We knew last year that Catholic churches were among the biggest recipients of “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) loans during the pandemic. By one estimate, more than 12,000 of the 17,000 Catholic churches in the U.S. applied for funding and most of them received a lot of taxpayer money — theoretically to keep lights on and staffers paid since the usual cash intake had come to a standstill.
But a new report from Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes of the Associated Press finds that a lot of those churches were already hoarding cash to begin with. They didn’t need the money at all. But they chose to take taxpayer money instead of dipping into their own savings.
As the pandemic began to unfold, scores of Catholic dioceses across the U.S. received aid through the Paycheck Protection Program while sitting on well over $10 billion in cash, short-term investments or other available funds, an Associated Press investigation has found. And despite the broad economic downturn, these assets have grown in many dioceses.
Yet even with that financial safety net, the 112 dioceses that shared their financial statements, along with the churches and schools they oversee, collected at least $1.5 billion in taxpayer-backed aid. A majority of these dioceses reported enough money on hand to cover at least six months of operating expenses, even without any new income.
To put that in perspective, as the article notes, companies like Shake Shack returned its $10 million (with an “m”) loan after public outrage because they didn’t need it. The money was meant to keep small businesses afloat, not to help large corporations that were doing just fine. Many smaller businesses without the resources of larger companies received no funding at all.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church took in far more money. And the dioceses absolutely didn’t need it.
Overall, the nation’s nearly 200 dioceses, where bishops and cardinals govern, and other Catholic institutions received at least $3 billion. That makes the Roman Catholic Church perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the paycheck program, according to AP’s analysis of data the U.S. Small Business Administration released following a public-records lawsuit by news organizations.
… Overall, Catholic recipients got roughly twice as much as 40 of the largest, most well-known charities in America combined, AP found.
It’s not that the Church did something illegal — they were eligible for the funding (which is a different issue altogether). It’s that they asked for money they didn’t need, at a time when so many people were suffering and struggling to make ends meet, in a way that was utterly unethical.
While the Catholic Church being unethical is no longer news, it should still infuriate decent people. There are so many more details in the AP report, including a damning graph and commentary on how churches cooked the books to make their finances seem a lot more dire than they really were.
If nothing else, just remember this: There’s no reason to give any money to your local Catholic institutions. They’re doing fine. If they need money, they can ask the archdiocese or Vatican. The cash is just sitting there. What a corrupt disgraceful institution.
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