Monday, June 20, 2011

Money Money Money

The personal reflections on this blog are completely anecdotal and are true only to my experience. Other Eastern Catholic clergy families might have a very different experience, and I am sure that celibate priests can be even more different.  But I just couldn't pass by this random comment (not post) that I read at catholicdefense.blogspot.com last week

"All these folks who want married priests should be asked the following questions:

  • How much will you be increasing your weekly contributions to the Church to pay for the wife and kids, and their educations, and their medical and life insurance, and the large house and the second car and maybe third car?
  • Will it be OK with you if your pastor gets four weeks vacation to be with his family?
  • Will he be able to charge overtime for sick calls and weddings on Saturdays, taking him away from his family?"

It always seems to come down to money, doesn't it? It is rather uncouth to discuss exact figures, so I will not share the exact amount that priests of my eparchy are supposed to be paid (my husband heads up two missions, so the guidelines don't apply to us in any case). The guidelines state that priests should receive an extra $100 monthly for each dependent that he has. That certainly wouldn't pay for four-week vacations, a third car (?!) and the children's educations. It covers groceries.

From our personal experience- which is real and not some worst care scenario fantasy- there has never been a four-week vacation. The first time we were able to get the money together to visit the old country after five years of marriage, priest-husband stayed a week and the girls and I stayed for the summer. I will go with the kids to visit the US grandparents for two weeks between the summer semester and fall semester, and I don't see how he can fit it in. I am not throwing a pity party at all; this is the life we have chosen, but I am just gobsmacked by the attitude of so many people. As for the "second or third" car, we were just able to upgrade and donate our second small car- a Chevy with 250,000+ miles.

And since when has any priest "charged" for a sick call? That kind of activity would be worthy of Luther nailing his theses to the door of a cathedral. I suppose I was sensitive to this comment because as I was reading the post and following comments, my husband was going back to the hospital at night to anoint because no local priest was available....we do not live in a priest-lacking zone....Obviously certain liturgical activities will be private such as sick calls and confession. Does a surgeon bring his/her family into the operating room? But we participate in his life whenever it is appropriate. Weddings are family affairs and most clergy families will be helping as they can with whatever talents they have. Except for private counseling sessions, a wedding does not take time away from the family. I would say the problem is the opposite from what the commenter feared. The typical clergy family will be wedding coordinator, singer, florist if needed, and more- all for the 'price' of one- and that price is set by the bride and groom. They give nothing or a bit or a lot, depending on their ability and desire. But the priest and his family who have put multiple hours or days into the marriage preparation and wedding will never receive a stipend as large as the reception dj who is there for a few hours. It is what it is, but priests getting rich off of sacraments is a long-standing, false stereotype.

I just wonder, is 'time way from family' ever a common argument against a man becoming a doctor or a lawyer? I didn't think so, because he brings home a lot of money- after a few years of making virtually nothing as a resident or first-second year non-partner. But MD or Esq looks good after a last name, so the family can do without Dad as he works to bring home lots of bacon.

I just wonder, do Protestants or Orthodox look at their pastor's new baby and mutter under their breath that this baby is going to cost them money? Or is his family just part of 'doing (church) business' - also realizing that in his wife, they might have a 'free' secretary, cantor, wedding coordinator, lunch maker, coffee brewer, kid wrangler- as long as a different parishioner doesn't want to do those things? They might realize- he either needs to make more money (the worker is worth the wage) or the parishioners needs to be tolerant of time away from church  and help him with non-liturgical chores so he can make the 'big money' at a supplemental job.

I just wonder, do Roman-rite parishioners fret over the cost of repaving the blacktop or taking care of the roof? Do they argue with the finance committee over the cost of weekly flowers and buying new banners? Could the money sent producing four-color brochures announcing a  new stewardship campaign and the subsequent mailings and four color outdoor banners on every Roman-rite parish be put to wiser use?

