In the media, notably the Associated Press, The New York Times and The Houston Chronicle, there have been several biased and misleading articles concerning churches and the PPP loan program. The following is an excerpt of a letter that I sent to the Finance and Pastoral Councils in March.
I am aware and understand that the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) Loans are being made available to churches and non-profits by the federal government through the CARES Act as part of the economic relief in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. While many would consider the securing of one of these loans as a good business decision, I do not believe it is appropriate for St. John Vianney Parish. These are limited funds and there are many small businesses and other organizations in much greater need. For St. John Vianney parish to apply for such a loan, which we would most likely qualify for and receive, this would deprive others who might not survive without the loan. We will survive and so will our employees. We are committed to them and they are committed to us. This is certainly a time of sacrifice for us as for so many. While we have furloughed our part time employees and they are able to take advantage of certain other programs on their own, the parish itself is able to pay our full time employees. Those employees deemed essential are here at work and our other staff members are working from home. They are all doing a tremendous job under difficult and trying circumstances and we can all be very proud of them and their dedication to our parish. We are working to make sure that all of our employees, full and part time, are Ok. We are not the richest church in Houston by far. In fact, compared to most churches in our area, our position despite our size, is quite modest. So far, we have been able to do this through love, steadfastness and the generous support of our parishioners. As well, we have dramatically cut spending in all other areas. This is a sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice of love for the greater good of our country and community. I am confident that this sacrifice of our parish and our employees is the right thing to do.
While I am further aware that many do not think anything about where the money comes from, we certainly do. This money will be added to our national debt which will have to be paid by future generations in one way or another. I know that whatever amount we may have received would be a little of nothing in the trillions of dollars approved and distributed; however, I still believe that we must all play our part. If we are not willing to sacrifice during this time of crisis, how can we ask others? I will not judge others as they know their own situations and must decide on what is the best course of action for their church or organization. For us, we choose to make this sacrifice at this time.
I am reminded of the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and directed by Frank Capra. There is a scene when the Great Depression hits and there is a run on the banks just as the newly married couple are leaving for their honeymoon. A mob crushes into the Bailey Savings and Loan demanding the money from their accounts. George Bailey reminds everyone that the money is not in the cash drawer but in each other’s homes. His newly married wife, Mary, then produces from her purse the money they had for their honeymoon trip. They use this money to help the customers cover their withdrawals. George encourages the customers to take only what they need so that everyone can have something. The newlywed couple’s sacrifice of their honeymoon and the customers sacrifice and self-restraint enables catastrophe to be avoided by all. Capra was condemned that this was too “optimistic” a view. I think it is a realistic view of how we should all aspire to act. Self-restraint and sacrifice for the common good make us all stronger. Let us help those in the greatest need and put others’ needs before our own.
In pace Christi,