A question for you...

I preached at three Masses this weekend: the Saturday 5:00 and the Sunday 10:30 and 5:00.  After the first two times I received only positive feedback on my homily.  After the third time I received some very articluate, negative response. In light of what I was told I'd like to ask what you heard in my homily.  

What did you hear as the main point of my homily?

Did you hear me politicizing the scriptures and taking advantage of my preaching role?

Did you hear me espouse a personal stance on public assistance or immigration reform?
If you did, what personal stance did you perceive me to be taking?

In general, did you find my homily helpful or not helpful?

In particular, was anything in my homily offensive or insulting to you or your views?

I'm not asking these questions to curry favor, solicit support or beg for praise.  I'm mostly interested in hearing from any who had a negative reaction to this homily.

Fair warning: if response turns into a free-for-all, I'll delete the post.

Thank you!


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  1. I found it a homily with which I could agree and I can accept and understand the points you make. Thank you

  2. While we were not at Mass due to being on a plane flying across the country, I would say that based on the reading of the posted homily, we would have deemed it excessively political and an attempt to lay guilt upon those who validly believe differently. In fact, we may have walked out of Mass before Communion had we been there.

    It is illogical to rigidly construct an immigration policy for 21st century America based on a handful of Scripture passages taken out of context or from particular instances of migration spanning centuries, vastly different nations and kingdoms, wholly different circumstances, etc. found in Scripture. The authority God delegates to civil government focuses on justice, not mercy (though this is not to say laws should not be tempered by mercy). Biblical teachings of mercy generally apply to individual conduct, not to civil authorities. Further, standards of justice are not fully moral if they are not accompanied by judgment and punishment. These two elements (judgment and punishment) are integral, or else justice is not just.

    The reason that justice has been delegated to civil governments is for protection of a defined set of people who live under a government’s jurisdiction. It is not power for power’s sake, but power to protect and defend a state’s own people and resources.

    Today, Americans find immigration policy causing our nation to suffer unnecessary consequences. Legal immigration is exponentially higher than historic average. The failure to require adequate educational, literacy, skills, and other qualities in prospective immigrants results in the significant subsidization of immigrants by American taxpayers. The adverse effect of such legal immigration today on the economic well-being of our most vulnerable fellow Americans, particularly blacks and those with a high school education or less, results in economic injustices that advantage the foreign worker over the American in our own nation. Mass immigration, exacerbated by large-scale illegal immigration, distorts the U.S. labor market and drastically inhibits the ability of the market to regulate itself into the “virtuous circle” that makes for a “win-win” situation for both labor and business owners. In addition, as events over recent years have demonstrated, both a criminal and a national security threat exist as a result of overly liberal immigration policies and lax enforcement of the laws on the books. As for mass amnesty, by legalizing millions of illegal immigrants, government does not show mercy. Rather, it obligates its citizens to bear the injustices aliens have committed against the body politic.

    Your homily reads as an admonition to those who mercifully believe the laws of our land are there to protect our own citizens and that gross failure to uphold them is hurting our country. We must focus mercy and charity first on those who are here legally (starting with those by birthright) before subjecting the entire nation to the burdens of those who got here legally or illegally and have become a burden on and threat to our own people.

    Very disappointing homily, honestly.

  3. Here's a comment I received in email:

    I thought the homily was thoughtful and a good attempt to address a complex issue and conflict between Christianity and public policy. With that said, it hits at the crux of that conflict without as clear a direction as might have been possible, which might be the source of some of the tension.

    At the core, my struggles on the topic peak at the intersection of the treatment people and government policy. For me, I read the gospel as our guide for human behavior. Put simply, I think Jesus was teaching us how to treat individuals in our travels though this life. Care for the poor, respect all people regardless of social station, forgive, be merciful, be kind and patient, be selfless, the commandments, these are some of the teachings I take guidance from. But I don't see the gospel as a constitution or a political science philosophy. Quite the opposite, I think of it as our guide to live a godly life in any country with any formal legal system, 100% of which at the time of Christ were monarchies with dictators that gave almost no rights to the citizens, much less the slaves and servants Jesus so loved. At that time his was a shocking and new voice representing a view foreign to all countries in Roman times.

    So for me, I think it is quite possible to be living and caring and generous to the individual refugee or illegal immigrant and also believe in a public policy that attempts to limit immigration to optimize our economy for the common good. Somewhere around 5 billion people alive on our planet would probably choose and likely desperately benefit from coming to America. If that occurred, we would also kill the economic goose that lays the golden eggs that allow us to provide for and help so many less fortunate around the world, and some that immigrate to our country.

    Therein lies my conflict. Jesus can help guide us in the treatment of people, but I don't think it is clear or easy to translate that into a public policy. Confusing the two is a tough message in church or in congress, that is why I prefer to keep the discussions and debate separate but always active in parallel, hopefully allowing us to discover a path that is right and just and caring, both now and for the future of our great country.

    Thanks, as usual, for working hard to help us navigate these hard problems with the wisdom and love of Jesus always part of the equation.

