What would Saint Thomas Aquinas say about the Refugee Crisis?
We as Christians are debating among ourselves about whether or not we have a moral duty to receive refugees fleeing Muslim nations.
This article is politically incorrect and says things that might shock you. Please read the entire article until the very last two paragraphs before making a judgment or writing incendiary comments. This might be one of the clearest things you’ve read on the topic, because it draws on virtue ethics of Thomas Aquinas – something generally ignored in our day and age. – Godspeed, Taylor Marshall
Are We Good Samaritans?
As Christians we remember Our Lord’s parable about the Good Samaritan recounting how the outwardly religious clerics (the priest and the levite) passed the injured man in the road, but how the Samaritan proved to “be his neighbor” and care for him. Christ rebukes the outwardly religious hypocrites and commends the good Samaritan.
When it comes to the refugee crises, none of us wants to be the hypocrite who turns his steps to the opposite side of road to avoid caring for an injured victim.
Or Are We Good Maccabeans?
Meanwhile, if you are Catholic, you’ve been listening to the book of Maccabees this week in the daily Mass readings. These biblical lessons approvingly recount how Mattathias along with his Maccabean sons and companions rightfully used physical violence against their political oppressors the Seleucid Greeks who were actively using force to undermine the conscience and convictions of the People of God.
So which are we?
Are we the caring Samaritans or the crusading Maccabeans?
The Catholic political theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas can help us with this question:
Let’s first suspend all emotional appeals, and set down a few logical and calm points of agreement to get us all on the same page:
- In the Summa theologiae, Thomas Aquinas places politics under the civic virtue of patriotism which is itself a sub-virtue of justice. Our discussion is ultimately not about “politics” but the virtuous duties of justice toward God, our families, our nations, and all of humanity (in that order).
- For Thomas Aquinas, all political human laws must be: 1) in accord with reason; 2) published or promulgated; 3) by rightful political authority; and for the common good (See STh q. 90, aa. 1-4). If a political law is lacking in any of these four attributes, it is for Thomas, not a law at all.
- The duty of the political magistrates (the Republic or Kingdom) are by the virtue of justice different than the duty of the civilian person. Citizens are not de facto judges, soldiers, police officers, or legislators (STh q. 90, a. 3).
- Muslims explicitly affirm that Muhammad is the Last Prophet of God.
- Muslims explicitly affirm that Our Lord Jesus Christ is certainly not the Son of God.
- These two Muslim affirmations place all Muslims in implicit or explicit theological contradiction with Christians who profess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and consequently conclude that Muhammad was a false prophet.
- For Sunni Muslims (the majority of global Muslims), the mandate to erect Sharia law in every human government is a doctrine of faith. Muslims must in accord with their conscience pursue this theological belief that Sharia law must be promulgated in every human society (England, France, Poland, USA, Mexico, etc.)
So how does this apply to Refugees from Islamic nations?
When we move through the logical points above, we begin to discover a few logical conclusions:
- Muslims are bound by conscience to erect Sharia law in your nation. This is a bad thing for baptized Christians. At best it means being taxed at a higher rate (the Muslim jizya tax for Christians). At worse it means death.
- If you live in a democracy, a 51% political Islamic majority will allow “we the people” to promulgate Sharia law. They are following their conscience and religious beliefs in this matter. They will do this just as they have done in any other community where they captured the majority (Mecca, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, etc.)
- It is a duty of of justice for Christian people to strive to prevent the promulgation of false laws (i.e. those contrary to reason or the common good). Christians are called to be politically active and advocates for the common good and natural law.
- While we have the Christian duty to care for the refugee, the sick, the victim, and the injured, we have a greater common duty by justice to preserve the state of law and our religious liberty first and foremost.
We see this principle in our Scriptural readings. When it comes to the Samaritan, he rightfully cares for the victim. However, when it comes to the nation and the threat of terrorism (Seleucid Greeks), false laws, and the danger of our children, military, and civic peace, we (like the Maccabees) are politically obliged to resist, protect, and expel…for the common good.
The Analogy of the Familial Home
I am the head of a household. I earn an income to feed my wife and my children. With my surplus, I care for orphans, widows, the church, pro-life causes, single-mothers, and other apostolates that I feel God has called me to support.
Justice and charity demand that I care for the less fortunate and it is a Catholic belief that our salvation depends on how we treat the hungry, the naked, the homeless, and the sick.
I am not obliged to take the homeless into my house and have them sleep in my daughter’s bedroom at night. I am not obliged by justice or charity to give the homeless a vote over my financial decisions. He does not have the right to choose what’s for dinner. The homeless man does not (by my charity) receive a right to my continued support. The homeless man cannot share a bed with my wife when I am traveling. Nor may he presume a right over my children’s belongings.
Since we live in a democracy (“we the people”), political refugees de facto gain a measure of political authority over our laws, taxes, finances, military, religious holidays, and legislative bodies.
This principle applies to refugees universally. It applies even more so when the refugee in his conscience believes that he is morally obligated to introduce and vote for the enshrinement of Sharia law.
There is also the further problem that 5%-20% of global Muslims are considered to be “radicalized,” which means that they are consciously willing to use terrorist tactics to advance their Muslim worldview against the West. If you knew that 10% of your child’s Halloween candy was poisoned, would you allow your child to consume any of it?
So what would Thomas Aquinas say?
I’m afraid that Thomas would be much harsher than most of us would feel comfortable with.
Thomas prizes the “common good” so highly under the virtue of political justice that he openly promotes arms and capital punishment against those who are publicly “dangerous and infectious.”
The common good is the peace of society so that life and faith can thrive. Babies can be born and have a happy life. Grandparents can grow old together. Anyone who seeks to destroy the common good should be, according to Thomas, destroyed.
Thomas Aquinas also taught that anyone that fomented “danger to the community” or heretical movements is worthy of the death penalty:
“Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good.” STh II-II q. 64, a. 2.
It is permissible to kill a criminal if this is necessary for the welfare of the whole community. However, this right belongs only to the one entrusted with the care of the whole community — just as a doctor may cut off an infected limb, since he has been entrusted with the care of the health of the whole body. STh II-II q. 64, a. 3.
Have no doubt that Thomas Aquinas would have stated that Christian nations should receive Christian refugees but refuse Muslim refugees for the sake of national justice and the common good. The Muslim’s official declaration of faith denies natural law (eg, polygamy), religious liberty (eg, Sharia), and implicitly Muhammad’s doctrine and example of political violence.
What’s our Catholic Response? The Samaritan Uses the Hotel
We Christians should be generous with humanitarian aid toward Muslims and all people. We should send money and resources to those who have been dispossessed. We should be loving and generous with Muslims. Kindness brings about conversion and understanding. We should also try to topple the Islamic State and eradicate terrorism in our lands and in the Islamic lands.
Remember the Good Samaritan! He did not take the roadside victim home with him. Rather, the Good Samaritan put the victim up in a hotel and paid for him to get better. The Good Samaritan was good and commended by Christ. The Good Samaritan did the right thing: humanitarian aid.
We are not required by Christ to take victims that oppose our faith and our way of life and make them into our political heirs. We are not required to take them into our homes.
But we are obliged to help them. And if terrorists use our charity as a pretense to hurt us, then, as Thomas Aquinas says, they should be swiftly destroyed.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
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PS: If you like how we broke this issue down into bite-sized theological information and then logically built up a position using the wisdom of Saint Thomas Aquinas, then you are probably a key candidate for becoming a student at our New Saint Thomas Institute: