What is particularly disturbing about the speech is that it is framed almost entirely within a political liberalism.
The archbishop breezily advocated the creation of a new America via immigration:
“Immigration,” he emphasized, “is a question about America.”
During his remarks, Archbishop Gomez addressed the root of the immigration debate by asking the questions that underlie the issue: “What does it mean to be an American? Who are we as a people and where are we heading as a country? What will the 'next America' look like?”
“What should the next America look like?”
Talk about a fast and loose attitude. There is no concern at all for upholding a people and a tradition, just a casual embrace of change from one America to the next.
Can such a fast and loose attitude really be confined to issues of national identity? If you're willing to throw out your nation this casually, then why not change your church or religion while you're at it. Why not ask "What should the next religion look like?"
To put this another way, most people don't compartmentalise the different strands of their own tradition. If we value our tradition, and see the good in it, and want to uphold it, then we are likely to want to hold to the different aspects of it, including our national identity and the religion associated with it.
But Archbishop Gomez wants us to be so careless of our tradition that we will throw away our national identity in favour of the next one - whilst still caring about the fate of the historic Western religion. He advocates that we adopt an attitude that is both careless and caring - a contradictory impulse that is unlikely to hold.
The archbishop then appealed to a liberal civic nationalism:
The archbishop noted G. K. Chesterton's comment that the U.S. is the only nation founded not on a material basis such as territory or race, but on a belief – a vision.
The Founding Fathers – the writers of the Declaration of Independence – envisioned a nation “where men and women from every race, religion and national background could live in equality.”
But these days all the Western nations hold to a liberal civic nationalism. It is not distinct at all - it makes America no different to Australia or Sweden or Canada. It is a mere pretence that such a nationalism makes America unique.
And here's another problem with basing a national identity on liberal values of equality and non-discrimination. Because every traditional society did discriminate in order to uphold its particularity, then they all failed the test of these values. Therefore, the past is looked on negatively in terms of how morally tainted it was. The archbishop himself has adopted this liberal mindset. He said,
The American Dream has always been “a work in progress...not fully delivered,” Archbishop Gomez told his listeners. Slavery, nativism, and race discrimination have always been blights upon that dream, the reality of which has been both “painful and partial.”
How can you maintain a sense of continuity and a love of tradition if you adopt this liberal understanding of what a nation should be? What does it mean if the word you use to describe the history of your tradition is "painful"?
And how would the church fare if it were held to the same standards? Should American Catholics turn their backs to the historic church because the church discriminated to maintain its sense of itself and of the good that it embodied? After all, the church did not ordain women. It discriminated against homosexuality. It did not see polygamy as being equal to monogamy. You might argue that the church would not be the church if it accepted everything as being equal; that, in fact, it would be pointless to have a church that accepted everything as equal - that it would no longer be meaningfully a church. And you would be right. But the same thing can be said of a nation. If a nation is universal then can it really be a nation?
Which brings me to a final point. Archbishop Gomez peppers his speech with appeals to liberal moral terms, such as diversity and anti-discrimination. This is unfortunate as these are the very moral concepts that are likely to increasingly impact on the church itself in America.
Why? These concepts derive from a liberal idea that what can be truly and definitively known about individuals are their wants and desires. These wants and desires therefore constitute the good that individuals seek, and so what matters is that they can be pursued equally without impediment. Therefore, if there is a morality, it is based on qualities of non-interference, i.e. on concepts of individual rights, of tolerance, inclusion and non-discrimination.
And so when the Catholic Church makes a different kind of moral pronouncement, one based on the idea that something is inherently right and wrong, and that it is so for all people (a non-relativist moral position) it is condemned by liberals as fundamentalist. What is more, it is thought to be judgemental and to violate principle of inclusiveness.
In a liberal morality, for instance, it makes no sense at all to oppose the idea of gay marriage. If that is what people want to do, then to respect their expression of desire equally means allowing them to do what they wish to do. It would be thought mere bigotry or a phobia or prejudice or discrimination to think otherwise. So why shouldn't the church be forced to agree to gay marriage or else face legal sanctions? If, that is, such a liberal morality really is legitimate.
But if it's not legitimate the church should not be using it to justify amnesty for illegal immigrants. It is a dangerous thing for the church to be supporting the use of liberal moral concepts when it wishes to do so, but then to suddenly swing around and object when these concepts are used against the church itself.