The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid. (July 10)
MICHAEL REZENDES: We found that the Catholic Church has taking anywhere from between $1.4 billion and $3.5 billion out of the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which is part of the CARES Act, the coronavirus relief package. And we found that the church did this through a specific lobbying effort. Normally, only small businesses, tax-paying businesses get small business loans.
This action by the Small Business Administration is unprecedented, because it's actually using federal money to pay the salaries of priests and ministers. It's almost as if there is no wall between church and state, because the federal government is using taxpayer dollars to pay priests and ministers. It's also unprecedented that a religion would actually get preferential treatment, which is what's happening here. So I think the legal scholars are very concerned that the wall between church and state might be disappearing.
Yes, we found that many of the dioceses that are collecting large numbers of loans through the Paycheck Protection Program are dioceses that may be financially distressed not just because of the coronavirus, but in fact, because of the large payouts they've had to make to clergy sex abuse victims. And many of these payments have been made quite recently through compensation funds-- victim compensation funds.
I think at this point, as far as I've been able to tell, the victims and victim advocates are just in a state of shocked and stunned disbelief. I don't even believe they've had a chance to process this information. It's just a huge amount of money and I don't think anyone expected this. I don't think anyone saw this coming.
I think the president is looking for support from conservative Christians, both evangelicals and say, anti-abortion Catholics. So I think the president appears to be unconcerned with any erosion of the wall between church and state, and seems to be using this for what he believes is political gain.