Cardinal-designate Tobin notes fears around immigration, refugees

| October 25, 2016 | 0 Comments
Cardinal-designate Tobin Courtesy University of St. Thomas

Cardinal-designate Tobin Courtesy University of St. Thomas

Addressing a packed crowd at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Oct. 24, Cardinal-designate Joseph Tobin dispelled misunderstandings about immigration and welcoming refugees.

“This welcome is an essential part of our Catholic identity,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said during the lecture, co-sponsored by the university’s Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship and several departments.

God’s call to welcome refugees has not changed despite heightened dangers worldwide over the past few years, Cardinal-designate Tobin said. The archbishop of Indianapolis explained the three sources of fear people need to stand up to in respecting the dignity of people from other countries.

Cardinal-designate Tobin has stood up for refugees in his own archdiocese. He described the work of Catholic Charities there supporting Syrian refugees. He also spoke of his dialogue with Indiana governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence over the refugees. Pence had said he wanted to ban refugees from resettling in the state.

In addressing the sources of fear for people, the cardinal designate began with terrorism, which he called a legitimate concern. He highlighted FBI Director James Comey’s statements about the U.S. government’s vetting process, particularly in December 2015.

Cardinal-designate Tobin recalled how Comey told a U.S. congressman that, “vouching for each and every refugee would be practically impossible.”

“Not wanting to assume direct, personal responsibility for each refugee is a very different thing than saying, ‘There’s no way to know [if they’re terrorists],’” Cardinal-designate Tobin said.

The archbishop also made it clear that the secular media does no favors to the public when reporting about terrorism. He said the profit-driven nature of the business has made reporting facts accurately and truthfully a secondary priority.

“Have you noticed how difficult it is to be informed straightforwardly about local and national issues?” Cardinal-designate Tobin asked the crowd in the James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall. He encouraged attendees to read and listen to media reports critically.

Media often appeal to stereotypes and emotions such as fear, the cardinal-designate indicated. The repetition of the message makes it believable for people.

It resonated with attendees such as Mary Payne of St. Paul. Payne attends St. Mark’s in St. Paul, a parish that has Cambodian refugees.

“Somebody was asking me, ‘what is one way to alleviate the fear,'” Payne said. “Turn the TV off.”

Some attendees, such as Basilica of St. Mary parishioner and former state senator Robert Tennessen, has first-hand experience with refugees. He sponsors a Syrian family in Minneapolis. Tennessen also sees how immigrants benefit his family’s business in Worthington, Minnesota.

“Without the immigrants, their meat packing plant wouldn’t exist because they wouldn’t have workers,”  said Tennessen.

Cardinal-designate Tobin also talked about how globalization contributes to the fears about immigration and refugees. Globalization challenges people’s boundaries, even more so in the current climate.

“Because there’s a fear, who I am and who we are together is slipping out of our hands,” he said. “Somebody is threatening our identity.”

He later added, “For us Americans, the ‘other’ arguably has become Muslims from the Middle East.”

None of the three fears dispense Catholics from welcoming people from other lands, especially refugees, said the cardinal-designate, who Pope Francis named with 16 others Oct. 9.

“Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are above all human persons, made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said, quoting Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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