I originally wrote what follows at the invitation of the Denver Post. I had sent a letter critical of the front page article noted below. They then asked me to expand my letter into an OpEd piece. Unfortunately they never printed it, so I now post it here.
At times I’m almost sinfully delighted that some Catholic ox was gored by our media. Especially when it involves Catholics I disagree with about this or that – including a good number of few bishops. At other times I am immensely grateful for media exposure of Catholic crimes, as in the damming reports about sexual abuse and cover-ups.
Yet sometimes I am quite offended by bias against things Catholic in our media. Even, for example, in the case of important reporting about sexual abuse. I’ve questioned the seemingly exclusive focus on Catholic institutions – especially early on. Did such important reporting nonetheless involve some anti-Catholic bias?
And then the recent front page AP article in the Denver Post — “Catholic Church lobbied for taxpayer funds, got $1.4B.” It really got my goat. Let me count some of the ways.
Start with its title that the “Catholic Church lobbied” and the subsequent claim that “The church’s haul may [actually] have reached…$3.5 billion.” Why that accusatory “haul”? Why the Catholic Church when the article later and very briefly notes that church “affiliates” are receiving these payroll protection loans? Why not report, in both headline and content, that many independent and affiliated Catholic organizations have benefited from loans to help employees make it through these times? And, by the way, what’s wrong with lobbying? Every organization does it — even the Denver Post! Lobbying becomes an evil when its purposes are unjust.
Yet given Congress’ special exemption, at this time of economic crisis, allowing government loans to religious groups, why shouldn’t catholic dioceses and parishes, schools and charities, seek loans to help employees make it through these days? Loans to help front line nurses and teachers, secretaries and office managers, grounds and building maintenance workers. On the importance of such loans, check out the much more accurate RNS article “Yes, Catholic Church got billions in federal coronavirus aid — and thank goodness.”
Reducing all these different employers and workers to “the” Catholic church is like saying that “American Jews” and “American Protestants” also made big “hauls,” when of course it’s a variety of Jewish and Protestant and other religious employees who will benefit from such loans.
Why, then, the article’s exclusive focus on Catholics? Why did AP and the Post not also report on loans to Jewish and Mainline Protestant and other religious groups?
Finally, there’s the article’s gratuitous linking of these paycheck protection loans story to the separate story about Catholic sexual abuse crimes? In its first sentence we’re told that “many millions” of the billion-dollar Catholic haul went “to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.” Factually true, but what’s the connection of these two stories?
I’m one of many Catholics happy that sexual predators have been imprisoned and that Catholic institutions have paid huge settlements. Again, credit the secular press for this just result.
But why should workers in Catholic institutions be disqualified from payroll protection because of malfeasance by some of their employers? If we are, indeed, all in this present emergency “together,” why shouldn’t the nurses and teachers, cooks and cleaners, at Catholic institutions be as eligible as workers in bars and barbershops, banks and other businesses? Congress saw fit to allow this. So why the reporters’ continual tone of outrage?
The reporters seem to justify their linkage of the loan and sexual abuse stories by implying that the church needed its big “haul” because coffers had been drained by sexual abuse settlements. Yet they make this insinuation without one shred of evidence.
If indeed loans do not go to payrolls but to refill church treasuries, then the leaders involved must face criminal prosecution – as should any employer pocketing taxpayer funds intended for workers.
Thus I await good (and not biased) reporting about loans to Protestant and Jewish and other religious employers. And I especially await good reporting about any criminal misuse of such loans.
A wee apology for so oversimplifying Catholic realities might also be nice. But I’m not holding my breath.
Nor do I hesitate to disclose a personal interest (bias?) in writing. For, though I’m now retired, I’ve been a proud employee in Catholic education during my entire working life.