Archbishop Cupuich, here in Chicago, decided to weigh in on the Syrian refugee crisis with the following open letter to Chicago Sun-Times readers (this is how the letter was printed in its entirety):
The evil visited upon Paris by Islamic State terrorists will never be fully understood. One hundred thirty innocent people lost their lives, and hundreds more were wounded. Today, their families languish in unspeakable suffering, as do the families of the 43 men and women who were also murdered by an ISIS suicide bomber in Beirut a few days earlier.
The entire world stands with the victims of these atrocities. We cannot know the pain of their loved ones. We can only pray for their healing, and that they may be comforted by God’s grace.
Still, even as we decry these heinous acts, we must guard against the temptation to give in to the fear and the panic that terrorists groups such as ISIS seek to sow. In the days since Paris, some Americans have called for us to break our promise to the global community that we would help resettle just 10,000 of the 4 million Syrian refugees who have had no choice but to flee their homes. These are mostly women and children who have risked their lives to escape unimaginable terror and persecution in the Syrian civil war and at the hands of the Islamic State.
Critics worry that some of these refugees might be ISIS agents. While the sincerity of their concern cannot be called into question, we must do our best to separate facts from fear — particularly when it could mean closing our door on thousands of innocent people who are running for their lives. America should not give ISIS the victory it wants.
Here are the facts. If you want to enter the United States, doing so as a refugee is already the longest, most difficult process that exists. The security screening process for refugees is more stringent than the process for foreign tourists, students, businesspeople or anyone else. It takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months or longer, and involves the FBI, Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Defense Department and the State Department. Your biometric data is checked against law-enforcement databases. You must pass a battery of interviews. And if you’re from Syria, the process is even more rigorous.
The United States has already found room for the nearly 800,000 refugees who have resettled here since 9/11. And since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the United States has accepted about 2,000 Syrians. Over the entire period of refugee settlement since 2001, our security apparatus has kept us safe. Why, then, should we turn away people who pass such a rigorous process? How can we look the other way, as they huddle with their children in foreign lands with barely any shelter, clothing or food?
We must not. These are our neighbors. They look to our nation, a city on a hill. They look to our cities, cities such as Chicago, which have been made stronger not in spite of our diversity — but precisely because of it. What would our community be without our Latino brothers and sisters, our Polish brothers and sisters, our Irish, Italian, German, Greek, Scandinavian, Filipino, Chinese and Korean brothers and sisters? Out of many, we are one. That’s America. How many of us come from families who endured countless struggles to make a better life for their children and grandchildren? We, too, are refugees.
Catholics value our tradition of welcoming the stranger. We know what it is like to be strangers, unwelcome in this land. In 1855, for example, Chicago elected an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic mayor. Near the end of the 19th century, some Chicagoans joined groups such as the American Protective Association, a secret society whose members promised never to hire Catholics who simply wanted to feed their families. This is our history, but it need not repeat itself.
On the very first trip of his papacy, Pope Francis visited refugees on the tiny island of Lampedusa, off the coast of Sicily. He spoke with and prayed for men, women, and children — Christian and Muslim alike — who had just made a dangerous journey across the sea in search of a better life. A year later, on World Refugee Day, Pope Francis said, “We believe that Jesus was a refugee, had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Mary.”
The season of Advent begins next Sunday. Christians across the globe will sing in anticipation of Jesus’ birth: O come, o come Emmanuel. “Emmanuel” is a uniquely powerful word. It means “God with us.” That was God’s choice — to be with us, to be born in a manger, down in the dust, soon to be on the run from certain death. But we, too, have a choice — and it’s not one we can run from. We can shun our neighbors in need, or we can embrace them. We can invite them to our table. And in doing so, uphold the values that founded the very nation we celebrate when we gather in thanksgiving to the God who chose to reveal himself to us as a refugee.
Archbishop Cupich was appointed Archbishop of Chicago on September 20, 2014, and was installed as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago on Tuesday, November 18, 2014.
