As the Religion News Service reported earlier this month, conservative political action committee CatholicVote (which has no formal connection to the Catholic Church) has sued the White House to obtain supposed records of communication between the U.S. government and the director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Missionary of Jesus Sr. Norma Pimentel. According to a recent editorial the National Catholic Reporter, Sr. Norma and her dedicated staff provide meals and other vital assistance to 80 to 200 migrants each day. CatholicVote has alleged that Sr. Norma and Catholic Charities are causing “chaos” at the border and questioned the legality of their work. That a nominally “Catholic” organization would attempt to derail others performing the corporeal works of mercy to, as the NCR editorial put it, “score a point in the never-ending culture war,” is a source of deep shame.
Last week, the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP) expressed solidarity with Catholic Charities USA and Sr. Norma in an open letter. “We, as an association of Catholic priests and friends, are saddened by the misleading claims of some elected officials and media outlets about the work of Catholic Charities agencies along the U.S.-Mexico border, and in particular about the life-giving ministry of Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley,” the letter stated. “The depth of our sadness is matched by the strength of our unqualified support for their ministry welcoming strangers as our brothers and sisters.”
CatholicVote’s harassment of Sr. Norma calls to mind the case against Dr. Scott Warren of the Arizona-based humanitarian group No More Deaths in 2019. For the “crime” of trying to assist his migrant brothers and sisters in need, Warren was charged with two counts of harboring and one count of conspiracy to harbor and transport undocumented immigrants. (For a detailed overview of the story, see our editorial from June/July 2019.)
The pitiable irony is that groups like CatholicVote are always fixated on how their faith is being “outlawed” from the public square—and yet here, having squandered a chance to lift it up and learn from it, it is they who are trying to outlaw the very embodiment of the Christian faith. Dr. Warren was eventually acquitted of all charges in a temporary victory over the criminalization of humanitarian aid. But as the lamentable actions of CatholicVote show, there are always those who want to make it as hard as possible to create, as Dorothy Day expressed it, “the kind of society in which it is easier to be good.” ♦