WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Amidst calls to give back money from the COVID-related Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), U.S. bishops cite massive school closures while asking for even more cash.
Citing 130 Catholic school closures and other financial issues, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is now asking the faithful to sign an online petition asking Congress to shell out more PPP money.
The bishops' petition reads, "COVID-19 has contributed to the permanent closure of 130 Catholic schools across 23 states. Additionally, internal surveys show 10% of Catholic schools are now uncertain if they can open their doors this fall. That means as many as 500 or more Catholic schools could be in jeopardy."
Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, released a statement Friday defending the bishops' quest for more money:
The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to protect the jobs of Americans from all walks of life, regardless of whether they work for-profit or non-profit employers, faith-based or secular.
Despite all of this, more than 100 Catholic schools have announced that they plan to close, with hundreds more facing an uncertain future. Businesses, hospitals, schools and churches all across the country are facing many of the exact same problems.
Church Militant released information July 15 on the Church's participation in the government program. The Catholic Church in the United States has received between $1.5 and $3.5 billion in PPP money, making it one of the largest overall recipients in the country.
As has been reported several times in the past, many bishops have hundreds of millions of dollars stashed away in investments and endowments, which, it appears, they are not willing to touch even as employees are laid off.
The Church may be cash poor, but as has been reported, much of this is self-inflicted. The scandal of faithless clergy betraying the Church has taken a great spiritual and financial toll on Her. This includes homosexuality, embezzling money and perhaps most devastating of all, the refusal to teach the authentic Faith to people who have desperately needed it.
Dioceses like Wheeling-Charleston (West Virginia) Orange (California) and the archdiocese of New York — rocked by scandal — have collected $2 million, $3 million and $10 million respectively. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who just closed 20 Catholic Schools to the chagrin of 2,500 students and 350 staff members, just received $10 million in PPP federal loans.
The online petition created by the USCCB for the faithful to sign has a suggested message already filled in within the message box. After lamenting that "Already, 130 Catholic schools have announced permanent closure," it reads:
I write today asking for emergency aid for hard-hit families in non-public schools as a part of the next COVID emergency relief package.
The public school community has requested another $300 billion in the next coronavirus aid package. We ask that distressed families of nonpublic schools be considered as a part of the comprehensive needs of K12 education. Since nonpublic students represent 10% of the K12 student population, 10% of what is made available to public schools should be directed specifically to the nonpublic school community to provide direct aid to families in the form of means-tested scholarships.
As reported by Church Militant, it has been perplexing as to why dioceses with resources to weather the storm chose to take government money intended to save small businesses.
The Associated Press reports that roughly 3,500 Catholic organizations qualified for PPP loans. Many are asking why bishops have not turned to their endowments and investment funds, which exist for such emergency situations. Instead, they took limited taxpayer forgivable loans meant for small businesses without cash reserves to save their employees and their businesses.
The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program was approved by Congress and signed into law in early April. As long as the loan funds are used for payroll, rent and utilities, the government will forgive the loans.
Coakley, nevertheless, has assured the faithful that Catholic ministries are justified in receiving governmental resources.
"In addition, shutdown orders and economic fallout associated with the virus have affected everyone, including the thousands of Catholic ministries — churches, schools, health care and social services — that employ about 1 million people in the United States," he explained.