Families separated by the two countries chat along the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Border Field State Park, Calif., on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

Trump border wall challenges America’s moral values: Catholic theologian

VATICAN CITY (RNS) President Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico raises serious questions about America’s moral standing as the poor would bear the brunt of the suffering, a leading Catholic theologian says.

Father Dan Groody in 2012. Photo courtesy of Fr. Dan Groody

Rev. Dan Groody in 2012. Photo courtesy of Dan Groody

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The Rev. Daniel G. Groody, an associate professor of theology at Notre Dame University in Indiana, said the wall would lead to a loss of life as migrants are forced to find other ways to escape poverty across the border.

“What Trump fails to see is that state sovereignty is not an absolute privilege but a moral responsibility,” Groody told RNS.

“If more has been given to America, then even more is expected of us, and unless we attend to human insecurity outside our borders we will not have national security inside our borders.”

He said that even if the entire border is sealed off, “people are just going to come in boats. The wall solves nothing. It is just political bravado.”

Groody, who has worked extensively with migrants in southern California, was at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome taking part in an interreligious ethics project aimed at helping the poor.

“Significant spiritual issues are at stake,” Groody said. “To further close our doors not only deprives the stranger in need but also diminishes who we are as human beings.”

Groody said Pope Francis had made the plight of migrants a priority of his pontificate and Trump “understands neither the lessons of history, the challenges of immigration, nor the founding spirit of American democracy.”

Groody, who lived in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina under dictatorships, said after he was ordained as a priest he worked with immigrants in California on the border with Mexico.

“I was very inspired by the life of the people, the generosity of the people, but they were also suffering. They were not only poor, they were also dying in the deserts. Many were struggling for a dignified life.”

(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS)


  1. While I find the thought of a wall humorous, Groody needs to remember that Jerusalem had a wall to control who came in and out.

  2. Well, it’s one thing to help people displaced with a safe place to stay until they can get back up on their feet again. It’s also another thing when the world will not do anything about why people have to leave their lives, homes, culture, etc. So they can stop with their guilt tripping, and send people into places to make it safe for the people again. But of course no one speaks of this much, just using the Jesus card without any effort to rebuild people’s lives, end the cause of suffering, and push the evil/violence out.

  3. And they came down and then went up again and down again. Ironically or not, the current standing walls of Jerusalem were built in the 1500’s under the direction of Sultan Sueimin the Magnificent.

  4. Interesting. Have you seen them? i would love to.

  5. thanks. We planned at one time to go with a group recommended by our pastor, and then I started to have problems where we couldn’t go. Thanks for the advice. May others see it.

  6. Leftist emotional garbage. As if a country does not have a right to determine who comes in and under what legitimate circumstances, and who may not come in because certain standards are not met or because of other rational reasons for the good of the country.

    Glad I voted for Trump and he won.

  7. Roman Catholic do not own a monopoly on defining American morality. Perhaps the vatican should stick to governing the vatican. Perhaps when their own wall comes down and they get their own house in order, they may be in a position to be taken seriously.

  8. Secular values are far more useful here:
    1. It’s a waste of money
    2. It’s not going to be effective in any way
    3. It is impractical in many areas due to difficult geography.
    4. It is based on an incorrect, lazy bigoted assumption. (A,sizable number of illegal aliens don’t even come across that border)
    5. The resources needed can be put to far better use such as national infrastructure repair work and phasing out of lead piping in our water supplies.

    People who voted for trump thinking this was a good thing, or even plausible, are out of their minds or beyond mentally challenged.

  9. But a wall is a powerful symbol. It’s something people can see and usually gives people a sense of security.

  10. But not necessarily actual security. It’s a very expensive symbolic gesture.

  11. My question to all those who think a wall is un-Roman Catholic, why are these people fleeing countries that have been under the Roman Church’s domination for five centuries to a country that is culturally predominantly Christian but not Roman Catholic? Surely, if the Roman Church had been doing the right thing all this time, these would be all stable and prosperous nations with satisfied citizens who would be happy to stay and work in their native lands. The Roman Church should put its energies into cleaning up the mess in Latin America that it helped created by supporting the Latin American ruling classes.

    As for the wall, it is a total waste of money. Go after the employers with vigor and draconian punishments that hire those who do not have a legal right to be in this country. These employers hire the undocumented to keep the cost of labor down and have employees with no limited recourse. That will sharply decrease illegal stays in this country.

