Saturday, 14 December 2013

Filthy Lucre

Someone asked me: 'so how are Catholic Clergy paid, then?'

Well, there are many different answers to that. Some dioceses collect in all the various myriad methods of income and pay each priest a salary. That makes things very easy for filling in a tax return.

My diocese, like many others, sticks to the ancient system, which is mostly governed by custom. The priest is guaranteed his board and lodging, which (within reason) can be paid for directly from the parish account. We are allotted a weekly sum for our food, for which we do not need to present receipts; the figure, however, has not changed since at least 1995, despite all the inflation since then. This, I gather, is an Inland Revenue stipulation, not the diocese's. Inevitably, a lot of that figure goes on entertaining; people help themselves generally to coffee, milk, biscuits &c on a daily basis, and this is very hard to quantify as generally parishioners on business share the presbytery kitchen with me.

We have to buy our own car, but receive 45p/mile to run it on parish business.

Then there comes private income. Well, this can vary substantially according to the parish we serve. One source is the system of Mass stipends. This is a bit like the mediæval chantry system; basically, you pay a priest to celebrate Mass for the intention you direct. The idea originally was that the sum should keep a priest for a day. Of course these days the sum is usually a token, and I know of no priest who would refuse to say Mass for someone who couldn't pay (if he were to refuse, it would be very redolent of simony, I think). Some priests refuse Mass stipends altogether, a position I have some sympathy with, though in parishes where the other forms of income are lacking or low, (especially where the Church is under pressure for one reason or another) they can be a lifeline.

After this, there are 'stole fees'. There are no charges for the sacraments, but it is customary to make an offering to the priest or deacon who officiates at weddings, baptisms and funerals. Generally speaking he may spend quite some time on each service, with the preparation &c, and this may be reflected in the offering. No figure is specified; it is left to the generosity or resources of the individual to decide.

The other source of income (and the largest) is the two collections at Christmas and Easter. Instead of going into parish funds, the collection taken at Mass is divided among the priests of the parish. This does not include the money paid by standing order, which goes to the parish as usual (I'm not sure people know that), nor the money recovered from Gift Aid (since individual priests are not charities).

So you will understand that working things out for the annual tax return is not much fun, especially if the individual struggles with numbers as I do. The government even require us to estimate the second-hand value of the furniture in the presbytery and tax us on it.

In this country, deacons are not paid at all, other than their stole fees. They do it all for the love of God. And I think their reward will be great in heaven.

That's how it works, folks.


Aurelia said...

That was interesting. I didn't know that.

English Pastor said...

In our Diocese we do not get the Christmas and Easter offerings. We do get the stole fees, Mass stipends (low, in poorer parishes), mileage though, and a personal allowance each month.
We also get to take housekeeping from the parish but must keep the receipts. And its not only tea, coffee and biscuits we willingly share with parishioners -sandwiches or toast come into this too when they are here for a substantial part of their day doing accounts or whatever.

Genty said...

I can remember my Dad saying that Easter Sunday was recognised as a "silver Sunday". Folk who could generally afford only a penny or two for a normal Sunday collection would make a special donation of a silver sixpence, perhaps making a sacrifice in order to do so. Same for Christmas Day.

Shane said...

A most interesting post. I recently happened upon the salary of a deceased Irish priest in a rural diocese in the west of Ireland, which may be of interest. Annually, in 1956 it was £280; in 1957 it was £312; for 1958, 1959 and 1960 it varied between £320 and £350; for 1961 it was £370; in 1962 it was £380; in 1963 it was £413; in 1964 it was £338; in 1965 it was £415; in 1966 it was £416; in 1967 it was £598; and in 1968 it was £810 10s.

Interestingly for that diocese in the year 1967, 4 parish priests and 4 curates earned over £1000. Most curates earned around £700-£750 (although 8 curates earned under £500).

kavi said...

Great breakdown! I will cite this when trying to explain to the 6th form how we live- this always seems to be a key question nowadays :D

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to read this. I live in Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies. I was on my parish finance commission for a few years, and one of the diocesan auditors for a year, auditing 3 parishes.

Priests in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain (the only diocese in Trinidad & Tobago), are paid monthly by Chancery. In 2011 the monthly payment was TT$2,800.00 (about 280.00 pounds).

In addition the priests may keep the Mass stipends received.

Stole fees for baptisms, weddings and funerals are forwarded, monthly, to Chancery, to help provide the monthly payments.

Also, collections at Christmas and Easter are forwarded to Chancery for the same purpose.

Priests are provided with housing, but must pay for their own food. If they have a housekeeper, they must also pay for her! I have no idea how they manage. One parish priest managed very nicely, as he was greatly loved and you know how us women like to express our love in cooking!! He got seriously overweight!

Joan M