With House Speaker Pelosi publicly opining on the immorality of a fortified border, it may be timely to review a traditional doctrine of the Church to which she belongs. Aquinas begins his discussion of just relations with foreigners by observing that these are “twofold” (Suma Theologica Q. 105, Art. 3.). They may be peaceful or they may be hostile, and to deal peacefully with hostile foreigners is just as wrong as to receive peaceful foreigners with hostility.
Turning to the Old Law, Aquinas finds that “Jews were offered three opportunities of peaceful relations with foreigners.” The first was with foreign wayfarers who were peacefully passing through Jewish lands. These were perigrino or pilgrims in the old sense of wandering strangers. John Wayne used the word “pilgrim” in this sense in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, where it meant a stranger who was “just passing through.” Such strangers the ancient Jews were commanded not to “molest” (Exodus 23:9).
We today identify “molestation” with a particularly repulsive form of sexual perversion, but the word originally meant to trouble or disturb. Looking out upon a storm-tossed sea, a character in Shakespeare’s Othello says,
“I never did like molestation view
On the enchafed flood.”
Enchafed means excited, aroused, or provoked. And such was the drowsy owl in Thomas Grey’s “Elegy on a Country Churchyard” (1750).
“The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.”
The commandment against molestation of the wayfaring pilgrim was a commandment to leave him in peace—provided, needless to say, that he kept the peace and did not molest the Jews.
The same rule applied to strangers who came to dwell among the Jews, whom Aquinas called advenam, which is to say “newcomers.” Such are our “immigrants.” These, too, were not to be “molested,” which is to say harried, harassed or disturbed (Exodus 22:21). Newcomers should be left in peace so long as they were themselves peaceful, but their remaining peaceful included acceptance of the fact that they were newcomers, and therefore ineligible for political rights and excluded from all forms of government. Newcomers were not free to disturb the peace and molest the Jews with complaints as to how things could be arranged more to their liking.
Aquinas observes that nations commonly imposed a probationary period of two or three generations on newcomers, and points with approval to what Aristotle says in his Politics. As Aquinas says,
“The reason for this was that if foreigners were allowed to meddle with the affairs of a nation as soon as they settled down in its midst, many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people.”
Among the Jews, the Old Law said that assimilation required three generations, and therefore extended political rights only to the grandchildren (or perhaps the great grandchildren) of newcomers.
Finally, the Old Law provided for peaceful relations with indigenous minorities that were “never to be admitted to citizenship” because of their historic hatred for the Jews. Indeed, the Amalekites were to be regarded as social pariahs in perpetuity (Exodus 17:16). These permanent resident aliens were not newcomers, but rather remnants the conquered tribes of Palestine. The Old Law recognized that defeat and expropriation had left these peoples with an incorrigible racial hatred for the Jews, and that they could never, therefore, be assimilated or enfranchised..
These grievously injured peoples could never assimilate, and must remain perpetual strangers, because they nursed their grievances and passed a thirst for revenge down through the generations. The Jews should not unjustly compound their injuries, and should here again observe the conditional rule against molestation, but it would be folly to admit these inveterate, implacable and vengeful enemies into their councils, their temple, or their personal affairs. Even if some Amalekites were prepared to “let bygones be bygones,” there would always be others who would use political rights to molest the Jews and wreak revenge on their historic enemies.
Christian civilization long looked upon the Jews in a similar way. It forbade molestation of peaceful Jews, but it did not entrust Jews with political rights because some Jews would use the franchise to molest Christians and wreak revenge for past injuries. Christians were to treat the Jews as the Jews had treated Amalekites, because to do otherwise would be to open the gate to political, cultural and religious assassins and saboteurs.
If you paid attention to the recent opening of the one hundred and sixteenth Congress, you know that we no longer deal with aggrieved and vengeful strangers in this way. We instead carry them through the gates on our shoulders, nod to their racial hatreds, and meekly submit to the vengeance that they call “justice.” Much of our culture now consists of Amalekite molestation, and our politics appears to be on a greased rail to to Amalekite rule.