Ka-ching: the cost of married priests

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, married with children, crunches the numbers:

Many Catholics have no idea in the world what a priest is paid. Many imagine that we all take a vow of poverty and that we live day by day on faith. Some think the bishop pays us. He doesn’t; the parish pays according to guidelines issued by the diocese.

Most celibate priests in American dioceses do pretty well. Here’s a rough guide to what he gets: 1. A base annual stipend of about $30,000. 2. Social Security payments: $5,000 3. Retirement plan: $9,000 4. Health Insurance: $20,000.

OK. The celibate priest already costs about $65,000.

Added to this, the priest usually has a car, phone and personal computers provided. Then remember the parish provides housing, utilities and usually groceries. Most priests also have a parish credit card to use for “hospitality and sundry expenses.” Some diocese stipulate that the parish should also pay all health co-pays and complete dentistry costs. If the priest is in a large, wealthy parish his house may be in a posh part of town, his car may very well be not just a set of wheels, but a very nice car. For the most part no one will check up on the “expenses” he claims or the things he purchases on the credit card.

…There are other factors: in our own case, I have an extra income through my writing and speaking and Mrs Longenecker has started her own business. With the freedom to do some extra work on the side and a wife who works, most married men who want to be priests would be able to manage easily.

Read more. 

That all sounds in line with what I’ve been told from priests in other parts of the country—and a fellow I know in one archdiocese told me the annual cost, for one priest in his area, is actually closer to 100k.

All of which makes the financial argument against a married priesthood moot.   There are many other reasons for insisting on celibacy for priests. But cost isn’t one of them.


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