Diocese of Dallas Responds to Steve Bannon Criticism Regarding Undocumented Immigrants

Fewer Catholics are filling the pews in some North Texas churches, and politics appears to be a big reason why.

Just this week, former White House adviser Steve Bannon claimed in an interview with 60 Minutes on CBS that bishops defend undocumented immigrants because they need them.

"People are living in fear unnecessarily, and it saddens me," said Auxiliary Bishop John Gregory Kelly.

Bishop Kelly knows some undocumented immigrants in the Diocese of Dallas are now too afraid to attend church service.

"They're our brothers and sisters," he said.

The bishop says he was taken aback by the 60 Minutes interview with Bannon.

Bannon told CBS journalist Charlie Rose that he had wanted President Donald Trump to abolish the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that protects young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Rose told Bannon, who is Catholic, that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, criticized Trump's decision to end DACA.

Bannon then fired back at the church and bishops.

The following is a transcript provided by CBS' 60 Minutes:

BANNON: "The bishops have been terrible about this, by the way. You know why? 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. It's obvious on the face of it. That's what-- the entire Catholic Bishops condemning. They have -- they have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration."
ROSE: "Boy, that's a tough thing to say about your church."
BANNON: "As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine. 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."

"I thought the statement reflected a very cynical viewpoint," said Bishop Kelly. "We support undocumented human beings, we support all human beings, because they're human beings. They have a basic human dignity. They're created in the image and likeness of God."

Kelly noted the issue of facing undocumented people affects him personally.

"Many of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents came to this country for the same reason people are coming here now: to escape persecution or war, poverty, to have a better life for their children and themselves," he said.

The bishop went on to say, "We welcome the person in front of us, whether they're rich or poor. Jesus said, 'I was a stranger and you welcomed me.' So we welcome that person in front of us. We can't say, 'Well, I'm sorry, you don't have enough money, or I'm sorry, you don't have papers.' We just say, 'You are our brothers and sisters, so we welcome you.'"

The Diocese of Dallas says it is experiencing growth, especially with people moving to North Texas from other parts of the country for work.

The diocese insists it does not depend on undocumented immigrant parishioners, but welcomes them with open arms.

Bishop Kelly said he has heard some parishes report a drop in the number of children signed up for educational programs.

He has also been informed of an incident at a local parish where someone's truck was stolen, but the owner did not report it to police out of fear.

Kelly said the Diocese of Dallas will continue to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all who walk through their doors.

"You are our brothers and sisters. You're our family. We care for you," he said.

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