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Bishop Robert McElroy at the 2017 U.S. World Meeting of Popular Movements

MODESTO, California, February 24, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Catholic bishops denounced key policies of President Trump at a Vatican-sponsored conference in California last weekend. One prominent bishop went as far as calling “immigration,” not the right to life for the preborn, the “key [issue] we have to face now in our local church.”

“President Trump was the candidate of disruption,” San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy told about 650 participants at the World Meeting of Popular Movements that took place in Modesto. “He was ‘the disruptor,’ he said. Well now we must all become disruptors.”

“We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men, women and children as forces of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children,” Bishop McElroy said.

Christianity, following the ancient Jewish faith, places great emphasis on welcoming the “stranger and sojourner” from foreign lands into one’s country and home. But faithful Christians also recognize, at the same time, a priority of those who should be welcomed first and given sanctuary first. Topping the list is the unborn child who seeks safe passage from womb to world.

Cardinal Raymond Burke told LifeSiteNews last September that if securing a person’s right to life shifts to something else, then those fighting against poverty and for the rights of immigrants are liable to have the wrong “orientation” in their laudable efforts.

“It doesn't make any sense at all to be concerned about immigration or poverty if human life itself is not protected in society. It's an absolute contradiction,” the Cardinal said.

“The first justice accorded to any human being is to respect the gift of life itself, which is received from God. And so, the unborn should be protected,” he added.

But in his opening remarks, McElroy — in a likely nod to Pope Francis’ call for Catholics to stop being “obsessed” with opposing abortion — called immigration the “key [issue] we have to face in our local church at this moment.”

While Trump’s travel ban could affect roughly 60,000 immigrants/refugees seeking entrance into the U.S. annually, the number of U.S. babies aborted annually remains constant at about 1,000,000.

While McElroy listed the “protection of human life, from conception to natural death” among a host of “intrinsic human rights,” he did not say that every human has the right to life, but only the right to “protection.”

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez also slammed Trump’s policies on immigration.

“I do not like the harsh tone, the sense of indifference and cruelty that seems to be coming out of this new administration in Washington. They are playing with our emotions, with people’s emotions, toying with their lives and futures, and that’s not right,” he said.

Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, told conference participants via live-stream video that “dark clouds” are gathering throughout America with the “rise of populism and nationalism” on account of the Trump administration.

“Channeling the anger of anxious people toward ‘the other’ rather than toward the architects of the economy of exclusion … is a classic tactic of a populist leader,” he said. “And the rise of populism and nationalism in the United States has laid bare a second ‘invisible thread’ that, sadly, has promoted the exclusion and marginalization of people in our American experience, intensifying in times of fear and anxiety the sins of racism and xenophobia.”  

But not all U.S. prelates are on the same page regarding Trump’s immigration policies. Last week Bishop Bawai Soro, who is with St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Church in El Cajon, California, said he supported Trump's executive order on refugees. Soro is an Iraqi-American who came to the U.S. as a refugee.

“The United States of America is a sovereign country and the world’s superpower. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, illustrated how radical Islamic terrorism is the clear and present danger facing America. Mr. Trump has no one to apologize to for his immigration doctrine for the simple reason that coming to America is not a right but a privilege, a privilege that is earned by waiting in line for however long it may take to reach America. Americans are therefore consoled by his position that the fundamental duty of the government is protecting Americans from all enemies foreign or domestic by maximally securing the homeland’s borders and, if necessary, also by extremely vetting certain individuals,” he wrote.

While U.S. prelates are busy criticizing Trump’s immigration policies, few have noticed his actions to protect babies targeted for abortion. Trump has unabashedly stated on numerous occasions prior to becoming elected that he is “pro-life.”

Within his first weeks of office, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy that defunded abortion overseas, supported the Washington March for Life, and nominated a pro-life justice to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court. Last month pro-life leader Father Frank Pavone praised Trump for beginning what he called a “new era of pro-life leadership in our country.”

The World Meeting of Popular Movements is an initiative of Pope Francis. The event brings Church leaders and grassroots organizations together to address what the pope calls the “economy of exclusion and inequality” by working for “structural changes that promote social, economic and racial justice.”

Pope Francis addressed the California conference in a letter, telling participants to “defend our Sister Mother Earth,” to “stand alongside migrants,” to accept climate change as “real,” and to accept that “Muslim terrorism does not exist.”

In his letter, Francis praised the work of “People Improving Communities through Organizing” (PICO), an organization funded by billionaire globalist George Soros and listed as a partner of the event on the Popular Movements website.

“I would also like to highlight the work done by the PICO National Network … promoting this meeting. I learned that PICO stands for 'People Improving Communities through Organizing.' What a great synthesis of the mission of popular movements: to work locally, side by side with your neighbors, organizing among yourselves, to make your communities thrive,” he said., a watchdog of leftist organizations, describes PICO as a group that “uses Alinsky-style organizing tactics to advance the doctrines of the religious left.”

“Using people of faith as its foot soldiers, PICO seeks to maximize the potential for transformation of people, institutions, and of our larger culture, particularly as regards health care, public education, low-income housing, and immigration,” DiscoverTheNetworks states. “PICO's proposed solutions nearly always entail expanding the power and control of government, while displacing the private sector. As PICO puts it, ‘government can play a vital role in improving society.’”

LifeSiteNews reported last August how emails leaked through WikiLeaks revealed that Soros funded PICO in a long-term project of shifting “the priorities of the U.S. Catholic Church.” The grant specifically targeted the ‘pro-family’ agenda, redirecting it from defending marriage to being concerned with income equality.

The event’s keynote speaker was Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development. Also speaking at the event were Bishops Stephen Blaire of the Diocese of Stockton, Shelton Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, and Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of Las Cruces.

Under Francis’ pontificate, priests and bishops within the Catholic Church have been encouraged to shift away from emphasizing perennial Catholic teaching on marriage, sexuality, and life to emphasizing pastoral concern for those in “irregular” situations, those suffering from various forms of discrimination, and immigrants.

Last November, Italian historian Professor Roberto de Mattei suggested that with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s loss in the U.S. election, Francis suddenly emerged as the “leader of the Global Left.”

“For his part, after Clinton’s defeat, Francis now remains the only point of reference for the international left, now lacking a leader,” he wrote at that time.

In the same article, De Mattei critiqued Francis’ “Popular Movements” initiative as a melting pot for “revolutionary agitators.”

Commenting on the November 5 conclusion of the Third World Meeting of the “Popular Movements” in the Vatican attended by Francis, he said: “Pope Francis turned to them saying: ‘I make your cry mine.’ But the cry of protest that is raised by the movements gathered in Paul VI’s audience hall is, unfortunately, characterized by ideological fanaticism and incitement to violence.”

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Pete Baklinski is Director of Communications for Campaign Life Coalition, a Canadian pro-life organization working at all levels of government to secure full legal protection for all human beings, from the time of conception to natural death. He has a B.A. in liberal arts from Thomas Aquinas College and a masters in theology (STM) from the International Theological Institute.