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Catholic Church received at least $1.4 billion in coronavirus aid, following lobbying effort

The U.S. Roman Catholic Church successfully lobbied for a number of congressional exemptions that allowed them access to PPP loans

Updated: July 10, 2020 - 10:58am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook


Following extensive lobbying efforts during the early days of the Paycheck Protection Program, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church was able to secure at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-funded coronavirus aid. 

Typically, faith-based organizations aren't eligible for funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration, however, Congress allowed groups that promote religious beliefs participate in the $659 billion fund that was established to keep main street U.S. businesses afloat. 

An AP report, found that Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, and ministries received approval for at least 3,500 forgivable government loans, nearly 500 of which exceeded $1 million, and eight of which were between $5-$10 million.

Not only were religious groups granted an exception to the faith-bathed organization policy, they were also granted an exception to the SBA rule that disqualified companies with more than 500 workers. 

After the church's aggressive lobbying efforts proved successful, they quickly set up workshops and webinars with legal and financial experts who walked parishes and schools through the ways to apply for and access the government money. Data suggests that the majority of the church's loans were approved during the PPP's first two weeks. 

The AP report calculates that the church received between $1.4-$3.5 billion, and likely more, due to the fact that government data did not include the names of loan recipients who received less than $150,000. 

Some of the dioceses that received funds have spent millions of dollars in the past few years paying the victims of abuse by members of the clergy through compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings. Among the recipients of the government loans were a number of Catholic treatment centers for priests suffering from a variety of disorders, but also including those accused of sexual abuse. 

The Saint Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, a treatment center where priests accused of sexual abuse were often sent and returned to service only to continue their patterned behavior, received a loan in the range of $350,000-$1 million. 

Because of the government exemptions, the church and its affiliate organizations report that they have been able to preserve more than 400,000 jobs with the forgivable loans they were issued by the SBA.

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