Ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon blasts Catholic Church over criticism of DACA decision

PHOTO: Steve Bannon helps with last minute preparations before President Donald Trump announces his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House June 1, 2017 in Washington.PlayChip Somodevilla/Getty Images/FILE
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President Donald Trump's controversial former chief strategist Steve Bannon attacked the Catholic Church over a cardinal's criticism of the administration's plan to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which defers deportation of unauthorized residents who were brought to the United States as children.

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In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," Bannon said Catholic bishops went public with their disapproval only because the church has an ulterior motive, which he described as encouraging illegal immigration.

"The Catholic Church has been terrible about this," he said in a clip of the interview that aired today on "CBS This Morning."

"They need illegal aliens to fill the churches. It's obvious on the face of it. That's what the entire Catholic bishops [are] condemning. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration."

His criticism follows a charge this week by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York that terminating DACA "is certainly not Christian, and I would contend it's not American."

Dolan's office did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

When Bannon, a Catholic, was pressed whether his criticism was fair, he told CBS, "I totally respect the pope and 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 another guy with an opinion."

Bannon split with Trump's decision not to immediately rescind DACA but made clear that he sees his role since rejoining Breitbart News as a "protector" of Trump.

"Our purpose is to support Donald Trump," Bannon said. "To make sure his enemies know that there's no free shot on goal."

He went on to continue his defense of Trump's widely panned comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August and said those who refused to support the president's response should have resigned.

"You can tell him, 'Hey, maybe you can do it a better way,'" Bannon said. "But if you're going to break with him, resign. The stuff that was leaked out that week by certain members of the White House I think was unacceptable."

Bannon pointed his finger at Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, with whom Bannon notably clashed before departing the White House last month.

"I'm talking about, obviously, about Gary Cohn and some other people," Bannon said. "That if you don't like what he's doing and you don't agree with it, you have an obligation to resign."