The Arizona Roman Catholic Church has received at least $ 15.65 million in federal COVID-19 assistance for small businesses, and local survivors of priestly abuse are not happy with it.
“Last week I was angry for two days,” said Mary O’Day, head of the Phoenix chapter of 500 members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), “but I got calmed down since. ”
the Associated press reports that the Catholic Church received more than $ 1.4 billion nationwide after pressuring Congress to add a loophole specifically for religious organizations that otherwise would not have qualified because they counted more of 500 affiliated employees.
The national dollar amount includes schools and charities run by the Catholic Church. It also includes a “treatment center” to which the church has sent abusive priests and several dioceses threatened with bankruptcy due to cases of abuse that have sued the government for inclusion in the program.
O’Day said the amount the church has been able to accomplish in a short period of time when it comes to raising money does not compare favorably with its pace in tackling its legacy of sexual misconduct.
She said it was particularly ridiculous given that churches in the United States are tax exempt. Although dioceses and parishes are individually constituted, they are organized within the framework of a hierarchical church with a large number of assets spread all over the world, including in its own country.
The money that the Catholic Church sought and received, Paycheque Protection Program (P3) Loans, was designed to encourage small businesses to retain employees. Loans can be canceled if certain conditions
are met, such as using them to rehire employees and pay rent.
The U.S. Small Business Administration, which made the loans, released only a range of the amounts each organization received, but at the bare minimum, Catholic parishes and schools in the valley received $ 11.75 million. dollars, with an additional $ 2 million to $ 5 million going to the local social services wing of the church, according to a database maintained by the non-profit information operation ProPublica.
While the Diocese of Phoenix did not take out a paycheck protection program loan directly, its flagship Saints Simon and Jude Cathedral received between $ 350,000 and $ 1 million.
In all, Phoenix New Times identified at least 41 Catholic Church affiliates across the state who received funds, including the Diocese of Tucson, which was listed like a TV station in the data.
Robert Pastor, a local lawyer who handles several cases of sexual abuse at the church, said survivors generally grow up believing in the church, doing the abuse they endure and the resulting cover-up. a betrayal of trust. The pastor said he was speaking to survivors who see the church taking public money and think, “Just like you took advantage of me when I was a child, you take advantage of us by taking that money and then not. ‘not being transparent. “
A statue of Pope John Paul II greets visitors in the Diocese of Phoenix.
O’Day said SNAP has more than 50,000 members nationwide. Some may be small business owners who have struggled to get their own loans, she said. PPP money initially allocated by Congress quickly out of print, and those who did not have existing relationships with banks were left behind.
“Now their tax money is going to help this wealthy church without even knowing it,” O’Day said.
Many other large entities like Shake Shack and Harvard University received PPP funding, in part through pre-existing relationships with banks that successfully completed their requests. There is evidence that the local Catholic Church has benefited in the same way: many local Catholic parishes and schools have received their money through Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, a member of the Catholic Credit Union Association.
In 2004, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson was the second diocese of the nation file for bankruptcy, seeking legal protection from lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse. Pastor, the lawyer, said the ruling protected them financially but also blocked future trials that would have offered survivors greater transparency and accountability. He has had clients who have since wanted to press charges against the diocese for the abuse they suffered and have been unable to as a result, he said.
Until the creation of the Diocese of Phoenix in 1969, much of Arizona was under the responsibility of the Diocese of Tucson. O’Day said the Phoenix chapter includes members who have been abused by church employees under the supervision of the Diocese of Tucson, including a member who was abused by the same priest as her, but when the priest was employed by the Diocese of Tucson.
O’Day said she would like to see the government impose additional transparency requirements on the Catholic Church in return for the money she took. The pastor said that if the Catholic Church wanted to be truly transparent, it could open archives and publish more information about priests removed from public life but assigned to a life of prayer and penance – a designation that allows them to continue their performances without interacting with the public.
Arizona has a long history of abuse by Catholic Church employees. In the early 2000s, the former Bishop of Phoenix admitted to systematically cover cases of abuse. Last summer, a law firm compiled a list of priests whom the Catholic Church had found credibly accused of abuse and who had ties to the state. ProPublica has a searchable national database priests that the Catholic Church has identified have been credibly accused of abuse.
While the abuse happened decades ago in many cases, the fallout continues to this day. In January, a former priest was indicted in Maricopa County for abusing children in the 2000s. Under a hotly contested law spent last year, survivors over 30 have until the end of this year to file a lawsuit.
O’Day worries that bolstering the finances of the Catholic Church with public money will simply give them more resources to resist his group’s efforts.
“They spend all their money protecting their priests and their wealth,” she said. “… I’m just exhausted.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Phoenix did not respond to messages requesting more information on the use of the P3 money.
Linda Welter, CEO of the Caliber Group public relations firm used by the Diocese of Tucson, insisted New times provide the name of the SNAP representative we spoke to and details and dates regarding their reviews in writing – along with why New times was interested in a story about a diocese in Pima County – before seeing if the diocese wanted to respond.
When New times responded the next morning with a glimpse of who we spoke to and their general comments, she never responded. In response to a follow-up email Friday afternoon, she said she was unable to locate anyone with the appropriate knowledge to answer our questions.
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 for confidential support or resources.
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