The church would not say that a home invader should be given lodgings in a home he has invaded so why does it support illegal immigration? Can you acquire rights by violating someone else’s rights? It is an absurd position. And despite what apologists say, I would like to see where Aquinas argues that — JR

By Damian Thompson

Here’s an article I’ve written for the new issue of The Catholic Herald.

Last week, over 70 African migrants died on a dinghy that ran out of fuel as it tried to reach Italy from Libya. Some of them perished of thirst and starvation during their time at sea. During that time, apparently, 10 vessels spotted them. Nine sailed on, like the passers-by in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Only one stopped. The Italian bishops’ conference is enraged: its newspaper reckons that the shunning of the migrants was comparable to ignoring the deportation of Jews during the war.

Such comparisons are usually unhelpful, designed to emphasise the moral superiority of the person making them. Not this time, perhaps. If the story is true (and there are disputes over the details) then the bishops have struck the right note.

That is not to say, however, that the Catholic Church should analyse every immigration tragedy – and there have been many – in terms of charity versus cold-hearted indifference. Over the past decade, hundreds of West Africans have died at sea trying to reach EU territory. Thousands more have landed safely – without documents, enabling them to tell lies about which country they come from and therefore claim to be fleeing persecution rather than poverty.

For some commentators, this economic migration is justified by its desperation: a few years ago, the Church in this country incautiously threw its weight behind calls for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, which was based on the premise that if you have successfully managed to dodge the immigration authorities of the country whose laws you have broken, then your position should be “regularised”. Interestingly, many Left-wing politicians – traditionally champions of unrestricted immigration – pointedly failed to endorse this campaign. Even more significantly, many Catholics, including priests, felt that the Church should have thought twice before advocating a further loosening of border controls.

This is a familiar debate in public life; what is unfamiliar is the willingness of Christians committed to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless – to the corporal works of mercy – to think beyond episcopal slogans. They know that unrestricted immigration makes life harder for the indigenous European poor; by celebrating it, the Church leaders are being selective in their understanding of mercy.

And, besides, the frightening consequences of mass immigration are only now becoming clear. I use the word “frightening” advisedly: for the current social changes are more wide-ranging and unpredictable than any that Europe has witnessed since the Middle Ages.

To understand why, read “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe”, by Christopher Caldwell, an American Financial Times journalist. Caldwell is a thoughtful conservative, a Catholic and an admirer of the social teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Here is a passage from a recent review of the book:

“Where [Caldwell] is right is in underlining the fact that immigration was encouraged by elites who took a ludicrously short-sighted view of its costs and consequences. The idea was to prop up industries already in decline and, later, to staff industries, such as health and tourism, the full cost of which our societies refused (and continue to refuse) to pay. The manning of underpaid and menial positions could be maintained only by a constant influx of new migrants, since people in established migrant communities either got better jobs or chose, like many in the native white population, to depend on the welfare state and to have no jobs at all.

More recently, immigration has been defended as a way of making up for falling birth rates when, as Caldwell points out, it would have to be multiplied an unfeasibly large number of times to have that effect. This inherently unstable and dysfunctional system was set in motion, in other words, for no good reason. Those who started it off did not foresee how big it would become, nor the mechanisms of family reunion and arranged marriages that would drive it on even when restrictions were belatedly imposed. Most of them did not imagine, says Caldwell, that the newcomers would “retain the habits and cultures of southern villages, clans, marketplaces, and mosques”.

Where is that taken from, do you think? The Spectator? No: it was written by Martin Woollacott in The Guardian. Admittedly, the reviewer goes on to suggest that Caldwell’s predictions may be too gloomy. But, in the end, he agrees that massive Muslim immigration to Europe was a “risky experiment to which we need not have subjected ourselves”.

If a Guardian writer can recognise that Europe’s Muslim population is retreating into huge ghettos, and that this poses an unprecedented challenge for civil society, why cannot the Church? Caldwell makes the point that European Muslims tend not to be anti-Christian (as one might assume). But they constitute an “adversary culture” that, in addition to rejecting the sleazy excesses of liberalism, also brushes aside human rights that owe as much to Christianity as to the Enlightenment.

Pope Benedict XVI, unlike Pope John Paul II, understands the adversarial quality of European Muslim culture. Most Catholic bishops, in contrast, take refuge in the dubious concept of the three “Abrahamic faiths” encouraged by the late pontiff. They speak of “faith” as a jolly good thing without bothering to define the term, or acknowledging the ever-widening gulf between the worldviews of Christianity and mainstream Islam, so much greater than that between Christianity and Judaism. [Would the Bishops argue that faith in the Devil is a good thing? Faith in WHAT is surely the question. Might not it be argued that Islam is the Devil’s perversion of Judaism? In Matthew 4 and Genesis 3 we see that the Devil can quote God’s word if it suits him. The bishops are just ignoring the theology of the matter — a very strange thing for a Catholic bishop to do, even if it is routine in Anglicanism — JR]

Catholic advocates of interfaith dialogue have found their heavily subsidised comfort zone and that’s where they want to stay. But sooner or later they will be pushed out of it – by uncontrollable social unrest caused by immigration. And then the Church will have to address questions to which there are no elegant answers, however long you spend poring over the documents of the Second Vatican Council.