Steve Bannon says Catholics "need illegal aliens to fill the churches"

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.”

Advertisement

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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Barry Fitzpatrick
2 months 1 week ago

"When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you." It is not possible that Sen. Feinstein could have known what a compliment that was to Amy Coney Barrett at the hearing to confirm Ms. Barrett for a federal judgeship. In the same vein, there is a near total disconnect from reality when Mr. Bannon claims that when it comes to sovereignty of nations, Cardinal Dolan's comments are those of "just another guy with an opinion." And that distinguished the Cardinal from Bannon how, exactly?

The dualistic approach to living one life in the political sphere and one in the spiritual surely has little place in the real world we live in today. Bannon has not one iota more authority on things political than the U.S. Catholic bishops, and that has nothing to do with whether we agree with him or them or not. Bannon joins the long list of white and privileged Catholics who think their prosperity entitles them to dictate rather than participate in the spiritual realm.

Bannon might be technically correct when he talks about the Bishops' view on immigration and how we treat our immigrant population is not doctrine. It may not be, but it surely is GOSPEL! And it would suit Bannon to read the Sermon on the Mount sometime soon to refresh his memory on where Catholics are called to stand in regard to all considered less fortunate. Sen. Feinstein needs to stand above the rest of the single issue politicians and see Ms. Barrett for her eminent qualifications, all of which have helped her to form all that lives loudly within her. We should all be so transparent.

Charles Erlinger
2 months 1 week ago

The Bannon rationale as quoted in the article is a masterpiece of propaganda, combining the conflation of doctrine, rights, unsubstantiated assertions about motive attribution, and the supposed disparateness of doctrine and economics.

All of this is pretty much summarized in these quotes attributed to Bannon:

“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.”

“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.”

One of the reasons that differences among self-described Catholics on this and similar subjects seem utterly intractable is because disputants bring such widely varying thought processes into the fray. I think that the two paragraphs above cry out for a good analysis of the logic problems, the word definitional problems and the evidence of (possibly unconscious) bias. I look forward to a carefully composed analysis to be published in America sometime soon.

E.Patrick Mosman
2 months 1 week ago

"Mr. Bannon continued, saying the bishops were wading into politics and away from church teaching when they talk about immigration."
Mr Bannon is absolutely correct that the Catholic Church's hierarchy has become too political as
recently Cardinal Dolan sat between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the annual Al Smith fund raising Dinner in New York City. Jesus said that no one can serve two masters, in this case the Catholic Faith and the government's money, as in the US Catholic Charities is in fact an arm of the Federal government receiving approximately 60% of its annual income from the government.
"In 2010, Catholic Charities had revenues of $4.7 billion, $2.9 billion
of which came from the US government. Only about $140 million came from
donations from diocesan churches, the remainder coming from in-kind
contributions, investments, program fees, and community donations. Catholic Charities is listed as an Accredited Charity by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance."
Socialism is already a major factor in the use of religious organizations to deliver the services posing as charity.
"The truth of the matter is that the Obama administration has actually increased funding for Catholic nonprofit organizations and programs. In fact, more than $1.5 billion went to Catholic organizations over the past two years.
Funding increases for Catholic organizations in recent years include the following:

An increase from $12.45 million (2008) to $57.89 million (2011) in USDA food assistance to Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
An increase from just over $440 million (2008) to more than $554 million (2010) to Catholic Charities USA
Increases in Dept. of Labor grants to Catholic organizations such as Catholic Charities of Kansas for ex-offender reintegration and other programs from $300,000 (2009) to more than $5 million (2011)
An increase of HHS funding for Catholic Medical Mission Board global health activities from $500,000 (2008) to $7 million (2011).
As a result of the increasing dependence on the Federal government the Leaders of the Catholic Church are reluctant to openly encourage the faithful in Sunday sermons to oppose politicians who support Obamacare and Planned Parenthood both are funded by or receive US government funding,i.e.,taxpayers' money and the increasing limitations placed on Catholics ability to exercise their First Amendment right to "the free exercise of religion.

Frank Pray
2 months 1 week ago

Senator Feinstein's comment regarding Amy Coney Barrett reflects the worst sort of religious discrimination. Ms. Barrett understands her duties if confirmed. She would presumably hold to her Catholic faith while also being true to her office to follow legal precedent. She might do so with personal reservation and moral tension, but without the least hesitation to perform her public duty. This ability to reconcile private convictions with legal precedent is what all good judges do everyday. Senator Feinstein is not showing a similar commitment to the duties of her office when asking questions such as these. In effect, she is saying that because Ms. Barret is Catholic, she is unfit for the office. As she is my Senator, I will make a point of telling her so.

