Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 12, 2006
WCR Letters to the Editor
Priests' pension questions
Regarding "Priests' Pension Fund Facing Hard Times" (WCR, May 1), we should hear the whole story prior to being requested to "dig deeper." Figures without facts can be deceiving.
All people, including priests, housekeepers, secretaries, religious educators and other staff should have a pension upon retirement. Are all these employees who have also dedicated years of selfless service to the Church part of this pension plan or is it only reserved for this exclusive clerical group? This is a justice issue.
Throughout the priest's career, he receives a substantial monthly allowance which they call "salary." This is personal discretionary spending money which at present is $1,600 per month. In addition, they receive Mass and sacramental stipends which can surpass $500 per month depending on the parish.
The parish covers all living expenses. The priest does not have to worry about a mortgage, laundry, taxes, water, gas, electricity, cable, home maintenance and repair, snow removal, children's education and many other real expenses. It is a myth to say that priests "have not been paid well." Many of us have sat on parish councils and know how much it costs to maintain a priest.
With the value of living expenses added to the $1,600 "salary", it has been calculated that the priest's annual real dollar benefit is between $45,000 and $55,000 per year. This is a very high gross income for a person with no dependants.
There are thousands of men and women who do not earn such benefits and after taxes and families expenses have only a small fraction of what the priests receive as personal discretionary spending money.
Many priests have made some very good investments out of their discretionary "salary" in real estate, RRSPs, stock market and other investments. If they haven't, why haven't they?
Many have had part-time and full-time employment with public and private organizations which have their separate pension plans, such as teaching, chaplaincy, social work. Do they receive the same amount of pension, as others who worked full time at a parish?
Why are the working priests only paying $62.50 a month into the pension plan? Is this the standard for a guaranteed income of $1,550 per month regardless of the years of service?
Are the priests who have resigned from their clerical positions after many years of selfless service and who have paid into the pension fund, receiving a similar amount of pension? Or, were they obliged to take out what they paid (without interest) to avoid having to pay them their pension, even at a prorated rate. This is a major concern and a justice issue.
There are a number of vacant parish rectories and substantial space in those occupied by one priest. Would this not be another option rather than apartments?
These are only a few observations and questions about the Priests Pension Plan. I challenge Msgr. Jack Hamilton and Father Jozef Wroblewski to tell the whole story and respond to these burning questions before asking us to "dig deeper."
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