"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,” Bannon said in an interview with Charlie Rose  that will air on 60 Minutes on CBS on Sunday. “It's obvious on the face of it. They have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”
Bannon didn’t stop there. He went on to play amateur theologian. “As much as I respect Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine,” Bannon said. “This is not doctrine at all. 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.”
Bannon’s comments should be deconstructed from the perspective of Catholic moral theology, the growing Latino makeup of the church, and his raw political calculus. Catholic social teaching on immigration isn’t a liberal Democratic talking point. It’s rooted in the ancient Biblical command to welcome the stranger, the prophets’ insistence that nations will be judged by how the powerful treat the weak, and Jesus’ ministry on the margins. Bannon shows equal levels of arrogance and ignorance when he lectures Catholic bishops on what constitutes “doctrine.” Church leaders who roundly rebuked Trump’s decision applied a foundational Judeo-Christian command to treat all immigrants with dignity to a specific public policy question that has undeniable practical and moral consequences. The church’s positions on immigration, of course, are not the same as dogmatic belief in the Incarnation or Resurrection. This does not change the fact that the command to protect and love the immigrant is a foundational, doctrinal truth inseparable from and essential to the church’s millennium of moral teaching.
Whatever his loathsome views, Bannon is a shrewd political strategist. He understands that a more diverse church that speaks boldly for the rights of immigrants is a serious political threat to mainstreaming the ideology of white nationalism and electing leaders who want to institutionalize its racist tenets. To be clear, Bannon doesn’t really care about theology or the insider-baseball of church politics. His aim is raw political power at the highest level. Trump’s ascent to the presidency, built on the edifice of white identity politics, is evidence that Bannon’s dark vision of a fortress America, where refugees are kept out and African Americans and immigrants know their place, has traction. Bannon wants to drive a wedge in the Catholic church, keeping white Catholics who voted for Trump afraid and politically mobilized, while squelching the power of an emerging generation of Latino Catholics who threaten his end game.
Catholics and all people of conscience who care about democracy and the common good underestimate this threat at our own peril.