I thought I'd share with you all the response I sent in to theSun-Times:
Sunday’s Sun-Times ran a letter from Archbishop Cupich that called on Americans not to give in to “the fear and the panic that terrorist groups such as ISIS seek to sow.” He also suggested that those of us concerned about welcoming a large number of Syrian refugees need to “separate facts from fear” and further suggested that we lack compassion if we don’t let in all 10,000 refugees that the Obama Administration promised the “global community.”
Wading through all of the sentimental nonsense and schmaltz in the Archbishop’s letter was quite a job, but on behalf of all the readers who might not have done so, I feel compelled to write in and set the record straight. Archbishop Cupich needs to face some unpleasant facts himself. He claims the refugees are “mostly women and children” – a quick visit to the U.N.’s “Syria Regional Refugee Response” helpful website indicates that of the 4,289,792 registered refugees about half are men (of all ages) and half are women. He also claims that these refugees have “barely any shelter, clothing or food” – while I certainly would agree that their living conditions in the refugee camps and cities that host large numbers of refugees are less than ideal, most refugees are working to provide for their families, and have shelter, clothing and food. They would have much better opportunities in the United States – but this is true of literally hundreds of millions of people around the world (imagine being a poor farmer in South Sudan) and has been true for all sort of oppressed peoples in the Middle-East, including, for example, many Christians in Iraq who have been driven out of that country thanks to Islamic oppression. Has Archbishop Cupich written editorials demanding Americans take in his fellow Christian brothers and sisters who have faced Islamic oppression over the past eight plus years?
And speaking of Islam, Archbishop Cupich ensures those of us who fear Islamic jihadis who might sneak into the country as part of the group of Syrian refugees that the “security screening process for refugees is more stringent than the process for foreign tourists, students, businesspeople or anyone else” and that “over the entire period of refugee settlement since 2001, our security apparatus has kept us safe.” Sure, if you ignore the Boston bomb brothers (to be fair, their parents were technically political asylees) or the Somalis refugees (over 60 to date who have left America to join -Shabaab, the Islamic State, and other Islamic terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Africa – so I guess we are kept safe – so far our Somali terrorists like to kill the infidel in foreign lands!) Or if you ignore the approximately 13% of Syrian refugees who have a favorable opinion of ISIS – they might not be jihadis now, but give them some time among the infidel and who knows when they might decide it is a good idea to start killing for their favorite caliphate?
Finally, the Archbishop asserts our cities (and presumably our country) has “been made stronger not in spite of our diversity — but precisely because of it.” This is nonsense on stilts – if anything a strong case can be made for just the opposite – the well-respected social scientist Robert Putnam has found that the greater the (ethnic) diversity within a community the more “we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.” I have a suggestion myself for the Archbishop, one in keeping with our Christian duties to our fellow man. How about we help our neighbors that are right here in the U.S. and in need?
I wasn't crazy about the ending, but it was already quite long for a letter that the paper would actually print, so I figured I needed to wrap things up. I wanted to talk more about the Archbishop's canned rhetoric about the wonderful benefits of immigration -- Cupich is what Lydia likes to call a "lumper" rather than a spliter -- meaning he lumps every single immigrant group together into one big undifferentiated group, never once thinking for a minute that not every single ethnic group might contribute equally to our country or that some groups might bring habits of mind and/or mores that are quite incompatible with American culture and values!
I also wanted to criticize the Archbishop (and Pope) for abusing the story of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus fleeing into Egypt as refugees from King Herod. What is amusing about pointing to that story as some kind of admonition to Christians to help refugees today is that the Bible doesn't say one word about who may have helped Jesus' family while they were in Egypt (or if they even needed help!) Of course, what is even more relevant to our contemporary situation is that the holy family went back to Israel to be close to their original home! Even though they were fearful of settling back in Judea due to Herod's son being in power, it's not like they then went half-way around the world to live a better life -- all they did was settle down next door in Galilee -- which makes much more sense for the refugees today fleeing the civil war in Syria. Let their next-door neighbors help them (as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon are already doing) and let the wealthy Gulf Arabs pay for the services and help their co-religionists need. It is silly to speak of Americans half-way around the world as a Syrian civil war refugee's neighbor when there are literal neighbors who are in a better position, both financially and culturally, to help out their Arab cousins in the neighborhood.