Cheers for the Catholics on Migrant Care


Jackson           My father was raised at the knee of the Lutheran Church in Orange and Santa Anna, California.  My grandfather, when no longer able to work in the orange groves, was the janitor of the Lutheran Church, while they lived literally across the street from the church in Orange.  My uncle, his older brother George, who I never met, was killed in a training exercise at Fort Orr when his jeep rolled over him.  His name was on the flag pole of the Lutheran school next to the church.  The pastor once made my dad sit in his chair and said, “junior, this will be yours one day,” and he went running from California.

My dad liked to tell jokes, some were good, some not.  One involved three Lutheran brothers and their close friend who was Catholic and lived on the block with them and later became a priest.  They all ended up spread out around the country, but were back for a family event. The brothers decided to go hear their buddy officiate a mass as a priest.  They wanted to surprise him, but all of the pews were filled.  The priest saw them standing at the back and whispered to the acolyte, “get three chairs for the Lutherans.”  The young acolyte looked confused and nodded.  A little later, the priest saw his buddies were still standing, so he implored the acolyte once more to “get three chairs for the Lutherans.”  The acolyte seemed dumbstruck and went about his duties preparing the wafers and wine for the priest, who now was becoming exasperated with his inaction.  In a louder whisper, he grabbed the acolyte by the vestments and said, “Son, for the last time, get three chairs for the Lutherans.”  The acolyte shrugged his shoulders and went up to the railing at the altar, stood tall, and in his loudest voice, yelled, “Three cheers for the Lutherans, hip-hip-hooray.”

A great joke that I never forgot among the hundreds that slipped in and out of my ears, but I say all of that to say this.  The Catholic institution has been pilloried for its scandals provoked by the vow of celibacy and its shielding of abusive priests.   Their position on women’s choice has buttressed the worst of conservative arguments against women.  It’s taken them too long to do right by the LGBTQ community.  But when it comes to the way they have stood up for migrants and immigrants, I say:  THREE CHEERS FOR THE CATHOLICS!

Just this week, they stood out in amazing ways once again.  First, they caught longtime felon, scammer and pretend journalist, James O’Keefe, recently pushed out of his Veritas viper nest, but now was caught impersonating an exterminator trying to get into a migrant shelter in southern California.  The sisters and their staff busted the biggest bug of them all.

And then there was the great and moving story of Ruben Garcia’s Annunciation Houses in Texas which have provided shelter for countless migrants for decades through the support of the El Paso diocese, and more recently has even been a federal government contractor of last resort.  In the rabid anti-immigrant program of Texas governor Abbott and the equally venomous Attorney General Paxton they have gone after Gracia and the Annunciation shelters.  The Washington Post tells the story well:

            The influential patriarch of Annunciation House, a faith-based network of shelters based in El Paso, Garcia has taken in tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants he calls “guests” for nearly five decades. Working in collaboration with U.S. immigration officials, he provides them food, clothes and a first home in the United States, and some of his expenses are reimbursed by the federal government. It’s work he sees as a religious calling — to help the most vulnerable, no matter how they arrived.

But as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott clamps down on illegal immigration, state investigators are raising questions about Garcia’s humanitarian work. In court records, they contend that his shelters are “stash houses” sheltering the undocumented from authorities.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking a judge to shut down Garcia’s Annunciation House shelters and force him to turn over all of his organization’s records — including the names of people he is housing. Garcia has refused, setting up a legal battle between the state of Texas and a religious leader whose work is key to the federal government’s management of border crossings and who has drawn praise from the highest echelons of the Catholic Church.

Garcia is standing tall against the bullies.  When it comes to sheltering migrants and breaking down interlopers that would politically victimize them, let’s hear a hip-hip-hooray for Garcia and three cheers for the Catholics.