  4. Here are comments I received on FaceBook:

    1) I thought your homily was a fantastic confrontation with the central question this Gospel passage raises for us: how can some be so bent on fairness when we're all the beneficiaries of more than we deserve. A good sermon rightly calls us to task on bringing our Christianity with us during the week, taking Christ to the voting polls. I believe your sermon did exactly what a good sermon is supposed to: ask people to take Christ with them when they leave on Sunday, and confront whatever is preventing that. You didn't offer any personal beliefs, and while I think your beliefs are obvious here (I.e., I think it would surprise anyone to find you supported a closed-borders policy), one can't (and shouldn't) avoid challenging listeners by pointing out the cognitive dissonance that may reside inside their minds between their politics and their faith. If this sermon made some people uncomfortable, I'd say it did its job.

    2) I'm not very good at this stuff but this was my thinking.
    Main point: we should accept all and have mercy for all because Jesus does this for us. I did hear you politicizing the scriptures. I did not like it because I'm so sick of trump and most of us listening to you believe in the Christian way. I think most know your personal stance. We would not expect anything but. I found it helpful to hear Jesus loves us all - no matter who we are. Absolutely nothing was offensive - except it made me think of Trump!

    (3) I liked your homily and was glad for what you said. My adult son said you set a line and you kept it and he liked it too.

    (4) I heard your homily as a CHALLENGE. Define yourselves as republican of democrat - that is easier. Define yourself as a Christian - the roots are deeper, the morals stronger. When you view your political position as WWJD - from the gospel origins - how does that sway your present viewpoint? Great homily.

    (5) I believe that yours was a great homily. I look for instruction from the homilies I hear on Sunday's at Mass. To me, I "got" it. Sometimes, if I'm struggling with a subject or something in my life, it's very hard to be absorb what is said. I have no problem with what was said here. You would be the first to tell me. "Some agree, and some learn to think more" tell you, "God is Good , all the time."

    (6) I believe that yours was a great homily. I look for instruction from the homilies I hear on Sunday's at Mass. To me, I "got" it. Sometimes, if I'm struggling with a subject or something in my life, it's very hard to be absorb what is said. I have no problem with what was said here. Mean for this comment to be objective.
    You would be the first to tell me. "Some agree, and some learn to think more"
    I tell you, "God is Good , all the time."

    (7) I don’t always agree on policy solutions with my fellow Christians or even bishops. Your homily was a wonderful reminder that we always need to ground our opinions in Gospel values. I definitely find it annoying when the line is crossed into partisanship, but this did not.

    (8) A wise interpretation of a gospel I've long struggled with. Bless you!

  5. Dear Father Fleming,
    Thank you for speaking with me after the 5 pm Mass. I went to your blog and read your homily again as you suggested. I can see how you tried to present a balanced perspective of God's law and our nation's law.
    I could also see how I was offended at the beginning of your sermon by the presumption that you stated early in making your case that those that are opposed to illegal immigration are often grousing about those that are on the payroll and done no work at all. This presumes that most who oppose illegal immigration oppose it because of the inequities created in social programs. I think you cannot presume to know that is is the reason why many who oppose illegal immigration. Yet you state that assumption as you begin to discuss this topic.
    We all have different reasons to oppose or support illegal immigration. My personal reasons are not because I incur greater costs because of it. I considered it offensive for you as my pastor to assume you know why I oppose it or that for most the reason is because of these costs. That in my mind is where you crossed a fine line of injecting your own assumptions into a homily in trying to say why anyone holds a particular belief.
    The gospel in my mind was about God opening up his kingdom to all of us whenever we embrace him as our Lord.
    That message was lost to me in your homily when you tried to label those who support legal immigration as those who "grumble today and often are grousing" about those who done no work at all. This could not be further from the truth in my case and I bet others who listened to your homily. Some walked out, other complained, but at least I came to tell you directly how I perceived it. I was insulted by the presumption made of the reasons for beliefs on immigration. I would hope that I could have heard the message in today's Gospel without feeling that those who oppose illegal immigration do so"because it is not fair". Your blog labels say "it's just not fair" further making the case for why you think people oppose illegal immigration. That is really not a fair way to characterize those that have reflected at length about this topic and wish to change the current status of immigration in our country.
    I hope you will take this in the spirit intended. I want to hear the Lords message when I come to church. I just don't want my pastor to stereotype or ascribe generalizations to those that hold a particular view on an issue facing our country. Unfortunately that is how you led off your interpretation of the Gospel and it made it hard to hear the rest of your message.

  6. Another comment from FaceBook: Sometimes when people say “don’t get political” they seem to mean “avoid conflict”. But our church has a duty to teach about how to approach moral dilemmas, including inherently political decisions about how to respond to unlimited needs with our limited resources. That doesn’t mean endorsing particular candidates or proposals, it means reinforcing how foundational principles remain relevant as we make choices about how to govern ourselves.

    As usual, rereading your homily was helpful to me. Thanks for posting. I have the impression that some of the criticism relies on straw-man points that you never actually mentioned.

    Nothing in this homily supported any specific policies about public assistance or immigration reform, but as so many of your best homilies do, it did presume that the gospel is relevant to all decisions we wrestle with, public as well as private, and it didn’t sugar coat or dilute points that may be inconsistent with popular attitudes.

    Our christian faith is not incompatible with prudent government, but it is incompatible with fear-mongering slogans that promote fear or hate or exclusion or prejudice as the basis for decisions about public policy.

    Every word of this homily clearly and forcefully reinforces the radical notion that love is the first and greatest commandment, the starting point for every decision we face, even unpleasant ones, even political ones. Thank you. I appreciate the reminder. If such a provocative premise makes us feel uncomfortable, then maybe we should confront our own complacency and comfortable self assurance more often.


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