The discussion on the problem of MALTA (see elsewhere on our website) brought us an occasion to take a glance at the question how migration issues are dealt with in the Curia of the Catholic Church.
This topic is of some interest since within the Church which is spread over the whole world, we see occasionally varying and sometimes contrasting voices of bishops on topics related to migration. Yet in this field Rome does not impose unity of view in the practical aspects.
Is that bad? Or simply puzzling ? To that question we come a moment later, but first the institutional facts:
There is a Pontifical Council which carries the word Migrants in its full and lengthy name,
Its major task is not in overseeing and analyzing the global and various aspects of the global migration problem but in providing Pastoral care to a variety of groups of migrants. There is a long list of such groups assisted with pastoral care: political refugees, gypsies, international students, internally displaced persons, aircraft personnel, nomads Shinti, Rom, circus and carnival people, shrines, people of the sea, and also tourists (with a plea to respect local culture and environment).
To all those groups the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care to Migrants devotes admirable attention,. Traditionally it has been much helped by the Scalabrini fathers who care for immigrants in many countries . And the long list is not even closed.
Recently Archbishop Marchetto introduced a new group to its initiatives, a first European Meeting for the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street. (see http://www.zenit.org/article-26995?l=english)
The Pastoral Council is however not a Council which would claim to have a full grasp on all sides of the complex world migration problem. It is focused on the migrants, and less on the problems of receiving or the sending societies, or on the wider economic and geopolitical and local ethnic causes and effects of migration. It has no time to search for “alternatives”, like we do in this website (see…).
If the Bible admonishes to care for our brother, it is mostly the allochtone migrant brother the Pastoral Council thinks of, not the authochtone brother who is suffering in his deteriorating and unsafe European suburb.
Is there perhaps another agency in the Curia to take up the full range of the migration questions ?
Yes there is. Or rather: there might be
Right in the same Pontifical complex of buildings on San Calisto Square in Rome there is the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace. That council received from Pope Paul VI a very wide mandate by which it could be deemed a natural seat of a more systematic, thorough reflection on Migration, its causes and its cures, and (we add: ) its alternatives. (note  )
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This Council for Justice and Peace issued also an important Compendium of the Churchs Social Doctrine which is now available even in the Chinese language. As could be expected the Council had also an important role in preparing Pope Benedict XVIs recent encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”
A role in the analysis of the worlds migration problems might therefore have fitted very well to Justice and Peace. The fact that until last year the two councils shared one single person, a Cardinal, H.Em Cardinal Martino as their President, could have facilitated the sharing or allocation of such work. (Note )
However there is no visible attempt of sharing tasks on migration between the two Pontifical Councils, or broadening the consideration of Migration in all its causes and effects in one of the two.
If we suppose that somebody happened to send a letter to His Eminence Cardinal Martino with a question on the more general and complex questions related to migration (beyond pastoral care) quite probably the Cardinal’s secretary would not have been handed your letter for response to J&P but rather to Pastoral Care, since the word “Migration” appears in that body’s title. The writer then would not become any the wiser.
Apart from these two Councils could there be yet another Curia department which could take the broader view on Migration ? Yes, obviously the State Secretariat, but that would mean practically to bring the issue in the immediate surroundings of the Pope himself.
Is the absence of central and comprehensive perspective and coordinating centre on migration issues regrettable ? If not regrettable then perhaps odd, since people often think that bishops in all countries always speak for the Pope or the church in general?.
In fact a large margin of latitude is tolerated.A bishop of Los Angeles may thus speak out on relations with Mexico and on the border fence being constructed (he is fiercely against it).
French bishops may take very easily at face value the vague general idea that in a globalized world all three components of the economy, merchandise, capital and people (labour) should have (or a weaker “are supposed to have”) full freedom of movement across national borders..
If in another document from the French bishops it says: we are inheritors of Rousseau and his contrat social one senses clearly a certain vagueness in analysis and a weakness in historical perspective.
Similar examples can be found in other continents, in Asia or in the Americas.
