A Catholic View on Immigration

In the latest edition of The Shepherd’s Voice Series, Brothers and Sisters in Christ: A Catholic Teaching on the Issue of Immigration, The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, examines the morality of immigration policy and the responsibility of Catholic citizens to ensure that the laws of their country always support the inherent human dignity of all people, regardless of where they were born.

In this new work, published by Basilica Press, Bishop DiMarzio tackles the tough questions that the issue of immigration brings up for the government, the Catholic Church and the citizenry as a whole. He explores the morality of the existing immigration laws and provides practical answers for Catholic citizens on how to deal with the issues concerning immigrants and migrants in everyday life.

According to Bishop DiMarzio the topic of immigration is entwined with the Catholic Church and cannot be regulated solely into the political or legal worlds because of the “moral content” of the issue. Reflecting on the experience of the Catholic Church, particularly in the United States, he writes ours is “an immigrant church that has grown through the new blood of immigrants…(and) as a universal organization present in sending communities, the Church has a full understanding of what compels migrants to come here.”(1) Bishop DiMarzio goes on to examine the concerns and misconceptions that the issue of immigration, legal and illegal, raise in the social discourse.

While the Bishop concedes that there are legitimate reasons for Catholics to disagree on the “complex social policy” of the issue of immigration, he states that “…each Catholic must judge themselves on the issue of how well their immigration position upholds human dignity and human life.” (5) And, at all times “Catholics should agree on protecting the dignity of the human person.” (32).

As Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, often dubbed “Diocese of Immigrants,” with members from 167 countries, and where Mass is said and services regularly offered in two dozen languages, Bishop DiMarzio has been a vocal proponent of immigration reform and community support for immigrants. According to Bishop DiMarzio, it is important for everyone, especially Catholics to follow the Gospel teaching to “welcome the stranger” and to work towards that directive while always respecting the dignity of our fellow human beings.

Throughout his priestly ministry, Bishop DiMarzio has worked tirelessly for the causes of immigrants and migrants. Prior to his appointment as Bishop of Brooklyn, he has served as the refugee resettlement director and the director of the Office of Migration in the Archdiocese of Newark and for six years as executive director of Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Catholic Conference.

He chaired the Migration Committee of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1998 to 2001 when he became the chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., a position which he still held until 2007. In 2000, Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop DiMarzio a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. He has testified frequently before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives on issues pertaining to migrants and immigration policy. In 2003 Bishop DiMarzio was invited to serve on the Global Commission on International Migration, formed by the Secretary General of the United Nations and a number of governments. He was the only U.S. citizen on the 19–member commission which, after two years of work and research, published the highly regarded report “Migration in an interconnected world; New directions for action.” in 2005.

Since his appointment as Bishop of Brooklyn in 2003, Bishop DiMarzio has continued to be a strong advocate for migrants and immigrants.