Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

FENCE Defense

January 12th, 2018, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It appears that the majority of the organizational criticism against building a southern border wall or fence for the U. S. comes from the Catholic hierarchy (all the way to Rome) and from the Democratic Party. There’s no point in commenting on the politics of the situation, since CF should not per se be a political site, but I will comment regarding the alleged perception that walls and border fences are somehow “un-Christian.”

If walls really are un-Christian, i.e. offensive to God, what would He say about locking churches to protect the patrimony of the Church? As a member of a small Catholic Community in Rushville, NY, I was surprised to find St. Mary’s was only open about two hours on a Sunday morning. The Blessed Sacrament remained in the Tabernacle, un-visited except perhaps for a few of the ‘elected’ with keys, for basically 166 hours per week. It was a very sad situation, reflecting doubt more than belief in the Real Presence. Why would locking up a church be seen as acceptable, in order to protect what is within, but a border wall to protect the lives of citizens be seen as wrong or even sinful? It seems doubtful that those who rail against border walls would leave their homes or cars unlocked, or their computers not pass-worded.

It is always distressing when churchmen (and women religious) express their own personal opinions; i.e. “prudential judgments” under the banner “Catholic.” What is “Catholic” is the Deposit of Faith and 2000 years of consistent Teaching.  When the USCCB and clergy claim something is “Catholic” when it isn’t, they assail the rights of the individual to his or her own “prudential judgments” and discernment, confusing the Faithful, and causing division.  In other words, when an authoritative individual or organization claims something is Catholic which isn’t, haven’t they de facto created a wall of their own – keeping out dispute, communication and even truth?  The Deposit of Faith deserves the wall for its protection, not individual opinions. Walls have had a place through history, and even involved God’s Will, to implement His Protection. Similarly, destruction of a Wall sometimes indicates the withdrawal of His Protection.

One of USCCB’s statements can be found here:

It is worth a read, not only for its parading as a Catholic teaching, but for its implicit ad hominem attacks on the President of the United States, 4 days after his swearing-in.

Walls: Responsibility and Protection: Ezra and Nehemiah

We don’t have to go all the way to the Great Wall of China, visible even from spacecraft, to understand that government, charged with the protection of the people, has a responsibility, just as a parent does to make sure the front door is locked at home.

Sometimes, such responsibility is expected, or even demanded by God.  For anyone who has not read the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, it would be a worthwhile exercise in discerning the purpose and justification of walls and protection. That scene unfolds as the Chosen people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Southern Kingdom) return from their Babylonian Captivity to Jerusalem and to the total ruins of Solomon’s Temple.

Ezra 1:1-3 “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, … the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all His people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel–He is the God who is in Jerusalem….’”

And Cyrus, a Gentile king, moved by the Spirit of the Living God, provided financially for the work in Jerusalem as well.

Ezra 4:4-5  “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

The people who had been in the land did all they could to undermine the building and it stopped for an extended period of time.  (In chapter 8, 9 and 10, one might even view the expulsion and exile of certain people who had intermarried with the Jewish population, as being related in some ways to today’s DACA issues and discussions. Fascinating!)

In the following  book, Nehemiah, re-building the wall is a central theme:

Neh 1:3, 2:13, 2:17-18:  … the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” …. “I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Jackal’s Well and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which had been destroyed by fire.” … “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” … “And I told them of the hand of my God which had been upon me for good, and also of the words which the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.”

And much of the remainder of Nehemiah details the extensive work of building the walls, the form and figure of which continued to stand even to today:


The work accelerated due to the pressing need for protection.

Neh 4:6: “So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together to half its height. For the people had a mind to work.”

Neh 4:16-18:  “From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail; and the leaders stood behind all the house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were laden in such a way that each with one hand labored on the work and with the other held his weapon. And each of the builders had his sword girded at his side while he built..”

Neh 5:16:  “I [Nehemiah] also held to the work on this wall, and acquired no land; and all my servants were gathered there for the work.”

Neh 6:1:  “I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates.”

Neh 6:15-16:  “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations round about us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.”


In the Psalter for the Liturgy of the Hours, one of the frequently prayed psalms is #50, written by David nearly a thousand years before Christ. Verse 18 reads (RSV):

“Do good to Zion in Thy good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,…”

The rebuilt walls of Jerusalem withstood the 1948 artillery attacks. That’s effectiveness.

Cosmetics is a different story. Today much of the focus is on the West Bank barrier, where it becomes clear that appearance and protection are indeed two different matters:

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9 Responses to “FENCE Defense”

  1. Ben Anderson says:

    Thank you for this, Diane. I agree – sure, let’s have a debate at to whether this or that particular wall is prudent, but blanket statements about the inherent immorality of walls is just moronic.

