By Ray O’Hanlon
The DACA debacle has gone viral - and spiritual.
The Trump administration’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has resulted in a political firestorm.
But that firestorm is being eclipsed by the hellfire unleashed by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon who has accused the Catholic Church of only being interested in undocumented and illegal immigrants - the DACA “Dreamers” included - because they fill pews in churches and help the church’s finances.
And in an interview to be aired this Sunday on CBS “60 Minutes” Bannon takes a particular swipe at the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who protested the administration’s DACA decision as being contrary to the spirit of the Bible and the country.
Bannon is an Irish American Catholic.
Cardinal Dolan, of course, matches that same description.
And into this Catholic Irish American standoff today came a third party, Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus who has penned as “open letter” to Bannon in which the Fermanagh-born Redemptorist priest describes Bannon’s charge against the church as being “crass and vicious.”
Bannon, who has returned to the Breitbart online news outlet since his departure from the White House, said in the 60 Minutes interview that the church needed illegal aliens “to fill the churches.”
“They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration,” he said in reference to the nation’s Catholic bishops.
And in the interview he takes aim at one church leader in particular, Cardinal Dolan.
Bannon said that he was not getting into an argument over doctrine, but rather was talking about the sovereignty of the nation.
Cardinal Dolan, who is generally seen as being a political conservative, came out swinging.
In an op-ed posted in the up-front news pages of today’s Daily News, he took issue with Bannon.
A companion news report had the archbishop describing Bannon’s assertions as “ridiculous” and “insulting.”
In the op-ed, billed by the News as an exclusive, Cardinal Dolan wrote that “welcoming the stranger” was an intrinsic part of who we are as people of faith.
And he continued in part: “Yes, countries have both a right and a duty to see to it that there are secure borders and sensible immigration policy.
“With Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals we’re dealing with people who arrived here as children, and are now our neighbors, coworkers, fellow parishioners, and friends.
“This is their home. They salute our flag and love our country.”
Dolan opined that Congress must now act to make certain that the Dreamers have an opportunity to demonstrate that they want and deserve the chance to become full citizens in the land that they love.
“This is why I will continue to stand up for the Dreamers and advocate for a fair, measured, American immigration policy. My only motive in this is that I believe in the Bible and in America,” Dolan concluded.
While the cardinal was firm in his position, he was also restrained in his response to Bannon.
Not so restrained was Fr. McManus who quickly took the gloves off, at least after the “Dear Steve” opening to his open letter.
McManus stated in part: “I’ve been wondering if you were any relation to Fr. Bannon (1829-1913) the “Confederate Chaplain,” who was born in County Leitrim, Ireland.
“Your last name and politics might indicate a close relationship.
“However, I now doubt it, because at least Fr. Bannon would not have been anti-Catholic, something which you have, almost stereotypically, declared yourself to be. (And, yes, Catholics can be anti-Catholic).
“Your crass and vicious charge alleges that the Catholic bishops are supporting immigrants out of ‘economic interest’ and because ‘they need illegal aliens to fill the churches.’
“In other words, the Catholic Bishops are using one of Jesus Christ’s most sacred commands, ‘Do this in memory of me’ not in fidelity to the Gospel but to make money (from the poorest people in the country?)
“No anti-Catholic outburst could possibly be more offensive to lay Catholics, priests, and Bishops.”
The Washington D.C.-based president of the Irish National caucus continued: “It is also one of the oldest anti-Catholic tropes in America - and in England, with its historic anti-Catholic oppression in Ireland, and since 1920 in ‘Northern Ireland.’
“So, Steve, get ready to be inducted into the Orange Order, the anti-Catholic, secret-oath-bound, organization in Northern Ireland.
“You would find it a congenial home: it is almost seen as respectable - like how the White Citizens Council in Alabama and Mississippi were a bit more respectable than the KKK.
“Also, of course, to charge that The Mass/The Eucharist is all about making money is like the Nazis’ accusation that the Jews were sucking money out of Germany, which brings us back to another historical foundation: the historic targets of the KKK are Catholics, Blacks and Jews.
“Well, this Fermanagh-born Irishman takes his stand with Catholics, Blacks and Jews against the KKK. As Martin Luther himself said in 1521, ‘Here I stand, I can no other.’”