I’m seeing folks on Twitter who claim to be practicing Catholics, quoting the Hebrew scripture about admirable blokes who built “fortified cities,” as evidence that Catholics shouldn’t think it wrong to build Trump’s wall.
You can cherry-pick Bible verses in that fashion to support just about anything, including self-mutilation; war crimes; rape, as long as the rapist is no fly-by-nighter but is sporting enough to put a ring on his victim afterwards (because that’s what every gal wants); and abortion (something my Jeremiah-quoting friend will ignore).
The verse from Jeremiah only suggests, if you accept each verse as containing moral authority—something I’ll bet the “fortified city” fan does not do—that a wall, in itself, is not intrinsically evil. This is a straw man. I am aware of no one who has claimed that building a wall is immoral, unless you count Robert Frost saying “something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”
But building *this* wall is, above all, stupid.
Most experts in drug trafficking have said a wall on the border with Mexico will do nothing to reduce the drug trade. Most experts in immigration have said the wall will do little to nothing to reduce illegal immigration, since a large part of illegal immigration is due to people who fly legally into the country and overstay their visas.
As I understand it, it’s not a sin in traditional Catholic moral theology just to be stupid, per se. But willfully ignoring experts on this subject or on any subject, such as willfully ignoring scientists who study climate change, is willfully embracing ignorance and that, as I understand it, is sinful.
There is the added sin of our motives in building this wall. If the wall is stupid and accomplishes nothing, why do its proponents want it so badly?
They may put various glosses on it, but at bottom they want it a) because they are afraid of poor, brown people who speak a different language; b) because they feel entitled to the benefits they have as Americans (such as they are) and don’t want to share them with people who haven’t “earned” them; c) they feel smugly virtuous about being a “legal” resident, the descendant of “legal” immigrants.
To point c) it is impossible to resist observing that a) many people making this claim don’t actually know the immigration status of their ancestors; b) from the point of view of Native Americans, all descendants of Europeans could be said to be here illegally; c) for our European ancestors it was EASIER to immigrate legally, and if it had not been, and they were desperate enough to get here, they would have done it anyway, because that’s what desperate people do.
And if Trump’s wall has any effect at all on reducing immigration, it will be on the most desperate of immigrants: those who can’t afford a plane ticket and are willing to leave everything to risk rape, abuse, and various horrible forms of death to walk here or be smuggled here.
And the resources used to build the wall will be cut from social programs that benefit poorest Americans; and the answering attitude in many wall supporters is that somehow these folks deserve to be poor. More smugness. More entitlement. More blindness to advantages the wall supporters were born with and did nothing to deserve.
Therefore: regardless of what some righteous dude in the book of Jeremiah had in mind when he fortified his city, if you are a Catholic or anyone who claims to follow Christ, supporting Trump’s wall is sinful. It is a willful embrace of ignorance, motivated by at worst racism and xenophobia, and at best an atrocious humility deficit.