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News stories have heralded the rebirth under Biden of a politically liberal version of Christianity that places more emphasis on such issues as poverty and immigration than on sexual morality. Catholic bishops have reportedly been divided over how to respond. It is a moment for Catholics, laity and clergy alike, to be clear about what the church teaches. Catholicism is quite capacious: It has room for many political tendencies. A Catholic may in good conscience believe that the federal government must do more to regulate markets to serve the common good, or that excessive regulation has contributed to poverty and should be relaxed, or something in between. The catechism instructs that “more prosperous nations are obliged, 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.” What that means in practice for U.S. policy is, however, something on which equally faithful Catholics may reasonably disagree.
Nothing, then, is in principle wrong with liberal and conservative Catholics making themselves heard as distinct voices. But Catholic teaching imposes limits on what policies can be supported. No Catholic should, for example, approve a policy that leads to the routine and large-scale separation of children from their parents in the name of combating illegal immigration. Indeed, Catholics are called to oppose any such policy.
To the extent we fail in this duty — because of partisanship, timidity, hardness of heart or some other reason — we fall short of what our faith demands.
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