This AP investigation into the Catholic Church’s receipt of billions in federal pandemic aid broke news and brought accountability — to both a historically gigantic government program and one of the world’s most powerful institutions.
Investigative reporters Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes conducted an exclusive and exhaustive analysis showing Catholic entities held at least $10 billion in cash and other available assets when they received at least $1.5 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program. Overall, the nation’s nearly 200 dioceses and other Catholic institutions received at least $3 billion, making the Roman Catholic Church perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the paycheck program, according to AP’s review. The pair also reported on a pastor who declined to take PPP money despite pressure from above.
The reporting required was formidable, including joining a federal lawsuit to get the full PPP data in the first place. Dunklin and Rezendes then led a blitz to hand check tens of thousands of data points — with help from colleagues Randy Herschaft, Holbrook Mohr, Jason Dearen, James LaPorta and project editor Justin Pritchard. That work tracked the apparently disproportionate aid to Catholic recipients compared to other faith groups and national charities.
Rodrique Ngowi, Emily Leshner and Jeannie Ohm pulled together a compelling video out of Boston, Justin Myers backed up Dunklin on the project’s substantial data component and Peter Hamlin designed unique illustrations while Dario Lopez stacked a digital presentation that included a graphic by Phil Holm.
The deeply reported package reverberated through a busy news day and was covered in outlets as diverse as Slate and the Catholic News Agency.