In my opinion, the only arguments to retain priestly celibacy in the Roman rite are theological and traditional. I am not here to disrespect celibacy. I do disrespect using money as an argument to retain celibacy. I could remind everyone that Fr John Corapi took a specific vow of poverty as a religious (not just a promise to live simply like a secular priest does) yet he owns two houses and had control over his ministry's financial dealings. Another worst case scenario- what happens when a celibate priest gets ill? The Church provides for him (as they should)! One person can become as expensive as many. At the wonderful Latin-rite parish where I  was the night phone and door person as a highschooler, the priests had  secretaries, cooks, housekeepers, cars provided, insurance provided, lay youth ministers, choir directors and more. Basically, everything was set up for them to do their priestly work. I do not discount their hard work and struggles, but I don't remember ever hearing comments like the ones above... just saying....

I hope I didn't offend anyone with this post, but I probably did- just my thoughts- and I am losing followers, so I have nothing to lose...so I decided to write something just for me!

21 comments:

  1. I think you make great points!! Thank you!

    (I did read, though, that Fr. Corapi was not required to make a vow of poverty by SOLT, and that he did not. I could be wrong on that.)

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  2. I wonder what gets into people that they make such comments - 'charge overtime' indeed.
    And my whole feed the past couple of days has been full of these 'get it off my chest' type of posts; must be something in the air?

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  3. I really appreciate your posts as comments and here on your own. Having a nephew in seminary, and several others in discernment, I do believe that celibacy is best, given all of the struggles you mention. At he same time, I know you are living a hard road and need our prayers. Jesus gives us all a cross, how do we discern if it is of his choosing, or the work of the devil? I don't know. I know in my dreams I hear my Father telling me I need to straighten my ways.

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  4. Leila- Thanks for the correction

    Mommymagpie- yes...something is in the air- Did you read mark Shea's post a few days ago! He apologized the next day...pray before posting, I try to remind myself

    Ranting Catholic Mom- you might tell those in discernment the best place to discern is in the seminary ;)

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  5. and about Fr Corapi- while I enjoy the satire of Mexican dogs found at Creative Minority Report, my feelings on this sad case is more in line with Fr Z's (WDTPRS blog)

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  6. Because I am not as "smart" or as connected with the Holy Spirit as Pope Benedict, I'll defer to him on the subject of priestly celibacy. As you know our Pope wants priestly celibacy retained in the Roman rite and the option of marriage to be retained for the priesthood in the Byzantine rite. I'm sure you agree with that and also that Fr.(?) Corapi is hopefully not a typical Roman rite priest. Of course your complaints are totally legitimate. Good article. Sincere thanks for all the work you and your family do for the Church.

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  7. anonymous- even if Fr Corapi is innocent of the charges, he isn't a typical priest (an ordered priest who lives apart from his community & with personal property)- but my 'rant' was about using money as an important argument about why celibacy is preferred- this is a straw argument and there are much better reasons to retain and celebrate it in the Roman rite (and of course all monks in the Eastern rites and those secular Eastern rite priests who are called to celibacy)

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  8. I know. The Church is simply not equipped to deal with the needs of married clergy, neither in finances nor in attitude. It's a weird sort of mix of wanting to be "progressive" when it comes to social issues and remaining fiscal conservatives at heart.

    I should know. My husband has worked for the Church ever since we have been married. He is a canon and civil lawyer and works three times as hard as anyone I know. Two full time jobs and two part time jobs, to be exact. We are finally making a wage livable enough to begin to attack the montrous debt accrued throughout the years.

    The laity who work for the Church are so needed, but the Church is still not ready to fully accept THEIR needs.

    Given all these obstacles, however, we have lived any extremely blessed life in the merciful love of Christ. I thank God that we don't have to deal with the powerful temptations that come with money or influence. We just have to keep asking God for the docility to His will.

    God bless you, beautiful sister in Christ. You are a brilliant witness to the trusting love that we all need.

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  9. credocatholic- our situation works perfectly for us- by God's grace- and that we are small enough that priest-husband works full-time as a hospital chaplain. So there are many early days and late nights in attending to the needs of the missions (and weekends are the busiest times, of course)---but still most of our parishioners still don't really 'get' it that he works a more than full time job at the hospital and that I work part time--- they think we live on his mission stipend...oh well... :)

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  10. credocatholic- it seems like we- with hardworking husbands- should make a good dinner for him- and dessert (my big girls made a chocolate cake)!

