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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. bishops are slamming Steve Bannon for suggesting they financially benefit from illegal immigration.
In an excerpt from a 60 Minutes interview broadcast Thursday, the former White House chief strategist said that because they're unwilling to address root problems in the Church, the bishops "need illegal aliens to fill the churches."
"It's obvious on the face of it," Bannon said. "They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration."
A spokesman for theU.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded by calling Bannon's claim "absurd."
In a statement issued Thursday, USCCB chief communications officer James Rogers responded, "It is preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn't central to Catholic teaching ... Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome."
On Sirius XM radio Thursday, Cdl. Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and former head of the USCCB, claimed 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."
Bannon's comments stem from the bishops' condemnation of President Trump's Tuesday announcement that he intends to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program within six months.
Launched by President Obama in 2012, DACA awards a two-year stay of deportation for so-called "Dreamers" — immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children. It is estimated that under DACA, 800,000 illegal immigrants have been allowed to remain in the country.
In a statement Tuesday, USCCB leaders slammed Trump's plan to cancel DACA as "reprehensible." Signatories included USCCB president Cdl. Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB vice president Abp. José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Committee on Migration chairman Bp. Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers, Bp. Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima.
Cardinal Dolan echoed the USCCB statement Tuesday, asserting DACA's nullification "is certainly not Christian, and I would contend it's not American."
The Church has a "special solicitude" for immigrants, he remarked. "[W]e are an immigrant church. They come to us first. The highest percentage of immigrants are — guess what? — Catholic."
The USCCB's Tuesday denunciation of Trump was not its first. In March, Catholic writer and broadcaster Deal Hudson observed, "Since Donald Trump became president, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has released 10 statements regarding immigration."
"Each of these statements," he pointed out, "oppose the policies of the new administration regarding travel restrictions, building a security barrier, immigration resettlement, deportation, and sanctuary cities."
Hudson continued, "However, what none of these statements disclose is this: [T]he USCCB received more than $91 million for resettlement programs for Syrian refugees. The average Catholic who reads about the bishops' ardent opposition to President Trump on immigration issues is not aware of this startling conflict of interest."
According to a 2014 WorldNetDaily report:
[O]ne of the largest recipients of government funds to resettle immigrant children is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB helps resettle not only unaccompanied alien children or UACs who enter the country illegally but also refugees fleeing persecution overseas who enter through legal channels. The USCCB is one of nine agencies that receive hundreds of millions in tax dollars to resettle refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. under contract with the federal government.
In 2015, Breitbart reported that roughly half of Catholic Charities' funding — $2 billion — "comes from the federal government, through the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. A portion of that funding ... estimated at in excess of $70 million, is part of the more than $1 billion the federal government spends on the refugee resettlement program."
"The Obama years," Hudson noted, "added to the largess ... the $91,000,000 paid directly to the USCCB was unprecedented."
Based on the money trail, Bannon is dismissing the bishops' protests.
"This is not doctrine at all," he declared. "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."