  2. militia says:

    I am somewhat amused about the graffiti “Ich bin ein Berliner.” It was said by John F. Kennedy during his visit to the Berlin wall a few months before he was assassinated. It was said to be extemporaneous, and that he didn’t know at the time that the local meaning of Berliner was “little doughnut.” But “Berliner” came to be redefined by Kennedy’s intent — that he considered himself to be that close to them in spirit, as the citizens of Berlin lived in the shadow of the wall. And apparently it was in his speech notes as well. The spirit is most recently captured in: “Je suis Charlie” regarding the massacre of employees in Paris at Charlie Hebdo. Similar empathy was also expressed to the US, and to NYC, by friends around the world following 9-11.

  3. BigE says:

    There’s a crucial difference between the Trump wall and your St. Mary’s example. The Trump wall is meant to keep out a specific people. A vast majority who intend no harm to us and are just trying to get a sliver of the blessings we enjoy as a nation. The wall is there to deny access to those “others” so that we can protect “our stuff”. As a nation, it makes us the “rich man” who can’t bring himself to sell any of his stuff and give it to the poor. Especially when those poor are the proverbial Samaritans. Sad.

    The analogous St. Mary’s wall on the other hand had no such bias or intent. I’m willing to bet it was more a matter of practicality (staffing issues) than an desire to exclude a specific people from the Tabernacle.

  4. Diane Harris says:

    Big E, I should take you up on your “willing to bet” since you clearly have no knowledge of the situation. If the whole parish were trusted and given keys (or a passcode, even better) to enter the Church during those 166 hours, there would have been more praying, more access to the Real Presence, adoration, more blessings even for the whole town. No, it was not kept locked because of staffing issues, but because there absolutely was a desire “to exclude a specific people” from the Tabernacle, i.e. the parishioners and neighbors who weren’t trusted. They might have stolen something, or got the place dirty, or violated insurance guidelines, or snuck in for a smoke, who knows what they might have done? They might even have become good Catholic parishioners! Sounds like a border wall to me.

    Let me put it this way, in accord with your OWN words above: “The locked Church was meant to keep out a specific people(everyone but the half dozen who had keys)… A vast majority who intend no harm to the Church or Parish and are just trying to get a sliver of the blessings we enjoy as Catholics on a Sunday morning. The locked doors were there to deny access to those “others” so that we can protect “our stuff”. As a Church in a poorer community, it made us (didn’t it?) like the “rich man” who can’t bring himself to share his stuff with others. Thanks for helping me put it so well.

  5. BigE says:

    You’re right, I obviously have no first hand knowledge of the situation.
    But I have trouble believing that St. Mary’s leadership were motivated to lock the doors of the church just so that they could selfishly keep the blessings of the church all to themselves at the expense of those locked out.

  6. Diane Harris says:

    Big E, I never said that “St. Mary’s leadership were motivated to lock the doors of the church just so that they could selfishly keep the blessings of the church all to themselves at the expense of those locked out.” No. (How would one even manage to keep all the blessings for oneself if one were selfish?) Rather, I gave a list of SOME of the kinds of possible motivations, but I did not ascribe a specific motivation, let alone personal selfishness. Nor do I think that US Citizens are selfish in wanting to protect our borders, which of course means protecting our people. (A worthy motive for those charged with a responsibility for public safety.)

    I’m not even saying it was wrong to lock the Church doors. The leadership could perhaps assess the risk and make a reasonable decision; how can I know? Similarly, if we assume good or at least reasonable motives for locking the Church (whatever those motives are) then why would we not assume good or at least reasonable motives for protecting the border, especially with Biblical evidence of building walls for protection? Why would we denounce a wall as selfish? But if the Church deems the US selfish for building a border wall, than perhaps it should look at its own policies, reasons and motivations for locking Churches. That is the point.

    I am analogizing between the two, not choosing up sides, although I admit I am saddened, having grown up in a culture where at least from morning Mass well into the evening the Church was open. And neighbors left their doors unlocked too. I remember this rhyme from the Dominican Sisters: “Whenever I go by a Church, I stop in for a visit; so that when I’m carried in, the LORD won’t ask “Who is it?”

  7. BigE says:

    Yes, on that last point I agree with you 100% – it’s sad that in today’s world we have to be so wary.
    And I guess this is where we disagree – I DO believe the Trump wall is about being selfish (protecting US jobs, our economy, etc) while the locking of church’s has nothing to do with selfishness but is the result of other factors (which may or may not be misguided).

  8. Diane Harris says:

    I’ll leave it at this — I’m not going to speculate on all the potential motives for building a wall. On an international scale, Americans have some extraordinary charitable giving records. I’m sure there are good motives and bad ones, and if I had a family member killed by an illegal alien, I’d feel differently than the USCCB might. But I will point out that there are many ways of building walls, even within families who feud over imagined slights Having resources needed by others and not shared may well be building a wall (Luke 12:13?). Which leads me to ask what will happen to the 7.1 B (YES! BILLION) dollars collected by the Catholic Church in Germany last year, when there is so very much need in the world!

  9. militia says:

    imo: “People who lock their doors at night are hypocrites for criticizing the Wall.” And I suppose that bishops sitting on income of seven billion dollars a year, and who aren’t giving most of it to the poor, are hypocrites too.

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