U.S. Catholic bishops are responding with blunt condemnation to Steve Bannon's controversial comments to 60 Minutes this week regarding the church's support for DACA, a program that helps illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children.
"They need illegal aliens to fill the churches," Bannon tells Charlie Rose. "It's obvious on the face of it."
One of the first to fire back was Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.
"I don't really 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 because we want to fill our churches and get more money," Cardinal Dolan said in a Thursday interview with The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM radio.
What does Bannon -- who until recently was President Donald Trump's chief strategist -- think should happen to the DACA immigrants? In an interview this week on 60 Minutes, Bannon says they should "self deport" when their work permits run out. "There's no path to citizenship, no path to a green card, and no amnesty."
Bannon believes President Trump should have ended DACA immediately, instead of creating a 6-month delay.
Rose countered: "I remind you, a good Catholic, that Cardinal Dolan is opposed to what's happened with DACA."
Bannon responded, "The Catholic Church has been terrible about this…. [U]nable to really come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens."
"As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine," Bannon continued. "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."
In the rest of Cardinal Dolan's response, he cited Scripture:
It comes from the Bible itself, and we Catholics are people of the book … And the Bible is so clear, so clear, that to treat the immigrant with dignity and respect, to make sure that society is just in its treatment of the immigrant, is Biblical mandate. It's clear in the Old Testament — my Jewish neighbors remind me of that all the time — and it's clear from the lips of Jesus when he said, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me. When I was a stranger — meaning an immigrant or a refugee — you welcomed me."
Cardinal Dolan was not the only member of the Catholic clergy to respond to Bannon's comments. On Thursday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement reading:
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 … Our pro-immigration stance is based on fidelity to God's word and honors the American dream.
This is not the first run-in Bannon has had with the Catholic Church. In August, two close associates of Pope Francis accused some conservative American Catholics of participating in what they call an "ecumenism of hate."
In a journal that's reviewed by the Vatican before publication, the associates specifically described Bannon as a "supporter of an apocalyptic geopolitics" and warned that ultra-conservative American Catholics are trying to institute a "theocratic type of state."
Bannon later responded, telling the New York Times the essay "lit me up."