When six-year old Derrick Johnson was struck and killed by a pickup truck driven by Andres Morales, the community mourned a tragic death. There is no question that the terrible event was an accident, Morales had no intention or wish to harm the boy. Perhaps the accident was preventable, perhaps not, but the case has taken on a special significance in the minds of some because the driver of the pick-up was an undocumented worker who apparently had no license.
John DePetro, the noisome talk radio show host, made a big deal back in November over Governor Chafee’s idea of giving undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses. A bill to allow this is slowly making its way through the General Assembly. Somehow, in a gigantic leap of illogic, DePetro has decided that Chafee bears some responsibility for the boy’s death. On his blog, DePetro writes, above a photo of the deceased boy:
Governor Gump needs to hold off on giving illegals drivers licenses. A young American life is taken by an invader. John DePetro has protested Governor Chafee for cutting a deal to get votes in exchange for giving an illegal a drivers license . The illegals threaten they will not vote for Chafee unless they are given a Rhode Island drivers license.
DePetro’s hatred for undocumented workers is palpable and grotesque and DePetro’s revolting invective encourages his callers to respond with even greater levels of stomach-churning bile. Those who maintain a different view from DePetro are of course lambasted. Back in November DePetro allowed a caller named Raymond through and what followed was a litany of racist abuse, which DePetro yelled out as the man tried to express his opinions in heavily accented English. DePetro said:
“We have turkey on Thanksgiving, not stuffed pigeons, the illegals Thanksgiving.”
“You are going to learn our customs!”
“This is our land. No el drive-o on our road-o.”
Talking about a rally at the State House, DePetro said that undocumented workers “should have been there to clean the State House and that’s it.”
“I have a problem with you people on the road. No more loose donkeys on Broad St.”
DePetro’s hate has unhinged him. Diving, or rather belly-flopping into the Boston Bombing story and the local connection to Tamerlain Tsarnaev’s wife, Katherine Russell, DePetro has made a spurious and unfounded connection between “illegals” and terrorists, scrawling on his blog, “Governor Chafee wanted to roll out the red carpet to everyone and it looks like it is working. Terrorist (sic) and illegals are flocking to Rhode Island.”
That DePetro’s radio show is a cesspool of hate is not a source of shame but a point of pride for the man. His website is full of pictures that attempt to depict undocumented workers as scary non-white “others” in order to appeal to the basest prejudices of his listeners, and smear Governor Chafee:
And yet, DePetro still maintains, despite his hate for and vilification of undocumented workers, that he is a Catholic. Saccharine piety drips from DePetro’s tongue with same same thickness and intensity as the hateful bile he spews against those who are not like him, and the Catholic Church not only says nothing, they actively support him. Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese is a not infrequent guest. Father Bernard Healey, the Providence Diocese’s chief lobbyist to the General Assembly, appeared at DePetro’s Odeum event in East Greenwich.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in “Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity” have written the official Catholic teaching on immigration.
We recognize that nations have the right to control their borders. We also recognize and strongly assert that all human persons, created as they are in the image of God, possess a fundamental dignity that gives rise to a more compelling claim to the conditions worthy of human life. Accordingly, the Church also advocates legalization opportunities for the maximum number of undocumented persons, particularly those who have built equities and otherwise contributed to their communities.
All people have a right to have their basic human needs met in their homelands.
If their basic needs cannot be met in their homelands, persons have the right to seek them abroad.
The right to migrate is not absolute and can be mitigated in favor of the common good.
Nations may regulate borders to provide for national security, tranquility and prosperity.
The right to regulate borders is not absolute and regulations must promote the common good.
Nations with the ability to accommodate migrants should respond with generosity.
Families have the right to remain united.
Nowhere in these statements is there hate. Nowhere in these statements are immigrants unfairly associated with terrorism, or are those who seek to help undocumented workers implicated in vehicular homicide. Instead, there are calls for generosity and an appeal to the common good.
John DePetro is a a terrible Christian. Mouthing platitudes does not make someone a decent human being. Showing compassion and understanding, actions apparently outside DePetro’s skill set, does.
And once again the Providence Diocese, under the direction of Bishop Thomas Tobin, has failed to be any kind of a moral leader. In supporting DePetro the diocese has once more abandoned its commitment to protect those in need.