Bishops’ Billions

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 8, 2021   

Bishops get loans meant for small businesses

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While mom-and-pop restaurants shut their doors — some permanently — U.S. dioceses got billions in federal loans.

According to the Associated Press, Catholic dioceses received more than $3 billion in low-interest federal loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The money was earmarked for small businesses strapped for cash — to help them pay employees and avoid layoffs during COVID lockdowns. But U.S. dioceses collectively sit on a whopping $10 billion dollars in available finances (without counting real estate properties or school and parish funds).

For example, in the archdiocese of Chicago — headed by Cdl. Blase Cupich — schools, parishes and ministries have received $77 million in PPP funds, all while the archdiocese sits on a billion dollars.

All this is an update on an AP report from July, which many bishops criticized as a "hit piece." Some Catholic dioceses still furloughed staff or had layoffs — despite taking so-called paycheck protection money.

In contrast, some businesses that took the PPP money but didn't use it ended up returning the funds. For example, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse gave back $20 million in federal loans owing to public outrage (as many felt it was taking money from smaller businesses that needed the help).

Many bishops applied for PPP loans last spring after canceling public Mass in every diocese in the country. Some bishops — like Cdl. Joseph Tobin in Newark, New Jersey — prohibited the sacrament of confession.

Most Catholics were relegated to watching Mass on the internet or television, even for Holy Week and Easter — for Catholics, among the most important liturgies on the calendar.

Canceling the sacraments drove a wedge between bishops and the laity — as most laypersons were deprived of Christ in the Eucharist and the liturgical life of the Church for weeks or even months at a time. Bishops and dioceses hoarding cash while many laity are unemployed or broke could drive another wedge between the faithful and their supposed shepherds.

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