A Path to Dignity and Reform

The timely message of the church’s Catholic social teaching tradition was on display Jan. 30, when Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez came to campus to receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Soon after a degree stole was placed upon the archbishop’s shoulders, the evening turned toward the church’s advocacy on behalf of immigration reform, specifically the fate of registrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Known as Dreamers, they are people who were brought to the United States without legally recognized authorization by the government. “We should give these people a path to citizenship,” the archbishop said.

Gomez was elected vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the second-highest post in the organization, by his fellow bishops in November 2016. Since then, he has spoken out and written a book and many articles advocating for policies that may improve a U.S. immigration system that is paralyzed by politics. People in both parties, Gomez said, are using DACA registrants as bargaining chips.

A policy of reform, he said, would recognize the reality of the movement of peoples and the importance of family. “We need to keep in mind that every human being has a family.”

Gomez pointed out that people move across borders not only as a result of disasters, such as earthquakes and wars, but also because of the power of economic forces, including the need for work. “The challenge is how we put together the dignity of the human person with the economic needs of the country.”

Gomez’s degree conferral and his address were sponsored by the university’s Academy of Catholic Thought and Imagination. His visit was part of a yearlong exploration and conversation across LMU constituencies on the topic of “The Idea of the Catholic University in the 21st Century.” Catholic schools started out “to serve the poor,” and reaching out to them, he reminded his audience, remains a mission of Catholic universities.

“What makes a society strong is not its military or its economy. What makes a society great is its generosity of spirit.”