Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon believes the Catholic Church has been “terrible” to Mr. Trump on the issue of immigration, accusing bishops of supporting immigrants out of “economic interest” and because they are “unable to really come to grips with the problems in the church.”
Responding to a question from Charlie Rose of CBS News about Mr. Trump’s decision to suspend DACA, Mr. Bannon, who left the White House last month and returned to Breitbart, said he does not agree with the president’s decision, but that he understood “how [the president] struggled with it.”
Mr. Rose asked Mr. Bannon what he, as “a good Catholic,” thought about Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s opposition to Mr. Trump’s decision. Cardinal Dolan met with Mr. Trump and his wife Melania during the campaign and he prayed at the president’s swearing in. But he has repeatedly condemned the president’s rhetoric on immigration and he also condemned the president’s DACA decision.
“The Catholic Church has been terrible about this. The bishops have been terrible about this,” Mr. Bannon said.
Mr. Rose appeared to be taken aback by Mr. Bannon’s candor, saying, “Boy that’s a tough thing to say about your church.”
Mr. Bannon continued, saying the bishops were wading into politics and away from church teaching when they talk about immigration.
“As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine. This is not doctrine at all,” he said.
The Catholic Church teaches that nations have a right to secure borders, but that wealthier nations must support migrants in ways that respect the family and allow for economic opportunity. This teaching has been promulgated repeatedly by the church, including in “Populorum Progressio,” a 1967 papal encyclical, and finds its foundation in the Gospels.
“I totally respect the pope, and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine, this is not about doctrine,” Mr. Bannon continued. “This is about the sovereignty of a nation. And in that regard, they’re just another guy with an opinion.”
Mr. Bannon was the subject of a much-discussed article written by two associates of Pope Francis earlier this summer, in which they condemned what they see as a growing relationship between Catholic and evangelical fundamentalists in the United States.
Following Mr. Trump’s decision on Tuesday to rescind the program that could affect up to 800,000 young people currently living in the United States, Catholic bishops reacted strongly. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the decision “reprehensible.”
“The bishops have been terrible about this. By the way, you know why? You know why? Because unable to really...to come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches,” Mr. Bannon said, according to the transcript published by CBS News. “That’s—it’s obvious on the face of it. That’s what—the entire Catholic bishops condemn him. ... They have—they have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”
While much of Latin America remains overwhelmingly Catholic, Latinos who live in the United States present a much more complicated picture of the faith. A 2014 report from the Pew Research Center found that just 55 percent of Latinos living in the United States identify as Catholic. Still, a report released this week by PRRI shows that the center of U.S. Catholicism has moved to the southwest and that the church is increasingly Hispanic.
The church’s support for migration is also more complex than Mr. Bannon suggested. Pope Francis, for example, has repeatedly spoken about the need for the church to welcome refugees from predominantly Muslim countries, going so far as to bringing Muslim families to Italy with him on the papal plane.
Mr. Bannon’s comments were posted a day after some Catholics expressed anger about how a Catholic nominee for a federal judgeship was questioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who accused the nominee of being unable to rule fairly on abortion because of her Catholic faith.
“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Mrs. Feinstein said to Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
The full interview with Mr. Bannon will be broadcast Sunday on 60 Minutes.