Catholic Officials Apparently Raided PPP Loans Unnecessarily at the Expense of Small Businesses
It appears that Catholic officials in the US plundered the American taxpayer by accepting payroll protection program funds in dioceses that had billions in assets and cash.
According to the AP, “112 Roman Catholic dioceses in the U.S. collectively had over $10 billion in cash and other funds when they received at least $1.5 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program.” It is disturbing that an entity with so much already in the bank was able to so much of the money intended to keep small businesses afloat. It is even more concerning considering that these dioceses have billions more in property and real estate that was not included in the AP calculations.
There are 178 Catholic dioceses and nearly 200 Catholic religious orders in the United States. That the AP only analyzed 112 of them and did not have access to the financials of some of the richest, such as the Archdiocese of New York, shows that that the AP's stunning assessment is only a partial look and that the reality is probably even more egregious.
Of those they could assess, the AP found $3 Billion in PPP forgivable loans (despite being considered loans, PPP funds are, in reality, tax-free grants) intended to pay 2 months of operations and salaries. The analysis shows that not only was the cash not needed or used for those purposes, but the aggregate Church’s liquid cash reserves increased. For example, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the United States, has enough cash on hand to last two years without receiving one additional nickel from anyone. Their apparent cash-need-per-day is about $1 million. Yet they received over $80 million. $60 million would have matched their daily operational need if it was needed. We think it worth investigating whether fraud has been committed at the expense of taxpayers.
These numbers and the reporting by the AP clearly and carefully debunk the cries of poverty by Catholic officials. We are not surprised that Church leaders continue to claim one thing publicly while operating on a completely different set of facts behind closed doors. It seems to us that the institutional Catholic Church has repeatedly demonstrated in the sexual abuse scandal that what matters most to them is their money and reputation.
The facts in this article are all the more egregious in light of the uptick in efforts by dioceses around the country to retreat to the shelter of bankruptcy court as they try and escape liability for the sexual abuse scandal they created. Church leaders claim poverty when it suits them and turn around and flex their financial muscle when it is beneficial. We wonder why the federal government has not been more discerning in its distribution of these funds.
It is especially interesting to consider that the Church has harmed taxpayers in another way as well. According to CHILD USA, each case of child sexual abuse costs our society $850,000 in lifetime expenses, including lost wages, disability, reduced earnings, and elevated healthcare. That is on top of the lopsided impacts of suicides and related collateral damage. There are at least 25,000 sexual abuse victims of Catholic institutions, so the CHILD USA metric tells us that the Church has caused approximately $21 Billion in economic harm.
In the future, we hope efforts are made by Congress to ensure that institutions with a history of fudging the truth will face more scrutiny when applying for loans they do not need. The payroll protection program was designed to help struggling small businesses, not to add to a pile of cash hoarded by a tax-exempt institution.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009),
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)