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Paychecks and the Catholic Church

A woman prays alone on Palm Sunday in the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Worcester, Mass., April 5, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

AP reporters Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes get in on the bumper crop of stories trying to shame recipients and outrage readers over funding from the Paycheck Protection Program. The target is Catholicism:

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, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.

The church’s haul may have reached — or even exceeded — $3.5 billion, making a global religious institution with more than a billion followers among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts, an Associated Press analysis of federal data released this week found.

Houses of worship and faith-based organizations that promote religious beliefs aren’t usually eligible for money from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

It’s true that there is something “unprecedented” about the exemption and that churches aren’t normally eligible for money from the U.S. Small Business Administration, but of course that’s true because the U.S. Small Business Administration is taking on the unprecedented job of providing money to millions of businesses and corporate structures around the country in order to prevent tens of millions of more layoffs and the economic dislocation from them due to the coronavirus. Almost everything the SBA is doing right now is unprecedented.

It may be a surprise to Messers Dunklin and Rezendes that there are many hundreds of Catholic organizations throughout the United States whose sources of revenue were absolutely hammered by the government-order lockdowns, and that tens of thousands of people rely on jobs with the Church for their employment.

The article proceeds with a kind of background noise that Catholics are not really U.S. citizens and should be ruled ineligible for these funds because they are religious, because they have expended money on buildings, or because of lawsuits in the past. Or that the PPP is a matter of “cashing in” or the product of evil and impermissible lobbying. The CARES Act was subject to lobbying from almost every interest group in the country because it’s one of the largest peacetime expenditures in the nation’s history, and each group had to inform, almost instantly, their representatives of their needs.

AP writers should have just called the Catholics thieves, welfare queens, and disloyal Americans.

Meanwhile, despite this supposed ocean of cash, Catholic schools are closing at an alarming pace.

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