Michigan Catholic interview with auxiliary bishop to air on CTND
DETROIT â€” To Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda, the topic of immigration isnâ€™t an issue that should divide Catholics, despite the political football itâ€™s become in recent years.
Thatâ€™s because when it comes to Catholic identity, as he puts it, â€śwhat we believe about human dignity crosses borders.â€ť
â€śPolitics and society tend to polarize these issues, but as Catholics, weâ€™re not called to do that,â€ť Bishop Cepeda said. â€śWe are not called to be different Catholics.â€ť
In April, Bishop Cepeda held an archdiocesan-wide summit to discuss the topic of immigration, which has led to an initiative aimed at educating Catholic leaders and parishioners about the Churchâ€™s social teaching on the topic as well as providing aid for immigrants in the area.
Recently, the bishop sat down with Michigan Catholic managing editor Mike Stechschulte to discuss the initiative, as well as how Catholics can overcome the political problems that often arise over the issue of immigration. The entire 30-minute interview will be aired Aug. 13 at 1 p.m. on the Catholic Television Network of Detroit (CTND), as well as several other times in the coming weeks.
Here are a few excerpts of the bishopâ€™s conversation with The Michigan Catholic:
The Michigan Catholic: Your Excellency, thereâ€™s so much confusion over what the Catholic Church actually has to say on the topic of immigration. Can you help shed some light on this?
Bishop Cepeda: Sure. The social teachings of the Church are founded on the Scriptures, theyâ€™re founded on the Tradition of the Church, and also the magisterium of the Church.
We clearly hear from the Gospel of Matthew, when Our Lord said to his disciples, â€śI was thirsty and you gave me water; I was naked, and you clothed me; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.â€ť It is clear that we find in the Scriptures the insight of what God is asking us to do, what God is asking us to proclaim. We know the infancy narratives also in the Gospel where the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt because of Herod â€” there was violence, and they had to flee.
When it comes to the magisterium, we have a rich history on the social teachings of the Church. Pope Leo XIII, in â€śRerum Novarumâ€ť in 1891, affirms that the â€śmigrants have a right to a life of dignity, and therefore have a right to migrate towards that end.â€ť I can think of Papa Buono â€” which we call him in Italian, Pope John XXIII â€” writes in â€śPacem in Terris,â€ť â€śevery human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of their country, and when there are just reasons for it, to immigrate and to take up residence elsewhere.â€ť
Once again, the social teachings of our Church, coming from the foundations of Scripture, coming from the foundations of the magisterium and the Tradition holds clearly that we need to speak up for the right and for the dignity of the human person and of the migrant.
MCN: This issue tends to be a hot topic politically. How does the Church see the distinction between the politics of the matter and the humanitarian aspect?
Bishop Cepeda: We as a Catholic community, as bishops, want to teach first of all that what we believe about human dignity crosses borders. This isnâ€™t just about the Catholic community â€” this is about the dignity of the human person.
We do believe that each country has the sovereignty to protect its borders. We are not advocating illegal immigration â€” which is another issue where I think a good number of our Catholics believe that by us coming up and standing for the migrants, that we are actually saying that we stand for illegal immigration. No we are not. What we are saying is that our immigrants have dignity. And we are responsible to protect them and we are obligated to love them. Thatâ€™s not an option. As Christians we are obligated to love one another.
So when it comes to the area of politics, what we are asking is for our government to have an immigration reform that will defend the dignity and will respect the human person.
MCN: Is there a need among Catholics to rise above political dichotomies and vote not as partisans, but as Catholics?
Bishop Cepeda: I think you just answered your own question. I think the key element as we look at the world, as we look at politics, like today as we speak about immigration, or issues about the unborn, is we need to think as Catholics. There is no dichotomy, as saying the world is one thing and we are another thing. No, we live in this world. And we as Catholics are the ones who make a difference in this world because of our identity as followers of Christ and members of Holy Mother Church.
Politics and society tend to polarize these issues, and as Catholics we are not called to do that. We are not called to be different Catholics. I want to be one with my Chinese brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution. People from Iraq who are Catholic Christians are suffering huge persecutions. I want to be â€” I am â€” one with them. Why? Because I am Catholic.
So it is our faith that brings us together, and it is our faith that will give us the tools and the wisdom to be able to discuss these issues.
MCN: Does the Church have a specific idea of what a good immigration policy looks like?
Bishop Cepeda: Well, yes we do. Of course, we defend the dignity and respect of the human person, but when it comes to an immigration reform, we are looking and asking to defend the dignity and unity of the family, which is so sacred. The laws as we see them now are breaking apart families. All weâ€™re asking for in order to have a fair immigration reform is to keep in mind the value of family.
MCN: The immigration reform the archdiocese is undergoing has two main prongs: to educate Catholics about the issue of immigration and to provide aid to immigrants who might not have anywhere else to turn. Is this correct?
Bishop Cepeda: Yes. On April 12, I was able to gather a number of leaders throughout the archdiocese who are involved indirectly or directly in the area of immigration. I wanted to call for a summit to bring them together because I wanted to hear from them â€” and because I thought it was important that our leadership knows and understands the teachings of the Church.
We are not social workers; what we do for our people is because we are Christians, because we are Catholics. So thatâ€™s what I tried to do to have a better sense of the needs that we have. It turned out to be a wonderful experience.
MCN: What can you offer that might help people view this issue not through a political perspective, but through the eyes of Christ?
Bishop Cepeda: I think one of the first things we need to do, personally, is to create that awareness that when weâ€™re talking about the issue of immigration, weâ€™re talking about human persons. Thatâ€™s the bottom line. Here we might tend to look at this from a political spectrum, to put in that lens of left or right or the middle â€” for us, itâ€™s just to be aware that weâ€™re talking about human persons, and each human person has dignity.
As Catholics we have much to say as people of faith because our words bring that moral issue into the platform of discussion. Our voice is the one that brings faith into the platform of discussion. Our voice as Catholics is the only one, I believe, as a community of faith that will continue to proclaim good news and continue to defend the dignity and respect of the human person.
For more of the bishopâ€™s answers to questions such as the connection between immigration and religious liberty, the new evangelization among Hispanic Catholics and the moral implications of illegal immigration, watch the entire interview on CTND in the coming weeks.