Richard Bell
2 months 1 week ago

"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".
I think Mr Bannon was referring to the church's attitude toward illegal aliens, not the church's attitude toward migrants generally or refugees specifically. That is because I do not know of any statement or allegation of statement by Mr Bannon opposing migration or asylum for refugees. Have I missed things or has the author confused things?

E.Patrick Mosman
2 months 1 week ago

Pope Francis is totally misinformed when he offers advice to President Trump on any of the world's problems, especially the refugee problem.
The Pope should be emphasizing that these refugees from the Middle East and Africa are fleeing from the internecine religious Sunni vs Shia warfare and homicidal Muslim hordes labeled,ISIS, Boko Haram, et al targeting non-muslims, in particular Christians, that are devastating their homelands. The refugees from Mexico, Cuba and Central/South America are fleeing corrupt politicians/government officials and vicious drug lords. And where do these homeless want to go? They are heading to those countries whose socio-economic systems the Pope condemns as "bad, unjust" and even worse. The Pope should be lecturing the leaders of those countries to improve conditions so that their citizens do not have to leave instead of calling out those countries that must absorb them. He is truly preaching a false economic/refugee message.

Richard Bell
2 months 1 week ago

I had not noticed the foolish inconsistency of Francis's statements. Thanks!

Maria Yiu
2 months 1 week ago

Pope Francis and all his predecessors have consistently lectured, criticized, and even encouraged dictators and corrupt leaders to stop oppressing their people. The problem is that these unrepentant leaders never heeded the Popes' admonitions and rebukes. The fault is on these leaders without conscience, not the Popes.

E.Patrick Mosman
2 months 1 week ago

Ms Yiu,
You ignore the Pope's hypocrisy as he condemns the economic systems of the United States and Europe while insisting that these nations must take in "refugees" from countries ruled by anti-Christian, anti Jewish Islamic kings, princes, mullahs who refuse to take in their own, corrupt dictators, drug dealers and ruthless gangs. The Pope is a politically correct politician bring a few Muslim refugees to the Vatican while ignoring Christians refugees who are fleeing Islamic terrorists.

Carol Goodson
2 months 1 week ago

This is so ridiculous, because illegal aliens often don't have any money and are unable to contribute to the support of the parish. The Catholic Bishops support and want them in our churches BECAUSE THEY ARE CATHOLICS AND THAT IS WHERE THEY BELONG.

Douglas Fang
2 months 1 week ago

Again, the statement from Mr. Bannon shows that how far from reality he and his people, i.e. the Alt-Right group, are removed. They concoct a total fictitious reality that fit their mentality and as such, so ridiculous. As I actively participated in the activities of my parish for some time in recent past, and my parish is the second largest in the diocese, I had a chance to look at the contribution of the parishioners. The Hispanic parishioners are usually poor and as the result, provide a negative contribution financially to the budget of the Church!

Christopher Lochner
2 months 1 week ago

Perhaps this is why the operational reality of the church disgusts me. Who gives what and how much should be privileged information that, when seen, should be immediately flushed from the mind. This is why, in the pews, many realize a value as Brethren in Christ is primarily monetary or a public relations ploy. The gospel of prosperity is prevalent, is it not? These negative contributions previously mentioned are easily offset by supposed Christian bragging rights over the plight of, say, migrants. Imagine if we were really concerned with everyone who came to Church, and even those who do not, and not just any group existing as a cause of the day or a pet project. (Talk about dehumanizing!) This Jesus would be quite the heretic in most modern church circles of all denominations, I fear. "Love one another", He said. "Only when I get something out of it", we say.

Douglas Fang
2 months 1 week ago

What’s your point? My comment points out the falsehood of Mr. Bannon’s statement about the Catholic bishops – “...They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration...” – this is a blatant lie in the face of reality. It seems that either Mr. Bannon is a shameless liar or he truly believes in an imaginative reality that is a product of his deep paranoia about the state of American society today.

