they don’t.