We Cannot Choose Which Parts Of The Truth We Believe In

by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano

As our nation continues to grapple with the practice of separating children from their families at the border, we must distinguish our political feelings on this issue from the actual teachings of the Lord Jesus, who is the fullness of Truth Himself.

As a son of immigrants, the thought of separating children from their parents as an instrument of immigration policy is personally very troubling to me. It is also inconsistent with our moral values and with Catholic Social Teaching. The Lord Jesus could not have been more explicit about welcoming the stranger and protecting the dignity of all human persons.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano reminds us what is Truth and that we cannot pick and choose

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano reminds us what is Truth and that we cannot pick and choose

It appears that, at least among some Catholics, our disagreement regarding this issue lies in the application of the teachings of our faith to complex social and political situations. For most Catholics, the Church’s social teachings are not being questioned, but rather, the application of those teachings. In response to that point, I would emphasize that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently advocated for bi-partisan immigration reform that is both lawful and compassionate. Let us pray that our leaders enact that reform soon.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I must remind you and me that we are all called to maintain, defend and advocate for the fullness of the Truth, despite the complexity of the issue or the personal cost to do so. Jesus said “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He did not say “I am the Truth and feel free to choose what you like of the teachings I have taught to you.”

We are all called to maintain, defend and advocate for the fullness of the Truth, despite the complexity of the issue or the personal cost to do so.

As Catholics, we must courageously bear witness to the fullness of the Truth that Jesus taught us. We are called to be courageously and unapologetically pro-life, from conception to natural death. That involves being advocates for the unborn, and speaking out against the injustices of abortion, euthanasia, poverty, and the death penalty. Such a consistent pro-life ethic also applies here. We cannot be silent when children are being detained without a support system. We cannot let them be separated from their parents in a land where they do not speak the language, and in a venue where they are treated as though they are criminals, since the decision to come here was not theirs to make.

In short, we cannot pick and choose which parts of the Truth we wish to believe in or emphasize. Now more than ever, every believer must accept his or her responsibility to grow in our personal knowledge and appreciation of the fullness of the Truth, and we must accompany each other to find the most authentic ways to live the Truth faithfully and completely in our complex world.

Three circles containing symbols of the three principles of catholic social teaching: human dignity, subsidiarity, and solidarity.

Three Key Principles

Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human DignitySolidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.

Human Dignity

This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image. 


Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.


Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)