An advocacy group representing Franciscan priests, nuns and other parts of the order has protested comments by the recently named CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign suggesting Catholic leaders in America support immigration reform because “the church is dying” and needs new members.
Steve Bannon, tapped by Trump to oversee his presidential bid, made the comments during his radio program on Breitbart March 8, prior to his appointment to head Trump’s presidential bid.
His comments “smack of anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, racist undertones,” said a statement released Thursday by the Washington, D.C.-based Franciscan Action Network.
“Anti-Catholicism was once an ugly part of our nation’s history, but no matter one’s background or place of origin, the Catholic Church in the United States has always been a Church of immigrants and has ‘Welcomed the Stranger’ as Jesus commanded,” the statement said.
“Pope Francis has called on us to build bridges and not walls,” said Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan group. “In the past Donald Trump has attacked the pope, and now his campaign is going after the Church itself. Enough is enough.”
“Our country has a history of racism, and Catholics and people of faith must speak out as the Trump campaign continues to disparage women, minorities, different religions, and the disabled,” Carolan said.
The context for Bannon’s comments in March was an on-air discussion with Princeton law professor Robert P. George, who was part of a group of conservative Catholic intellectuals who had just issued an open letter denouncing Trump.
“I understand why Catholics want as many Hispanics in this country as possible, because the church is dying in this country, right? If it was not for the Hispanics,” Bannon said.
“I get that, right?” Bannon continued. “But I think that is the subtext of part of the letter, and I think that is the subtext of a lot of the political direction of this.”
Bannon also complained about Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, accusing him of “rubbing his social justice Catholicism in my nose every second.”