When Pope Francis came to the United States in September, he stopped in Philadelphia, where officials were laying out the red carpet for him. That wasn’t a problem for most people since it was made clear beforehand that the World Meeting of Families group would foot the full bill for the Pope’s visit.
Now that the trip’s long over, however, it turns out that’s not the case at all:
The city spent $17 million on the visit of Pope Francis in September, according to the city’s budget director, most of it to cover police and fire services. The city has sent a bill to the World Meeting of Families seeking nearly $9 million.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz — a frequent critic of the mayor — said the amount being billed to the WMOF was far short of expectations.
Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese said in July, “The WMOF entity is responsible for bearing the burden of all costs.”
The group bears the burden of all costs… except for that $8 million gap between what was spent and what the WMOF is getting billed for. Residents will have to pony up to cover the shortfall.
Mayor Michael Nutter insists that separation of church and state was respected since these costs involved things like police protection, not prayer, but why are taxpayers on the hook at all? Before the Pope came by, a media outlet asked local atheist leaders what they thought about the papal visit. None of them mentioned the costs since they trusted the Mayor that the bills would be covered by a private group. Their main concern seemed to be that the visit would clog up the city’s roads.Atheist Staks Rosch is rightfully furious that he was lied to:
The truth is that the World Meeting of Families doesn’t give a damn about children or families. They just care about pushing the Catholic religion. It is bad enough that they don’t have to actually pay taxes, but now they are taking our taxes away from the City and families who need it. It is immoral, illegal, and unconstitutional.
It’s hard to say if there’s a legal case to be made against the city, since foreign dignitaries always require things like police and fire protection during their U.S. visits no matter who they are, but lawyers will certainly be looking at this issue over the next week.