The Roman Catholic Church criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA because it relies on “illegal aliens to fill the churches,” Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist, said in an interview airing Thursday.
Bannon, who returned as chairman of Breitbart News after being ousted as one of Trump’s top aides last month, added that the Catholic Church had “an economic interest in unlimited immigration.”
“The bishops have been terrible about this. By the way, you know why? You know why? Because unable to come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens,” Bannon told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
“They need illegal aliens to fill the churches. That’s — it’s obvious on the face of it,” Bannon, who is Catholic, continued. “They have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”
For the sake of a silly argument, let us imagine that this is, at its base, true: that Catholic bishops sinfully only see the members of their flock in terms of shallow “economic interests.” If this were actually the case, what difference should it make to the bishops whether their parishioners were illegal immigrants here or full-fledged citizens in their home country? The money all flows toward Rome, after all, one way or the other. I suppose it is possible that, if a diocese does not sustain a critical mass of paying faithful, it might end up seriously in debt—but in that case it would probably end up being absorbed into a nearby archdiocese or else just directly subsidized from the Holy See. What does Bannon think the Vatican would do if a diocese stopped being able to afford itself for lack of illegal immigrants—shut down the cathedrals and laicize the clergy? Does he think this two-thousand-year-old institution established by Christ is somehow that inept and desperate?
People have all sorts of daffy and stupid conspiracy theories about the Catholic Church. The nuts from the Right tend to fixate rather comically on the Church’s liberal position on immigration—with results like the one above—while the hard Left, particularly the feminist Left, tends to make the Church out to be a darkly nefarious misogynistic cabal of patriarchs who are out to force women to become breeding sows, or something. Both are wrong, though it is worth pointing out that, on the merits of DACA, the bishops are mostly wrong, as well: the United States is far and away the most immigrant-friendly country on the planet, and the idea that we have to retain a temporary executive order promulgated by a president who isn’t even in office anymore in order to maintain our fundamental position on immigration is, well, a bit of a stretch. Even if this DACA saga ends as the hardest hawks want it to end—deportation of every one of the 800,000 illegal immigrants the program used to cover—we will still operate at a immigrational net positive for this year alone. Let’s not go crazy here: we wouldn’t want our public debate to suffer for the sake of political hysterics.
In any event, using scripture to justify explicit political policies, as the bishops do, is often a fraught business, given the potential for differing interpretations. Outside of the USCCB it’s a favorite pastime of areligious or atheistic liberals, who like to browbeat conservatives with passages from the New Testament in order to force them to accede to liberal politics: “Jesus said to love your neighbor,” they say, “so how come you don’t support gay marriage?!?!” It’s as irritating an exercise as it is an empty and superfluous one: being lectured about religious belief by people whose experience with religion probably begins and ends with Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweets and Bill Maher’s Religulous. But it’s frustrating in one particular way: if the non-religious are going to hold up the Gospel as a sort of guidebook to live by, the least they might be obliged to do is fall upon their knees and worship Jesus Christ as Son of God and the Savior of Mankind—which was, let’s not forget, the point of the Gospel in the first place: it was not designed to pass laws in the senate but usher souls into eternal glory with God. We might gently and kindly remind our unchurched friends of that, if and when the situation arises.