New Jersey’s highest ranking Roman Catholic prelate sharply denounced President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration as “the opposite of what it means to be an American.”
In a statement published online and distributed to all 219 parishes in Essex, Hudson, Bergen and Union Counties–and published in their weekly bulletins–Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, called Trump’s policies “inhuman.”
“Closing borders and building walls are not rational acts,” wrote the cardinal who has been in office less than three months. “Mass detention and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities.”
The Newark Archdiocese, the largest in New Jersey, counts nearly 1.5 million Catholics in its parishes. More than half, according to the diocese’s statistics, are of Hispanic origin–25 percent of whom come from Puerto Rican ancestry. The church’s data indicate some 90 percent of Catholics in the region view themselves as of foreign origin–they, their parents, or their grandparents were born outside the United States.
Cardinal Tobin also said the archdiocese would continue its program of welcoming refugees from a variety of troubled countries, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“When this group is settled, we hope to welcome others,” he wrote.
“This nation has a long and rich history of welcoming those who have sought refuge because of oppression or fear of death. The Acadians, French, Irish, Germans, Italians, Poles, Hungarians, Jews and Vietnamese are just a few of the many groups over the past 260 years whom we have welcomed and helped to find a better, safer life for themselves and their children in America.”
He based his opposition to Trump’s immigration policies on the Catholic Church’s long support of immigrants–and on scripture. He cited the Old Testament Book of Exodus in which God, through Moses, told the Israelites, “You shall not oppress an alien; you know how it feels to be an alien since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” Cardinal Tobin also cited the oft-quoted passage from the Gospel of Matthew (25): “Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers, you did to me.”
He also cited his own life, noting he was the grandson of immigrants and was raised in Detroit. He said he grew up and worked as a priest in communities enriched by people of many nationalities, languages, and faiths.”
Months ago, the new cardinal signaled his opposition to anti-refugee policies espoused by Trump and Congressional Republicans. In an interview for the pro-life website, LifeSiteNews.Com, Tobin noted that all American Catholics “came from some place else.”
“If we forgot that as American Catholics, on the day of judgment it will not be Jesus who condemns us, it will be our grandparents, because we forgot…In the wake of that election I feel the mission of the Church is even more crucial, not simply to be faithful to the Gospel but to help our nation preserve the best of its traditions.”
The site, incidentally, is a strong supporter of Trump’s views on abortion and gay rights.
Trump signed the draconian immigration orders last Wednesday. They have been stayed by federal courts at least until Monday. The number of people affected is in the tens of thousands.