In a segment of a “60 Minutes” interview to be aired on Sunday, former White House counsel Steve Bannon was interviewed by show host Charlie Rose about his departure and what he intends to do back at Breitbart News. Bannon said inter alia that he remains allied with Trump and that he is the president’s “wing man” in accomplishing the political goals they share. After identifying Bannon as a “good Catholic,” Rose asked Bannon to reflect on his differences with the stated positions of Catholic hierarchs concerning the Trump administration’s recent decision to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed about 800,000 young illegal immigrants to remain in the country without fear of deportation.
Here follows an excerpt of the exchange between Rose and Bannon:
Steve Bannon: Look, what he did on DACA the other day. Okay, I don't agree with that DACA decision, but I understand how he struggled with it, I understand how he's giving the possibility of a legislative thing. And he said even last night in a tweet – even in a tweet, he would rethink it. Trust me, the guys in the far right, the guys on the conservative side are not happy with this.
Charlie Rose: Can I remind you, a good Catholic, that Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan is opposed to what's happened with DACA? Cardinal Dolan.
Bannon: The Catholic Church has been terrible about this.
Bannon: The bishops have been terrible about this. By the way, you know why? You know why? Because unable to really – to – to – to come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches. 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. And as much as –
Rose: Boy, that's a tough thing to say about your church.
Bannon: As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine. This is not doctrine at all. I totally respect the pope and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine. This is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation. And in that regard, they're just another guy with an opinion.
Following the release of that exchange, James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), released a statement to clarify the position of the Catholic bishops. He stated, "It is preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn't central to Catholic teaching. It comes directly from Jesus Himself in Matthew 25, 'For I was hungry and you gave me food…a stranger and you welcomed me.' Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome. This isn't Catholic partisanship. The Bible is clear: welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith.
“Caring for and about the 'Dreamers' is nothing more than trying to carry out that seemingly simple, but ultimately incredibly demanding, commandment. It is a commandment found throughout Sacred Scripture, reaching back to the Hebrew scriptures, including Leviticus, 'when an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one' (Lv. 19:33). In fact, the Church has been pro-immigration since God called Abram to leave Ur: 'Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father's house to a land that I will show you' (Gn. 12:1). To suggest otherwise is absurd.
“The witness of the Catholic bishops on issues from pro-life to pro-marriage to pro-health care to pro-immigration reforms is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than the convenient political trends of the day. We are called not to politics or partisanship, but to love our neighbor. Let's reject the forces of division that insist we make a false choice between our safety and our humanity. It is both possible and morally necessary to secure the border in a manner which provides security and a humane immigration policy.
Our pro-immigration stance is based on fidelity to God's word and honors the American dream. For anyone to suggest that it is out of sordid motives of statistics or financial gain is outrageous and insulting." For his part, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, told the Catholic Channel on SiriusXM radio on Thursday that he was “befuddled” by Bannon's comments. “I don’t care to go into what I think is a preposterous and rather insulting statement that the only reason we bishops care for immigrants is for the economic and because we want to fill our churches and get more money,” Dolan said.“That’s just so insulting and ridiculous that it doesn’t merit a comment.”