Jesuits Tell Their Alumni in Congress: Protect Border Children

Rev. Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference of the U.S. since June 2006. Courtesy Jesuit Conference of the U.S.

American Jesuits are pushing members of Congress who were educated at the Catholic order’s schools to pass aid for thousands of refugee children who have surged across the border in Texas in recent months, calling proposals to swiftly deport them “inhumane and an insult to American values.”

“I ask you, as a leader, a parent, and a Catholic, to uphold an American tradition of which we are all proud,” the Rev. Thomas Smolich, head of the U.S. Jesuit conference, wrote to House Speaker John Boehner and 42 other House members who graduated from Jesuit high schools and colleges.

“We must welcome the refugee, the victim of trafficking, the child who has been abused or abandoned,” Smolich wrote in the July 29 letter. “Let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus when he said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

Since last fall, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border, mainly in south Texas, most of them from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The migrants are often driven out by endemic violence in their home countries and drawn to the U.S. by prospects of better economic opportunities or the chance to reunite with their families.

But the influx has created a humanitarian crisis that has become a political wedge issue.

Pope Francis Shuns Papal Apartment in Favor of Smaller Guesthouse

Photo by Rene Shaw

Photo by Rene Shaw

VATICAN CITY — Shunning the spacious papal apartment used by his predecessors, Pope Francis has chosen to continue living in the Vatican guesthouse where he has been staying since the beginning of the conclave.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, explained on Tuesday that Francis will live “until further notice” in a suite in the Santa Martha Residence, a modern Vatican guesthouse for priests and bishops who work in the Roman Curia or who are visiting the Vatican for meetings and conferences.

Francis made his intentions clear on Tuesday morning, while celebrating Mass in the residence’s chapel for its permanent guests, who occupy about half of the residence’s 130 or so rooms.

The pontiff’s choice is a consequence of his desire to adopt a “simple” living arrangement that allows him “to live in community” with other priests and bishops, Lombardi explained.

Why the First Jesuit Pope is a Big Deal

Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, celebrating mass in Buenos Aires. Photo courtesy Religion News Service.

Jesuits are bound by oath not to seek higher office in the Roman Catholic Church, and now one of them has been elected to its highest office: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Pontifex Maximus.

“On the one hand, Jesuits aren’t supposed to be in positions of authority,” said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a Jesuit and founder of Ignatius Press. “On the other hand, they’re supposed to be obedient to the church.” Pope Francis, the first Jesuit to become pope, not only represents a paradox for the papacy, but also the larger history of the Society of Jesus, as the Jesuits are formally known.

The Jesuits have played a key role in the history of the church. For centuries, they have served as its leading missionaries, founded its most prestigious universities and committed themselves to alleviating the deepest poverty.



Who Speaks for Catholics?

Before the election, several bishops went so far as to threaten their parishioners with eternal damnation if they voted for Obama.

Photo: Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Jim Rice, editor of Sojourners magazine, has been a member of Sojourners editorial staff since 1989. He has also served as director of Sojourners Outreach Ministry and as coordinator of Sojourners Peace Ministry. He currently serves as a Research Fellow for the New Media Project at Christian Theological Seminary.