Steve Bannon’s yet-to-be-aired interview on CBS is already sparking juicy headlines and inspiring heated commentary whenever a soundbite or snippet of the interview gets teased to the public. This time it’s the US Bishops’ conference that something to say. And it unsurprisingly sounds foolish. But so does Bannon.
Yet for all the foolishness going on here, Bannon, as wrong as he is, is actually onto something. He just doesn’t know it.
While talking about the repeal of DACA, which US Bishops seem to oppose, Bannon suggested that the Catholic Church has an economic interest in supporting “unlimited illegal immigration”.
“[The Church is] unable to really, to, to, 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,”
So, according to Bannon, the Church takes a liberal position on immigration, because we want more people in the pews, so that we can get more dollars in the collection basket. A line of reasoning that Cardinal Dolan very appropriately and accurately called “insulting and ridiculous”.
The US Bishops’ Conference then fired back, through their chief communications officer James Rogers who said. “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”
Eh…true, but false. Certainly justice for immigrants is central to Catholic teaching, as justice to anyone, particularly the poor or oppressed, is central to Catholic teaching. But what the Bishops’ conference seems to support is not justice, it’s liberalized [false]mercy and now they’re even going to scripture to support it. It’s not surprising to me that someone from the USCCB concocts some ridiculous rhetoric from misapplied scripture. I guess we should also vandalize banks, since, after all, Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers.
We’re accustomed to this sort of logical acrobatics from politicians but sadly it’s become normal in the Church today, too. These are verbal and rhetorical tactics that avoid the issue, ignore the facts, and contort scripture into a shapeless blob that can be applied to support any errant conclusion. But who am I to judge?
The bottom line for me is both parties—the Church, and Bannon—are wrong. But Bannon’s reasoning isn’t completely off the wall. The Church is indeed trying desperately to bring in more money. But it isn’t looking to immigrants for that, it’s looking to native-born secularized Catholics, and its appealing to them in many cases by practically selling its own soul.
BANNON IS WRONG
First, let’s get something straight regarding immigration, and immigrants. The Church in America doesn’t defend immigrants because of an “economic interest”. The Church defends immigrants because they are dignified human beings made in the image of God, and because they are poor “strangers” (outsiders) and need special attention, defense, and care.
THE BISHOPS ARE WRONG
Where many in the American Church (and most on the American left) gets it wrong is by forgetting or ignoring that we are a nation of laws, and a sovereign nation has an intrinsic right to defend and uphold its sovereignty. These are not man-made principals, they are natural ones. We can’t toss the rule of law out the window. We cannot forego order in the interests of false mercy. Our laws regarding immigration are already just, fair, and generous. This is the most welcoming, most benevolent country in the world. Tightening control of our borders is not anti-immigrant, it’s anti-disorder. A country that is not ordered even at its border is a country that cannot sustain its own citizenry, or the “stranger” who wants to be a part of the American family. We’re already seeing that to be true in local economies.
America is not rejecting the poor, the “stranger”, and the immigrant. We take in more immigrants and refugees than any other country in the world. We welcome the stranger, but we insist that he come through the front door, not sneak in through the living room window, and hide in the basement. Anyone who thinks Jesus would support what the American left is advocating for must not know who Jesus really is. The Lord would not abandon the rule of law, provided the law is just. And our immigration policies are just and fair and generous.
THE REAL TRUTH
Bannon’s reasoning wasn’t completely off the wall. While not every parish or diocese is obsessed with filling Churches simply to get more money and are genuinely and sincerely interested in bringing souls to Jesus, there is absolutely a mentality in many Churches in America that we need to bring in the money, and we need to do that not only by filling the pews but also by doing various political, cultural, and theological song and dance routines in order to bring in that money.
In much of the modern American Church, the answer to dwindling numbers is to attract more people with softer rhetoric and a gradual abandonment of our Catholic character, and a gradual departure from speaking Truth, so that we don’t offend the over-sensitive, secularized faithful. Its answer to dwindling dollars is conducting more frequent fundraisers, and appealing to the secular sensibilities of some/many in the laity. The Church in America isn’t appealing to the immigrant, it’s appealing to American natives—to the secularized, to the paganized, to the errant mass-goer and cultural-Catholic. To appeal to the immigrant, the Church needn’t change a thing. The immigrant is, by majority, receptive to the Catholic voice. To appeal to the folks the modern American Church does try to appeal to, the Church has to sell its soul. And that’s precisely what it does from too many pulpits, and from too many chanceries in the American Church.
In total fairness, not every parish or diocese is this desperate. There are some great parishes, and great dioceses headed by great men in this country. But let’s not kid ourselves about the big picture. What we’re seeing in some of these great parishes and dioceses is the exception, not the rule. The American Church needs to remember who she is, evangelize well, and suffer patiently whatever comes of it, for the glory of God. Do the business of the Kingdom, not the business of the world.