    On another note, on my recent visit to Rome I noticed a significant part of the Vatican is walled off ?????

  12. Rev. Groody, you may be in tune with Catholic moral values (at least we hope you are regarding priests sexually molesting children!) But you’re really ignorant about AMERICAN moral values. Those do not include allowing easy entry for criminal illegal aliens to come rob, rape and kill our citizens!

    Besides, where is it written in either the Catholic Bible or any other, that we are obligated to allow “the poor” to enter our country illegally and underbid low-skilled Latino citizens in the labor markets? “The poor” would be much better served if their governments could be rid of their corruption and collect taxes from the middle class and wealthy to provide job skills to those needing them, so they could be successfully employed in their own communities. That way these countries wouldn’t be dependent on the hard currency from the US from the illegals working here!

  13. Not sure what “standards” you’re referring to, but we already have an extremely rigorous vetting process in place–one that predates the Trump-Bannon regime. Mr. Trump-Bannon’s ban is largely redundant at best, and an ineffective, rabble-pleasing attempt at self-aggrandizement at worst. Rev Groody is speaking truth to power, and predictably, power doesn’t want to hear it.

  14. Exactly. Or maybe they could pony up and pay for all of this instead of strapping the American tax payer.

  15. Willful ignorance of immigration law and the operation of USCIS is fundamental to all nativist arguments. Its why they always use such general terminology and make arguments having nothing to do with how things actually operate.

  16. “Those do not include allowing easy entry for criminal illegal aliens to come rob, rape and kill our citizens!”

    But evidently slander has always been a Christian value. Illegal aliens have a generally lower violent crime rate per population than the rest.

    Well the working class would be better served if not for the constant attacks on Organized Labor made by conservatives in the last 40 years. Low skilled, low educated workers can’t expect a middle class wage anymore, nor will they anytime soon. Nowadays we have employers deliberately bilking social services as a way to avoid paying living wages to full time workers. By undermining the one group which has long been the advocate of fair wages and sane working conditions, poor/working class people who voted for conservatives have undermined their own economic interests.

    Those who benefit from Supply Side Neo-Liberal economic policies have a vested interest in avoiding immigration reform and making it far easier to exploit illegal alien labor. The more harsh the penalty is for the immigrant, the easier and more profitable their exploitation becomes. Paths to citizenship or at least legal residency would do more to prevent the illegal alien population from having to take starvation wages and undercut anyone else so unskilled and uneducated to want the jobs they typically take.

    The wealthy are grossly undertaxed and the result is underfunded infrastructure and a public sector which has been subject to negative selection for some time. Even the military has gone from one of the best employers in terms of benefits to one of the worst.

  17. So ‘puddle-pants, you’ve presented a detailed treatise on how this country needs to change on behalf of the poor at our teeming borders, Unfortunately it failed to address any of my points or refute ANYTHING I’ve said here about illegals having no inherent right to come here, and how corrupt governments should change and begin taking care of their own!
    What kind of lengthy message have you for the Catholic church about the reforms needed there, given how it’s so adamant about the US government accepting responsibility for all the world’s poor? You may as well showcase your brilliance concerning that large, world-wide institution’s shortcomings while you’re all warmed up here! Who knows, maybe the pope is listening!

  18. You don’t seem to be addressing a single point made and are resorting to childish name calling. What else is new?

    I said nothing about our teeming borders, only about people already past them and how they are being exploited for the benefit of those who do not like the idea of paying living wages or organized labor.

    What to do with illegal aliens has zero to do with border security. They are two separate issues. Our ability to keep all illegal aliens out of our country is effectively non-existent. I am not saying we shouldn’t try to strengthen the border. But I harbor no fantasies that it will ever be perfect. Short of a North Korean style lockdown on all international travel, it will continue to be a problem no matter how vigilant our efforts are near Mexico.

    My point was, your assertion of illegal aliens as all a bunch of murderers and rapists is more fantasy than reality. I refuted that with an article showing just that.

    Also that if you were actually concerned with working class people here, you would not support people who deliberately undermine the economic interests of them. Targeting illegal aliens is more of a counterproductive effort at the symptom of the problem, not the actual problem itself. I was demonstrating you are looking in the wrong direction if your concerns were legitimate.

    I actually couldn’t care less what the Catholic Church said on the subject. Their pretensions of moral authority aren’t worth jack to me or anyone with actual morals.

    We both agree they have no business sticking their nose into this discussion. We have common ground!

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