Is Opposition to Illegal Immigration a Sin?

Not only do nations have the right to enact laws that limit immigration but also nations have as their principal obligation to first assure the common welfare of its own citizens.


September 27, 2023

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To quickly answer the question asked by the title of this article: Of course not.  

But listening to most Church leaders today, a Catholic would think that it is one of those sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance (pardon that terribly antediluvian reference.)

In fact, opposition to it is a mandate of both the virtue of Justice and holy Charity. Before arguing that seemingly counterintuitive statement (considered so only against the noise of current nostrums), some background is in order.

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It used to be that nothing was a sin. Today, almost everything is. The new catalogue of sins has not descended from Mt. Sinai but from Mt. Woke. Sinai’s censures were of things like theft, lying, worship of idols, extra-marital sex, and murder. Today they are passe. For the properly illumined, it is Mt. Woke’s new list: white privilege, heteronormativity, lookism, speciesism, intersectionality, pronoun insensitivity, and (dare I even mention it in this respected journal?) Green Indifference.

If the new proscriptions seem too erudite to comprehend, don’t fret. They depend on obfuscation as their cachet. Part of the Gnostic playbook is entrée to a “privileged knowledge” that only a select few possess. The rest are, how shall we put it, “restorationists.”

Forgive me for an egregious omission germane to our purpose. One of the Woke sins is Bordered Nations. Its poison offspring, the dreaded obloquy, Illegal Immigrants. In the spanking New Woke World there are no nations. Only One World. No longer are there Americans, Samoans, French, or Romanians. Such cultural hegemony is a base evil. Now all are Citizens of the World.

Men of sound mind instantly recognize the lunacy of exchanging Mt. Sinai for Mt. Woke. Once upon a time, the greatest enemy to this Gnostic madness was the Roman Catholic Church. She stood like a mighty sentinel against all things offensive to Right Reason (Natural Law) or True Religion (Divine Revelation). In Chesterton’s words, “Catholicism is sanity preached to a planet of lunatics.”  Men of sound mind instantly recognize the lunacy of exchanging Mt. Sinai for Mt. Woke. Once upon a time, the greatest enemy to this Gnostic madness was the Roman Catholic Church. Tweet This

The Church could always be depended upon to untangle the tangled; to show light where there was darkness; to set straight the unstraightened. She would shout over the din of specious inanities the sweet voice of reality. While the fallen world would spin out of control, she maintained control. And a grateful human race bowed gratefully before her poised reason and dazzling Depositum. 

No longer.

Not a few of her shepherds now mimic the worst sectors of the Woke Left. They have become “the lunatics.” For the most part, the blessed few who are not hide beneath the safe cover of silence. They invoke prudence as their defense, even as they hear the shrieking of the Little Ones deprived of their bread. Their genteel courtesies remind one of the jolly aristocratic merrymakings of Paris 1789 as the peasants groveled.  

They have before them a rent Church, like the one after the ravages of the Protestant Revolution and criminal episcopal/papal inaction of the medieval Church. So ruinous was the state of the Renaissance Church that it prompted Pope Clement VII, in 1537, to write a letter to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V: “My dearest son, we look upon the Church today and see a corpse in shreds…St. Peter’s is a stable.”

Déjà vu?

At the conclusion of the Council of Trent, a certain sobriety settled upon the once insouciant episcopacy. It prompted the Cardinal of Lorraine to thunder at his fellow Council Fathers:

Whom shall we accuse, my fellow bishops? 
Whom shall be declared to be the authors of such great misfortune? 
We must admit that much with shame and with repentance for our past lives. 
Storm and tempest have arisen on our account, my brethren, and because of this let us cast ourselves into the sea. 
Let judgment begin with the House of God. 
Let those who bear the sacred instruments of the Lord, be purged and reform.

We wait with bated breath to hear words of such affecting clarity today.

Returning to the matter at hand: What of opposition to illegal immigration as a mandate of justice?

Let us begin with The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church:

A nation has a fundamental right to existence, to its own language and culture, through which a people expresses and promotes its fundamental spiritual sovereignty, to shape its life according to its own traditions and to build its future by providing an appropriate education for the younger generation.