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  11. Priest's wives are amazing. I'm a Latin, but best friend growing up was the daughter of an Eastern rite priest. The difficulties are real, but, from what I've seen, they come in the flavor of unbelievably difficult congregations. Time away from the family was real for them, and it was hard, of course, but no harder than any other dad who has to travel for his job. Sigh. Where do people come up with this stuff? It's a tough enough job. No need for poorly informed fellow Catholics to make it tougher.

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  12. I'm still here! I have a much longer comment (of course), but not much time right now...I shall return! :)

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  13. I think I've said this before, but I just want to say again that I love your blog. I always learn so much! Thank you!

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  14. I'm so happy Anne at Imprisoned In My Bones highlighted the Catholic Blog Community on "Pay It Forward" today. I found you through her post.

    What an interesting a thought provoking post! No offense taken. Good discussion can often ruffle some feathers, but it can also open minds and hearts too.

    I wanted to let you know about a Meme called “Pay It Forward” @ A Life-Size Catholic Blog. If you can find time to link up (today, or any Tuesday) with this new Meme it’s a great way to grow our blogging community. Check it out at: http://alife-sizecatholicblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/pay-it-forward-iv.html

    Many blessings…

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  15. Funny how it always comes down to money. That is always the question on everyone's mind when they find out about my husbands vocation to the priesthood..."but will you make enough money??!!"
    *sigh* I just want to yell at them to get over it..there will never be enough money! But God ALWAYS provides when you least expect it. :)
    I think that the Latin and Eastern rite churches have their different strengths and weaknesses...and married priests, in my opinion, is one of the strengths of our tradition (even if it is often taken for granted)

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  16. I'm a Latin Catholic and I appreciate our general tradition of a celibate priesthood. However, you can make bad arguements for a good practice. Priestly celibacy because it is a source of cheap labor is not only a bad arguement but one I find offesnive. I also am reluctant to invoke the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on any practice that is particular only to sections of the Church, such as the latin Church.

    The lay faithful have the right to make their pastoral concerns know to the bishops and pope, so it is good to have an open discussion about clerical celibacy. My view, however, is to maintain in for now in the Latin Church.

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  17. I just wonder, do Roman-rite parishioners fret over the cost of repaving the blacktop or taking care of the roof?

    Umm, yes. Was the Latin parish where you worked in a more affluent area? My experience of the Latin Church in the middle of Flyover Country is a bit different than you describe. Roofing, tuck pointing, repaving the parking lot, these are all things we DO worry about. Many parishes don't even have full time secretaries, let alone someone to open the door and answer the phone after hours!

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  18. Alice- probably the parish I had in mind is in an affluent area- noney is always a concern and I don't discount that. I suspect that marriedf men becoming Latin-rite priests after ministry in Anglican or other churches probably have a second ministry as chaplian, teacher, etc in order to support family. It would be interesting to know if these men 'cost' more to their Latin-rite parishes as the normal cdelibate priests. using our situation in terms of money is actually a straw argument as he wouldn't be able to support only himself wih only a mission stipend let alone dependents.

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  19. In my experience, there is a cultural inhibition among Latin Rite Catholics to discuss money. Most Latin Rite Catholics expect that their priests are monks, and are often surprised that the secular clergy do not take a vow of poverty.

    This has lead to murmuring when a man of independent means has been ordained. They also provide the bishops with some difficulty — they are not dependent for their livelihood on the bishop.

    One diocese is now requiring that all men being ordained make provisions for the disposal of any significant amount of money (including inherited wealth and success at the race track).

    However I would note that if the Latin Rite were to relax the celibacy requirement, it would cause quite a bit of problems with finances. Currently, Canon Law in the Western Church forbids a wide range of work that priests are able to perform: this includes government jobs, engaging in commerce &c. And married priests, as a matter of practicality would need to take outside work to support their families in frugal comfort.

    While I think that it would be a good thing to have the clergy have other qualifications, such as a profession or a trade, this would be large shift for the Western Church.

    Bear

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  20. Bear- this is why we are so blessed- priest-husband has been given bi-ritual faculties in the latin-rite archdiocese and he is a board certified hospital chaplain- so he does work outside of his primary duties to our missions, but he never has to do work that isn't connected to his priesthood

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