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Steve Bannon Criticizes Catholic Bishops For Response To DACA


U.S. Catholic bishops are reacting with outrage to comments from Stephen Bannon, President Trump's former chief strategist. In an interview with Charlie Rose for CBS' "60 Minutes," Bannon claims the Catholic Church defends the DACA program for young immigrants only because it has an economic interest in unlimited immigration. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: In his first interview since leaving the White House, Steve Bannon lives up to his reputation as an agitator. He describes himself as a street fighter. That's why Donald Trump and I get along so well, he says. But it was his remarks on the Catholic Church and the DACA program that shocked his interviewer. When Charlie Rose points out that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, criticized President Trump's decision to end the DACA program, Bannon is dismissive.


STEPHEN BANNON: The bishops have been terrible about this. By the way, 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. That's - it's obvious on the face of it. They have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.

GJELTEN: That clip from Bannon's interview aired yesterday on CBS' "This Morning" show. The full interview will air on Sunday on "60 Minutes." In fact, more than a quarter of U.S. Catholics today were born outside the country. But the idea that the Catholic Church defends immigrants only because they need them to fill their pews left church leaders furious. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in an official statement said, our pro-immigration stance is based on fidelity to God's word and honors the American dream. Cardinal Dolan himself in an interview with the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM radio didn't even want to address Bannon's charge.


TIMOTHY DOLAN: That's insulting. And that's just so ridiculous that it doesn't merit a comment.

GJELTEN: Bannon is himself a Catholic. And in the "60 Minutes" interview, he says he totally respects the church on doctrine. But the bishop's position, he says, is not about doctrine. Rather, in talking about immigration, Bannon says the bishops are, quote, "just another guy with an opinion," unquote. Cardinal Dolan said Bannon is actually right that the church's view of immigrants goes beyond church doctrine.


DOLAN: This is not an issue of Catholic doctrine because it comes from the Bible itself. And the Bible is so clear, so clear that to treat the immigrant with dignity and respect is biblical mandate.

GJELTEN: The statement from Catholic bishops cited several Bible verses in support of immigrants. Catholics themselves, however, are somewhat divided on the immigration issue. A 2015 survey found that fewer than half of white Catholics believe immigrants strengthen the country. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.