Bishops often have little time for study. They are quite regularly pressed by their surrounding ONG’s and sometimes under the pressure of their immense tasks, sign too easily what has been brought to their table.
Another novel variety is proposed by the institute OASIS in Venice which under the guidance of its eminent Patriarch of Venice specializes on countries outside Europe with a Muslim population.
It takes the idea of “Métissage” (be it in the methodological limited sense invented by Clifford Geertz, not in any prescriptive sense) as its model and nearly as its permanent symbol. Does this idea of Métissage , or “mestizaje” appeal to the populations concerned, molsim or native european?
Among the moslims a prevailing idea is rather domination then simple metissage. The concept could also sound rather frightening around native Europe (note ).
We well remember the cautious comments of Bishop Bernardini of Izmir during the European Synode a few years ago.Particularly in our troubled European suburbs the idea of metissage might well brings the shivers to the resident people, our autochthonic countrymen .
Yet all these various and different approaches of bishops around the world to migration seem permitted. Readers will have noticed some of the mentioned examples on this website. Must different and sometimes disparate voices then be resolved to unity at a higher central level?
There may be good reasons to doubt such a claim. Diversity of church statements might serve us well as long as it is understood that the opinions of local bishops may be tested in reasonable argument in light of loical facts and prudence. In this delicate topic of migration it would be hazardous to have the Curia aim at uniformity and then find itself in the necessity to go deeply into the intricacies of migration in all the needed aspects : social, economic, financial, geopolitical, geo-economical , the development aspects of migration, climate change dangers and even military aspects (because conflicts in Africa generate displacement of populations and therefore migration pressures on Europe).
Speaking out at a central level covering very diverse situations on migration in the whole world may not do justice to the real problems. It would also be hazardous in diplomatic and in other terms.
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The Church, while being an expert on humanity, should better remain at some prudent distance from difficult practical geopolitical and often local issues on which different views might be possible. “In necessariis unitas” said Saint Augustine, but in this field of migration with widely varying local circumstances, patience with diversity is perhaps the better way.
Implicit in this view would be that outside the Curia the field should be wide open to respectful, full discussion and criticism. ” Let hundred flowers blossom”. Then at least one flower may also blossom for the “other” brother, who now is often forgotten, the autochthonic European citizen who in his deteriorating suburb suffers from the chaotic and irresponsible immigration policies of the last half century .
A personal note : I was personally involved when our government sought Italian workers for our Dutch steel factories, and later in Turkey I remember that when in the morning I went to the embassy, I had to cross the long lines of Turkish poor workers waiting to get their health certificate or other documents to go to Holland. So my criticism on our own European immigration or guest workers policies is not just from yesterday.
Would the above opinion in any way be in contradiction to what is so well said in the Encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate ? On migration the letter has a short, classical chapter (section 62).
Repeatedly the Papal letter warns against styles of charity which remain merely at the sentimental level and which have not a solid basis in truth, in reality, in deeper comprehensive analysis. Perhaps we may draw the conclusion that the author of Caritas in Veritate would admit a form of “tough love” towards migrants as being among the legitimate styles of charity.
A tough love in which we would address the true causes of migration and truly face up to the costs in finance, in increased civil cooperation and integration, and costs perhaps even in blood (because where ethnic conflicts cause migration waves some military intervention also with also European forces might be needed, on occasion also with precious loff of life.
Tough love with respect to migrants then may be canonically acceptable among the truly serious alternatives for massive migration, and as a genuine form of Caritas in Veritate. “Tough, serious, responsible love” will put strong claims also on ourselves ; for making the real thorough and wide ranging analysis which will be required. with all the social, economic, financial, geopolitical, geo-economical , the development aspects of migration, climate change dangers and even military aspects included.
Toughness will also take a toll on ourselves, when we translate analysis into action even if that may cost us money and blood (note  )
How shall we translate “tough love” in Latin ?
Anton Smitsendonk – Paris 091025
P.S. Un cordiale benvenuto a LL.EE. Monsignori Antonio Maria Vegliò, e Agostino Marchetto se credono opportuno di entrare nel club dei geopolitici !