Archbishop took right action in defying Pence

(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

Hoosiers have discovered, once again, that when thoughtful and inspired leadership is needed, Gov. Mike Pence and elected officials in state government cannot always be counted on to do what is best — what is right, decent and humane — on behalf this state.

Fortunately, however, the better angels of Indiana were not afraid to step into the void. It was the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis that refused to succumb to the fear and suspicion being shamelessly promoted by some politicians in the public sphere.

Catholic leaders announced recently they had helped relocate a family of refugees who had fled the conflict in Syria. In doing so, the church defied the expressed wishes of Gov. Mike Pence, who had suspended the state’s involvement in the federal refugee resettlement program until the federal government took action to address security concerns in wake of the deadly terrorist bombings in Paris last month.

The potential danger of terrorist organizations using refugee programs to infiltrate the U.S. or other countries is a concern worthy of consideration and discussion. But it did not warrant Pence’s attempt to suspend the program and stoke the flames of fear. A more reasoned, even-handed response was warranted.

And that’s why it has been so refreshing to see the state’s Catholic leaders adopt such a reasonable approach to this specific situation.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin led the way in the decision, and in doing so was very respectful of the governor, even in defying his wishes. He explained his reasoning, and how he was guided by the principles Christian compassion, even to make such a difficult decision.

It was obvious from the reaction of other Catholics around the state that Tobin’s actions were well received and supported.

One of those reactions was from Rev. Richard Ginther, a priest at both St. Patrick’s and St. Margaret Mary parishes in Terre Haute.

“This is what the church is supposed to do,” Fr. Ginther told the Tribune-Star. “This screams the gospel.”

Ginther, as was the case with his archbishop, understands Pence’s concerns. But unlike Pence, he also understood the circumstances surrounding the Syrian refugee family that was resettled in Indianapolis. The family had been waiting for three years to reach Indiana, had been thoroughly vetted for their backgrounds, and was out of Syria even before the terrorist organization known as ISIS had even formed there. The family had been in the immigration pipeline long before Pence issued his unfortunate and unenforceable directive.

“Mercy is not just God’s forgiveness,” said Ginther, who expressed full support of the archbishop’s decision to resettle the immigrant family. “It’s compassion.”

We have the utmost respect and praise for the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis for not being intimidated by opportunistic political declarations. The archbishop handled the situation gracefully and with class. His example is one to be emulated by others in positions of leadership in our state.

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