Bonnie Weissman
2 months 1 week ago

Re: Mr. Bannon, I agree on one point, the Church has a lot to work to do with many groups within it. But I think he should brush up on US history. The Church has always welcomed immigrants and helped them. My Polish grandparents took English classes and received lots of practical help in addition to spiritual direction at their parishes. Their kids were well educated at parish schools for a song. As for Senator Feinstein, would she be grilling a nominee in the same way if he or she was an orthodox Jew, a Muslim, a Mormon, an Evangelical, or a member of any number of other religious groups who are pro-life? Somehow, I think not. As an imperfect Catholic, I am personally sick of it being open season on the Catholic Church, an institution that has done more to raise immigrants, educate the young, heal the sick, etc. than any other religious group in this country. Many years ago, I was looking for housing help for a Jewish friend who with her daughter, was temporarily displaced. I called an agency associated with her faith who told me they did not currently have a place for her. Then the young social worker leaned into the phone and whispered, "I'd call Catholic Charities if I were you. They'll help anybody."

Jay Zamberlin
2 months 1 week ago

For too long we've been dictated to by bishops that are long on wind and oversimplification and short on common sense. Immigration is a key example. While they berate this country's policies when it doesn't suit what THEY think is appropriate (whatever number that is, unlimited it would seem) they make no such utterance when it comes to the rest of the Western Hemisphere's countries - which, collectively take in less immigrants than does the US just by itself.

Furthermore, one of the darlings of Catholic social justice, a warrior of warriors, so to speak, none other than Caesar Chavez, was AGAINST illegal and unfettered immigration PRECISELY because it HURTS WORKERS (hello?) Another thing, (while I'm on this high horse) why is it that CATHOLIC countries produce so many that now want to migrate to what has been a mostly Protestant country, the values of which produced a society and economy CATHOLICS want to join???? So, NOW, they (bishops) want the US to FOLLOW THEIR LEAD - to what end? to create another western hemisphere HELL HOLE? And, once that is done, whither will they migrate?

Another thing, leftists ( and their agendas) helped by said illegal and unfettered legal immigration are the same people (and agendas) that would deny PEOPLE OF FAITH, ESPECIALLY CATHOLICS worthy of the name, their rights, over and over, more and more - and that trend will never end. LISTEN TO THE ATTACK TODAY of DIck (the faux Catholic, darling of bishops, scorn of orthodox) Durbin on the CATHOLIC woman (no less, the poor orthodox Catholic with seven kids) who would dare wish to serve this country in the capacity of a federal judge. According to Mr. Durbin and his evil cohorts, D. Feinstein et al, Catholics are now, (especially ORTHODOX or faithful, e.i., non leftist quislings) NOT FIT TO SERVE, precisely BECAUSE THEY ARE CATHOLIC!! Hello, bishops, earth to bishops??? (and BTW, bishops, whom do these immigrants vote for???? HELLO???)

It is no coincidence that the states MOST CATHOLIC (state like NY, Calif) population wise produce the most abortions, strongest on gay marriage, highest divorce rates, porn producers and so forth. That is now, the fruits of Catholicism and the "teachings" of our bishops. Catholics who actually STAND for the Church and not equivocating under the guise of social justice (always an "either/or" proposition according to the social justice crowd) are mostly to be found in Africa and the Philippines, so really, this is not some sort of plot against people of color. In fact, people of my ilk would GLADLY trade the lot of you for your number times ten thousand POC orthodox from those countries.

NO bishops, Catholics who oppose the status quo or the opening up further of politically motivated immigration policy do so not with an animus and supposed racial hatred or fear or what have you, NO, it is just that we know the game, (we seem to be smarter than you, which is a shame for sure) we've seen what it has produced in places like California, and we REJECT the attempts to socialize the politics of this great country, period. You may be unwitting, or even well meaning, pawns and dupes towards turning the country socialist, but pawns you are.

Go back under the rocks from whence you came. We KNOW who you are, and we're not afraid to call you out.

John Horton
2 months 1 week ago

Catholic bishops are Left Wing shills for every propaganda campaign of the Communist Party. Catholic bishops are always dreaming up ways to spend US taxpayers money.

If White Catholic bishops love the Third Worlders, why don't the Catholic bishops move to the Third World and stop complaining about White working people who put food in your bishop's belly and a roof over your bishop's head.

Vincent Gaglione
2 months 1 week ago

Charlie Rose is not my guidepost for determining a “good Catholic.” So Bannon’s comments hold no more water for me than do those of Hugh Hewitt, another of the so-called “good Catholics” whose opinions are often solicited vis-à-vis the Catholic viewpoint. Just as so many are offended by Senator Feinstein’s comments to the judicial nominee, I find Rose’s comment to Bannon offensive.

