Future of Priestly Ministry
Optional Celibacy
FAQ: What are the economic effects of a married clergy?

FAQ:  What are the economic effects of a married clergy?  Would paying married priests a fair salary be too expensive for parishes?

Compensating married priests fairly should be manageable for most Catholic parishes for the following reasons. 

  • In 2009 celibate diocesan priests in the US averaged $44,033 nationally in salary and salary equivalents such as housing and food.
  • A survey of salaries in Protestant Churches for 2009 found that ordained pastors and associate pastors average $57,132 across the US. It is probable that costs for married Catholic clergy would be similar if more were permitted in the future.
  • At this time 87 former Protestant ministers serve in Catholic parishes as married priests. Data gathered from 12 dioceses covering 17 priests in 2009 found married priests received $56,142 in compensation. These early findings indicate Catholic parishes were able to compensate their married Catholic priests without busting the parish budget.

In conclusion, it seems quite likely that Catholic parishes would be able to find an additional $13,000 in their annual budgets to adjust to these costs as necessary to attract or avoid losing a priest in residence. 

All data from a 2009 study of married priest pay practices as found in the Diocesan Human Resources’ Director study conducted by the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators.

Other thoughts:

The hierarchical church needs to think more broadly. There are many ways of funding a married priesthood. The catch is that one needs to be able to trust that the Church will really be church. Ministry must be transparent, authentic, and accountable on all levels.

  • The local priest,  as well as those higher up on the ladder of ecclesiastical "success" need to be people of justice, truly giving a day's work for a day's pay.
  • Much of the financial burden could be addressed in a sort of barter system.
    • For example, housing and the maintenance of the residence, inside and out, could be done via professionals in the parish donating their services.
    • Children could be offered full scholarships to schools on all levels.
    •  A car and its maintenance costs could be donated for family use.
    • The actual "pay" would then not be burdensome.
    •  Retirement benefits and continued medical coverage would have to be calculated as part of the plan.

In other words, creativity would be involved as would the time, tithe, and talents of the entire parish and diocese. It's doable!