CHICAGO (CBS) — Taxpayers’ money is going a lot of places in the wake of COVID-19, including billions to the Catholic church, and some say it may never have to be paid back. There are allegations locally that the cash will revamp the church’s accounts hit hard by sex abuse settlements.
“It makes me sadder more than anything,” said Zach Hiner.
Through a special exemption, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church received at least $1.4 billion to more than $3.5 billion in taxpayer backed coronavirus aid.
CBS 2 dug into what Chicago’s Archdiocese is getting and found between $150,000 and $300,000 to retain 18 jobs. Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet got between $1 million and $2 million to secure 126 jobs.
The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help businesses — many small shops — with forgivable loans if used for wages, rent and utilities.
“It doesn’t seem right. You should be angry because some of those small businesses didn’t get a loan,” said Dan McNevin, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
He is concerned the church funds will go towards the huge financial losses from the sex abuse scandal. He estimates that cost Chicago churches about $220 million. Since the 1950s he puts payouts and legal fees across the United States at around $4 billion.
“So this PPP loan basically recovers all of their expenditures,” he said.
“I absolutely think that’s the case,” said Hiner.
Hiner, also of SNAP, said the church has a history of hiding or manipulating finances. He fears the very victims of abuse who are taxpayers could unknowingly be paying back the institutions that put them in harm’s way.
“This ought to be investigated,” said McNevin. “We want the feds involved. This is federal money that is meant to keep small businesses afloat.”
CBS 2 reached out to the Chicago Archdiocese for comment on this story, including what they will use the funds for, but did not receive a reply.