Interactive Friday

“Father, you are one Catholic this old Baptist boy enjoys reading and hearing. Thanks.” — Danny

“Father, what I appreciate most about your articles is this: on almost all issues today, from politics to religion, we seem to be polarized. It is one way or the other. Nobody is willing to explore the ground between. It is refreshing to hear an explanation and a call for reason and consideration.” — Paul

“Father, the e-mail I sent to you was out of control. I’m sorry. I didn’t think you would actually read it and I certainly didn’t expect a response. Your disimpassioned reaction to my personal attack has made me reflect a great deal. You have gained a reader and a friend” — Mary

On Fridays we are interactive and a bit informal. We take a step back and examine what we’ve said this week and what we’ve learned. You already know that I only post e-mails that add something to our discussion. I keep the personal ones to myself. But the three messages above, while personal in tone, say a lot about what’s going on in this blog community— diversity, serious reflection on current issues, and respect.

“Mild, Medium, Hot.” Like a good Mexican salsa, Monday’s blog, “Reframing the Debate,” made a lot of people uncomfortable. I take some responsibility for that. You’ll see what I mean in my responses to your e-mails below.

The reaction to Wednesday’s posting, “Partial-Birth Abortion"” also surprised me. Not a single person wrote in with a serious defense of the “procedure.” I’ve posted just a few messages that are representative and informative.

So here we go, beginning south of the border and moving up to the Supreme Court in Washington D.C.

Mexican Immigration: Reframing the Debate

Father Jonathan,
I usually agree with your opinions, but not this time. If it's ok for people to come to this country illegally, what else can they do illegally while they are here? They obviously don't think that our laws apply to them or they wouldn't have broken them in the first place. Illegal immigrants should have no place in our country. — Genny (Oklahoma)

RESPONSE: Genny, I couldn’t agree with you more. Nowhere in my article did I condone illegality, but you weren’t the only one who assumed that I did. I’m sorry for the confusion. The question is how to eliminate it. Tighter border security alone is not the solution. A revamping of our immigration procedures to correspond to the reality of the economic demands must be a part of it. And don’t forget the hypocrisy of turning a blind eye to the companies who illegally hire illegals. Who would risk their life to cross the border if American businesses played by the rules?

Father Jonathan,
Do we have an obligation to take in ANYONE in the world who wants to come to America? How many people would you like to have living here? Are two billion people enough, or three billion? Do we, as a sovereign nation, have the right to say who does and who doesn’t come in here? — Dave

RESPONSE: Dave, I mentioned that all people have a natural right to emigrate. I stick to my guns on this one. But notice that I also mentioned that the right to leave one’s own land to find a better life is limited by the host nation’s right and obligation to control immigration to sustainable and safe levels. In other words, I have a right to leave my country, but not necessarily the right to enter another.

Father Jonathan,
I’m behind you all the way AND President Bush, too. My one concern is that we make English our national language. If you live in the Southwest, you hear more Spanish than English sometimes. If I were to move to another country, I’d learn the language right off. We are doing a huge disservice by printing signs and providing voting ballots in Spanish. To vote, you should have command of the English language. We don’t see signs in 100 other languages of the people who move to the United States. They learn English! — Martha (Longview, Texas)

RESPONSE: Martha, you bring up a good point. I am absolutely against the acceptance of Spanish as a substitute for English. It is bad for immigrants, it is bad for us. Language is part of culture, and culture should unite.

Dear Father Jonathan,
You hit the nail on the head. I ask this question of the advocates of the so-called "wall:" I dare you to work a month in the fields? Come on, if these "job-stealers" are so damaging to this country, and you would rather have them not be here, then walk in their shoes. Work in the fields, and on the roofs, and as gardeners and maids. Work for the pittance that they are paid and try to live on that. I’m proud to be an AMERICAN of Mexican descent! — Tony

RESPONSE: Tony, yes, we have to keep in mind the humanitarian aspect. We aren’t talking about numbers, we’re talking about people.

