The openness of medieval monasteries can teach us a lot about the right way to approach immigration today…..maybe.
The article suggests an interesting idea of applying monastic rules of hospitality to national issues of immigration but I would argue that St Benedict’s Rule relates much more to how we should treat those entering the front doors of our parishes than the boarders of our nation. St Aquinas on the other hand discusses the Israelites treatment of foreigners which can be better appropriated for addressing our current immigration issues especially when one differentiates between the needs of immigrants and refugees. These groups are in different situations and so require different solutions.
When we look at processes and ideas they need to be considered and applied within their proper setting or they will often fail. For example, we have seen the devastating effects of ignorantly transferring plants and insects from one country to another in the attempt to solve a local issue. So we must see monasteries, even ones today, in their proper setting. Monasteries were of a single faith, nationality, and normally of a single local culture. They were within their own national boundaries and lived by its laws. They didn’t determine who travelered on the roads because this was the responsibility or the civil government. Those coming to a monastery normally shared a common faith and understanding of how that applied to hospitality. The monastery was a walled and protected community from those not welcomed. They had a gatekeeper who decided who was allowed in and if allowed you were expected to respect their rule or would be put out. Also for many, the monastery was a temporary place as they journeyed to another destination. So a monastery assisted the local community and provided for the needs of those passing and those allowed to stay all within an environment of shared faith, culture, and a rule that both directed and protected. This makes any application of monastic principals more appropriate to small local communities such as a parish or even your own home.
St Aquinas’ discussion of the Israelite laws governing foreigners is a better place to start when discussing national policies about boarder control.
I think you will find his thoughts both reasonable and applicable to today’s issues. One has to imagine the tremendous issues Israel had to face given their geographic location and history with foreigners. Much more than the US. I think they have some solid experience to share. Let’s learn from the past rather than making the same mistakes again.
If you’re wondering why the US bishops seem to stand against St Aquinas ask yourself if they are really talking about immigrants or refugees. Without a clear differentiation the words of Aquinas are misunderstood or ignored to our detriment.