US bishops “need illegal aliens to fill the pews,” former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon has said in an interview with CBS.
In the interview Bannon, a Catholic, told newsman Charlie Rose that the bishops have “an economic interest in illegal immigration.” He also criticised his former boss, President Donald Trump, for taking a step back hours after ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, when the president said on Twitter that he might revisit the decision in six months.
“Trust me, the guys in the far right, the guys on the conservative side are not happy with this,” Bannon said.
Catholic officials, including New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, disputed the claim.
The interview marks the first time since leaving the Trump administration that Bannon, who has now returned as CEO of the website Breitbart News, has spoken out.
Citing the Gospel call to welcome the stranger and other church teachings, the U.S. bishops have urged for comprehensive immigration reform and for the protection of youth under the DACA program.
Bannon said the U.S bishops have been “terrible” about handling immigration because they can’t “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.”
Bannon said immigration issues are not part of church doctrine and the bishops need to understand that “this is about the sovereignty of a nation.”
“And in that regard,” he added, “they’re just another guy with an opinion.”
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he was “rather befuddled” by the claim, adding that Bannon’s comment that “the only reason the bishops care for immigrants is because we want to fill our churches and get more money” was insulting.
He also said he wanted to clarify Bannon’s remark that immigration issues are not part of church doctrine.
“He might be right,” the cardinal said: “it comes from the Bible itself,” which he said is very clear about treating immigrants with dignity and respect.