A healthy cynicism about bishops is not unwarranted but not on the issue of immigrants. “Dagger” John Hughes of New York is famous for his comment that if the Know-Nothings attempted to destroy any Catholic institutions, New York City would burn like Moscow. I was more than pleasantly surprised, indeed wrote a letter to the archdiocesan newspaper applauding him, when Cardinal Dolan offered his very strong statements about Trump’s DACA rescission. On this issue, like so many others, Bannon is in his own world, a long ago reality that thankfully disappeared in the not-so-distant past and which hopefully will never exist again. The saddest part is that his opinions are condoned and held by a unique segment of“good Catholics”, a dying breed to be sure, but in the meantime, like the dinosaurs, still slamming their tails against the ground to which they will become fossils.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches

I believe there is another explanation for the bishop's position. It may have something to do with having people attend Mass but it is not financial. Attending Mass is a symptom of the main problem with the Church and the Church does not want to alienate a large group of people to make Mass attendance even worse. So the Church must signal to the Latin immigrants that it cares for them. It is what is called "virtue signaling" or appearing to look virtuous but for various reasons than necessarily being virtuous.

Concern for people is not hypocritical and it is a moral obligation and the Church must do so. What is hypocritical is the concern for a relatively small group of the US and world population while at the same time there is a complete lack of concern for the over all common good. I have not seen an endorsement of a specific immigration policy and concern for the overall stability of all the people. What I see is a constant criticism of specific policies and an implied endorsement of extremely impractical policies which can never be implemented..

It seems people only want to come to the United States or Western Europe, Why?

Why are all these migrants not flocking to China, Japan, Brazil, Russia, India, Argentina or Mexico, the largest Catholic country in the world? What is wrong with these countries that people do not want to immigrate there? Why are not the bishops not advocating immigration to these countries? Why are the Muslims not going to other Muslim countries. The whole world has to accept that each country must have a legally controlled immigration policy. Failure to acknowledge such is hypocritical. So what should the US's policy be? Why should it be different than Mexico's.

By the way I have witnessed a large immigration to a country other than the US, Canada or Western Europe. When I was in South Africa a few years ago there were a constant stream of people into South Africa from central Africa. They lived in sprawling communities of 15 x 20 ft one room shacks made of metal in several place in Cape town and Johannesburg. Incredible as it seemed to us at the time, we were told these shacks were improvements on the living conditions where they came from.

PS - This point has nothing to do with immigration but the real problem with the Church and religion in general today is the lack of belief. Religion has become political and not really religion. People distort it to suit their political objectives which then out rank any religious concerns for most of the people. The immigration debate is an example of this.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 months 1 week ago

"Steve Bannon says Catholics 'need...'"

Steve Bannon needs Basic Catechism 101: "For I was...a stranger and you welcomed me" (Mt 25:35).

"[Jesus] just another guy with an opinion.”

Yup.

Bruce Snowden
2 months 1 week ago

Here’s how I see Mr. Bannon’s misinformation on Bishops favoring illegal Immigrant, alien acceptance, as a way to fill Churches and probably improve Church revenue, collected we know on behalf of the Common Good. It’s been said that every heresy contains a grain of truth. So does Mr. Bannon’s “heresy”!

Sure, Bishops as Faithful Shepherds must reach out to “wandering sheep” offering the Church as continuing “pastures” of spiritual and material security. However, filling Churches and improving Church revenues are not prime movers in their outreach to illegal Immigrants.
The Gospel is, not filled pews and bulging “bottom lines” of black, not red.

The following words of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta says it well, avoiding the callous falsehood of Mr. Bannon’s belief, even if his “heresy” contains a grain of truth, peripheral of course, not the whole truth.

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by, ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

“To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material."
Gerard O’ConnellNovember 19, 2017
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago speaks Nov. 13 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Cardinal Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life could be helpful as the church grapples with issues like migration, health care and even taxes, some bishops say.
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 17, 2017
Giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany in April 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
“What we need to do is just continue to live out the challenge of ‘Laudato Si’,’ which is to examine our relationship with the earth, with God and with each other to see how we can become better stewards of this gift of the earth.”
Kevin ClarkeNovember 17, 2017
Hipsters love the authentic, the craft and the obscure—which is exactly why Catholicism, in its practices and its aesthetic, is perfectly suited for them.
Zac DavisNovember 17, 2017