Dear Father Jonathan,
You make some valid points, but you don’t speak about the costs to border cities, in education and healthcare. These folks don’t pay for health insurance even if offered it at the workplace. What about our school systems? The costs in California have nearly bankrupted us. What about those issues? — Karla (California)

RESPONSE: Karla, you are right, I should have made mention of these serious problems. Making more efficient our procedures for legal immigration is part of the answer. Many illegals take advantage of the system, feeling no emotional attachment to the country in which they hide. While their behavior can’t be condoned, it is unrealistic to think that this will change if we don’t fix the hypocritical system of use and abuse that I criticized in my original posting.

Father Jonathan,
I certainly agree that "we need long-term efforts to adjust economic inequalities between the United States and Mexico." I'm sure you'll agree that it won't happen this year or next. Please don't take my comments as opposition to yours. I truly appreciate your article. — Ken (North Saint Paul, MN)

RESPONSE: Between the lines I think you’re saying, “It’s not all our fault. The Mexican government has got to get on the ball.” Right on, Ken! The Mexican government has a long tradition of corruption and inefficiency and those vices have a way of perpetuating themselves. Dialogue and cooperation between governments, not only on security, but on issues of education and development are part of the equation that we can’t forget.

Partial-Birth Abortion:

Father Jonathan,
No medical condition exists that justifies partial-birth abortion. — Jill (Experienced nurse / lawyer / mother of six)

RESPONSE: Six children! Congratulations! I come from a family of seven and we are best of friends. Family reunions are never boring.

Father Jonathan,
I was told during a few of my pregnancies that if I did not abort I would die. Five children later I am still here. Abortion, in any form, is the most selfish act of any woman in any situation. You can throw medical terms around, de-humanize the so-called 'fetus' or rearrange the language of abortion to make ourselves feel better for taking innocent life. In the end, it comes down to selfishness. — Sally

RESPONSE: Sally, thanks for your note and for your courage. I must add, however, that our culture makes abortion an almost thoughtless operation. It is so quick and easy that I would dare to say that women don’t always make a fully conscious act of selfishness. We have to remember that while we often talk about abortion, we rarely talk about “my abortion”. With 43,000,000 of them in our country alone since Roe V. Wade this is above all an emotional issue. It demands understanding, love, respect and forgiveness from all of us.

Father Jonathan,
In response to your question, I have never seen a patient in over 30 years of practice as an obstetrician where an abortion would be indicated in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy because of the reason of 'the health of the mother.'" — Thomas W.H., M.D.

RESPONSE: Dr. Thomas, thanks for your contribution. It allows me to bring up an important point regarding the pending Supreme Court Case. There is a lot of confusion about the “health benefit” exception. Clarifying the data is critical to understanding how the issue will play out in the court ruling this fall and how it relates to abortion law in general. I hope these few paragraphs below help:

In 2000, five justices of the Supreme Court, including recently retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, ruled that the abortion right originally created in Roe v. Wade allows an abortionist to perform a partial-birth abortion any time he sees a 'health' benefit, even if the woman and her unborn baby are entirely healthy. (Stenberg v. Carhart, June 28, 2000) This ruling struck down the ban on partial-birth abortion that had been enacted by Nebraska, and rendered unenforceable the similar bans that more than half the states had enacted.

Nevertheless, in 2003, Congress approved and President Bush signed a national law, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. This federal law would allow the method if it were ever necessary to save a mother's life. However, it does not allow an abortionist to use the method any time he asserts that it might be slightly preferable to some other method, even for women with no health problems, which is what the five justices required in the 2000. This discrepancy of what the “health benefit” means, set the stage for the decision this year of three federal courts to reject the ban passed by Congress and signed by the President.

So the Supreme Court will now have to look not only at the constitutionality of the 2003 law passed by Congress, but the decision of the Supreme Court in 2000. The commentaries of the many health professionals that have stated their opinion on this blog are extremely pertinent because they say that the health exception, neither in the case of life and death emergency nor in the case of a “slightly preferable method,” does not apply in real life.

Let’s remind the justices that the best way to respect the principle of judicial precedence is to overrule that precedence that was once decided poorly.

Have a great weekend, everyone. We’ll talk on Monday. God bless, Father Jonathan

Write to Father Jonathan Morris at