This statement of the justice regarding nations should be understood in conjunction with the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Political authorities for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially regarding the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. (#2241)

On February 2, 2001, Pope John Paul II addressed the 87th World Day of Migration, where he made even more explicit the imperatives of justice regarding immigration:

Highly developed countries are not always able to assimilate all those who emigrate and that while the church strongly affirms the right to emigrate certainly, the exercise of such a right is to be regulated, because practicing it indiscriminately may do harm and be detrimental to the common good of the community that receives the migrant. 

These authoritative statements underline not only the right of nations to enact laws that limit immigration but also emphasize that nations have as their principal obligation to assure the common welfare of first its own citizens. Overcrowded classrooms and packed emergency rooms are not examples of normative justice for a citizenry.

No doubt, justice clearly requires that nations welcome immigrants to their shores, but the reception must be strictly guided by the laws of nations. Legal immigrants are welcomed with open arms. Not illegal ones. Moreover, it is a gross miscarriage of justice to those who assume the painstaking requirements of the legal process of just immigration.

But what of the immigrants suffering at the hands of a callous homeland? While we pity them, we cannot house them when their entrance is illegal. Clerics who do are proselytizing law-breaking. Where does this carte blanche end? Do these pioneering clerics recognize that their theological gush opens a spiral of anarchy? 

St. Thomas clarifies:

Augustine says… “since one cannot do good to all, we ought to consider those chiefly who by reason of place, time or any other circumstance, by a kind of chance are more closely united to us”… 

Now the order of nature is such that every natural agent pours forth its activity first and most all on the things which are nearest to it… But the bestowal of benefits is an act of charity towards others. Therefore, we ought to be most beneficent towards those who are most closely connected with us. 

Now one man’s connection with another may be measured in reference to the various matters of which men are engaged together;  (thus the intercourse of kinsman is in natural matters, that of fellow citizens is in civic matters, that of the faithful is in spiritual matters, and so forth) and various benefits should be conferred in various ways according to these various connections, because we ought in preference to bestow on each one such benefits as pertain to the matter in which, speaking simply, he is most closely connected with us… 

For it must be understood that, other things being equal, one ought to succor those rather who are most closely connected with us.

(S.T. II-II.31.3)

What of Holy Charity? For Catholics, St. Thomas’ teaching above sheds light upon the subject. While all men deserve our charity, it is impossible to give all men our charity. Charity possesses its own order. Aquinas makes them eminently clear. Would the father of a house fulfill charity if he allowed into his home two dozen illegal immigrants while his children were neglected? No. Because he would be failing in charity those for whom he is bound first: his family. Under the roof of this faux charity there is grave sin.

When sentimentality replaces charity, chaos ensues. Charity flourishes within the boundaries of an ordered justice. It must be remembered that the spine of charity is truth (justice), and the face of charity is oblation.

The present condition of illegal immigrants is a flagrant violation of charity. They are allowed entry into this country and then must suffer the indignity of being abandoned to substandard living conditions while a virtue-signaling elite assuages their Leftist conscience. This is not justice but the absolution of white liberal guilt.

Clerics are doing great injustice to justice by treating illegal immigration as though it were an article of Faith. These same clerics are preaching breaches of charity in the name of charity. By surrendering true charity to the du jour enthusiasms of the day, they make of charity a parody.  

One prominent shepherd recently reproved Catholics protesting illegal immigrants. In tones of magisterial authority, he roared, “These are good people, I have baptized their babies!” How very touching. But that is not the point. This is dissembling at its worst. Rather like a man asking approval of his fornication because he is bringing beautiful children into the world.

A nation which is forced to give less to its citizens because it chooses to give priority to a promiscuous immigration policy is violating both justice and charity. These virtues are too grand to be dragged through the mud of secularism’s (in George Orwell’s apt phrase) “smelly little orthodoxies.”

Give the world and the Catholic faithful the full and robust teaching of the Catholic Church. Those teachings built Western Civilization and shall do so again.

In his Essays of a Catholic, Hilaire Belloc taught us well:

One thing in this world is different from all other. It has a personality and a force. It is recognized, and (when recognized) most violently loved or hated. 

It is the Catholic Church. 

Within that household the human spirit has roof and hearth. 

Outside it, it is the night.


  • Fr. John A. Perricone

    Fr. John A. Perricone, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of philosophy at Iona University in New Rochelle, New York. His articles have appeared in St. John’s Law Review, The Latin Mass, New Oxford Review and The Journal of Catholic Legal Studies. He can be reached at

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