Family before state

Archbishop calls for respect for families in immigration reform

AbpAquila Catechesis at WYD Rio2Families ripped apart and deported in raids by the hands of officials observing broken immigration policies robs immigrants of their natural rights and serves to undermine the nation’s foundational Christian culture, Archbishop Samuel Aquila told a crowd gathered at Regis University last week.

Family, he said, must come before the state when considering the reform of the nation’s immigration laws.

“As we face the breakdown of the family in this country, we should recognize that supporting families through immigration law may be our clearest hope to the restoration of Christian culture in the United States,” he said April 4 before a room of Catholic faithful, educators and officials.

“Today, immigrants are too often viewed solely through a financial lens. They are viewed as workers and reduced merely to their economic potential. But immigrants are members of families, and those families are essential to our social order. Respecting the family means finding alternatives to deportation when families will be torn apart by it.”

The Denver Archdiocese’s shepherd called for comprehensive immigration reform as part of a series of talks about Catholicism in the modern world hosted on the Denver campus.

He presented three principles of reform that draw from the natural law, cluding the respect of the dignity of the family, the right of a nation to secure its borders, and an assessment of its economic health and global political and economic corruption.

Archbishop Aquila referenced the 2006 Swift raids in the Midwest and Greeley saying such moves “won’t solve systematic economic problems or the problem of undocumented immigration.”

The raiding and deportation of the 1,300-some meatpacking plant workers does “more damage than good as the workers are needed, and it often ends up  separating families,” he said.

Rather, the nation has an obligation to welcome foreigners in search of security and a just livelihood, especially those arriving in duress.

“I’m not a politician, or an economist. I am a pastor,” Archbishop Aquila said. “But the number of immigrants employed in this country suggests that there is a need, and an ability, to welcome immigrants to America. … But immigration law is broken in America.”

He shared how his own grandparents emigrated from Sicily, Italy in the early 1900s to rural Ohio.

“They left everything they had because they needed what America had to offer: the prospect of jobs, of stability, of schools and doctors, and enough food to feed their children,” the archbishop said.

The patterns of immigration in the past, such as that of his ancestors, remain the foundation of today’s immigration laws. But immigration now is increasingly temporary and undocumented, he said.

Of the millions of immigrants that come into the United States—including the approximately 10 million here who are undocumented—many are searching for work to save and send back to their native home. Few have plans to stay permanently. Some come to America seeking asylum from corrupt governments.

Archbishop Aquila drew on the writings of Pope Pius XII, who in 1948 wrote that natural law urges migration be opened to those forced out of their homeland by revolutions, unemployment or hunger. America should be a steward of its natural resources to immigrants, the pope said, if it can support a large population.

“For the creator of the universe” the pope wrote, “made all good things primarily for the good of all.”

This consideration should be tempered with an assessment of America’s own economic condition and the disparity between it and other countries.

“If we are unable to welcome more people seeking jobs, we shouldn’t,” he said. “If we want to consider immigration justly, we will first consider whether our own economic policy supports economic growth and administrative integrity in other countries.”

The archbishop said that reform should include policies encouraging other countries to strengthen their own economies and stamp out the corruption and greed of experimental socialist and communist systems.

A third principle that should be used in immigration reform is recognizing a nation’s right to security, starting with a secure border, to help stem the tide of illegal immigration.

“If we need immigrants in the country, or if we can support them, we ought to make entry into the country easier and faster,” he said.

He added that this doesn’t negate the responsibility to check the backgrounds of those entering the country to ensure they’re not criminals or terrorists, and to enforce immigration policies.

The archbishop’s talk echoes the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ and the bishops of Mexico’s joint pastoral letter “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” They called for global anti-poverty efforts—including economic aid, debt relief and trade—expanded  opportunities to reunify families and a temporary worker program.

Speaking to the audience, the archbishop said that Jesus Christ was an immigrant himself and therefore all people should welcome, respect and treat with justice those who immigrate to the country.

“Whatever we do for the immigrants among us, we will have done for Christ,” he said.

Reactions after the archbishop’s talk were positive, like from Regis University freshmen Patricia Olivas, 19, who said her parents emigrated from Mexico.

“I like how he said people have dignity and deserve to be treated as people here,” she said.

Grade school teacher Jonah Lippert said he appreciated the archbishop’s balanced views on immigration, including the government’s role to protect its borders while also respecting human dignity.

“He asked us to witness to that,” Lippert said, “and I liked that a lot.”

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.