Bannon believes that “the Judeo-Christian West is in a crisis.” He calls for a return of “the church militant” who will “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity,” which threatens to “completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.” Where Francis has insisted on dialogue with Muslims, Bannon points to “the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam” and reaches as far back as the eighth century to praise “forefathers” who defeated Islam on the battlefield and “kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places.” “See what’s happening,” Bannon insists, “and you will see we’re in a war of immense proportions.




On the surface, some of Bannon’s economic views would seem to match Francis’s. In his speech broadcast to the group in Rome, Bannon spoke against “a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people.” But as Faggioli notes, Bannon links his criticism of capitalism to nationalism, which makes his views more similar to those of far-right groups in the 1920s and ’30s such as Action Francaise, a French nationalist group condemned by the Vatican. Francis’s economics, on the other hand, focus on global concerns, including climate change.



Trump won overwhelmingly among conservative American Catholics last year, and many of them likely sympathize with aspects of Bannon’s nationalist outlook. But the tensions between Trump and Francis are likely to grow. Ironically, given the opposition to him among many American bishops, Obama’s foreign policy was far closer to the Vatican’s approach than is Trump’s. And Trump’s moves against refugees and immigrants mobilized even conservative bishops to loud condemnations. The fact that about a third of American Catholics are Latino weighs heavily in the church’s thinking.

Bannon is unlikely to want Trump to force American Catholics to choose between their president and their pope. But the battle is on to define the meaning of both Americanism and Catholicism. Bannon’s worldview could incite the same showdown in the church that he has already ignited in politics.