How much are priests paid?

The national median of total taxable income for priests is $45,593

Priest educators walk through the hallway at Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis, Missouri. (photo: Lisa Johnston)

When it comes to the salaries of the many lay people helping to run the Catholic Church in the United States, the highest paid lay positions tend to be administrative: lawyers, finance directors and communications professionals. At the low end of the pay scale are pastoral positions, such as vocations directors and ministers serving prisoners and college students. As for priests, their salaries and other benefits, such as housing and car allowances, are on the rise.

Those are the findings of a recently released report commissioned by the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators and the National Federation of Priests Councils and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

When it comes to clergy, new Catholic priests, which includes bishops, can expect a salary somewhere in the mid-$20,000 range, with median salaries varying slightly depending on geography. The highest median salary for a new priest is in the Midwest, at $29,856, while the lowest median salary, $24,960, is found in the Central region, which spans from Minnesota to Texas. The maximum salary for priests ranges from $29,744 in the West region to $44,417 in the Midwest.

Diocesan priests do not take vows of poverty and according to canon law they should be paid enough to “provide for the necessities of their life” as well as to donate to charitable causes.

Michal Kramarek, a researcher at C.A.R.A., pointed out on the organization’s blog that salary is just a part of a priest’s overall compensation.

“The salary is the first, and often most substantial component of diocesan priest’s taxable income,” he wrote. “The second component, other taxable cash income, constitutes about 20 cents of every dollar of priests’ income and includes, for example, an allowance for housing and food as well as Mass stipends, retained stole fees, and bonuses.”

By comparison, the average compensation for full-time Episcopal priests is $75,355 per year, according to a 2015 report by the Church Pension Group. This includes nonsalary compensation such as the payment of school fees for children.

According to a 2013 survey by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the average salary of Lutheran clergy ranged from $45,666 to $79,433.

Priests generally do not receive any additional salary when assigned to lead multiple parishes, an increasingly common scenario as dioceses struggle with priest shortages.

Full story at America Magazine.

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  1. Our priests are not paid enough. I do not contribute to Catholic Charities because of their connections to leftists, but at the end of the year I email a gift voucher directly to my priests. Skip the middle man.

    • Gratias, you might want to check on how much of the weekly offering at your parish goes to Catholic Charities. In the last two dioceses that I have lived in, non of the parish money goes to the CC, except the second collection that is taken once each year. I suspect the voucher is appreciated by the Pastor, but what about the other 51 weeks? I too have difficulty, sometimes, differentiating one money bucket from the others. Parishes, for the most part only stay open if the weekend bucket is filled.

      • Linda Maria says:

        Bob One, this is true– Catholic parishes, especially today, are badly in need of money! But the Church has had many scandals, which causes many of us to be very afraid to give money! Anyway, we have been advised in recent years, to make our wishes clear, to the local parish and to the Archdiocese, in giving money, to avoid these sticky problems.

      • Bob One, I always leave a $50 check in the collection basket every mass. This is for the parish. Priests I give a voucher of 100-150 directly to them at Christmas because they can use it. And I need them very much.

    • Linda Maria says:

      Gratias, that is so nice! You can also give priests money for Mass requests, directly– to say Masses privately, for your intentions. People also give priests money, and many other good things, directly, out of gratitude, for a great number of reasons.

  2. I agree many priests are badly underpaid.
    This article seems like statistics gone mad. Really comparing apples and oranges. Terms with precise meanings are misused.
    One paragraph says clergy housing allowances are taxable. A quick visit to the IRS website says they are not. Only a professional tax expert could say definitively.
    Another paragraph says Lutheran salary average range between $45,000 and $79,000. An average, by formula, is a single number. Perhaps the figures cited are sub group averages for various sub groups in the Lutheran clergy. They are NOT the average for all such clergy.
    This area needs a careful side by side compsarison of what is included or not to support conclusions.

    • FrMichael says:

      mikem:
      Through a bizarre Tax Court ruling, clergy are considered self-employed, so we pay both sides of FICA. But what is really problematic is that for FICA the value of our room-and-board is also considered taxable income. Depending on where you live (for example the Bay Area dioceses) that value, set by the diocese in consultation with the IRS, easily exceeds $20,000/year. For example, my total income with stipends attached (they are taxable as ordinary income) was a little over $40,000, but combined federal income tax and FICA, all filed on the Form 1040, was close to $12,000.

      On the other hand if the diocese structures its salaries properly, food reimbursements are not taxed.

      In my experience as a California…

  3. Anonymous says:

    The article is misleading at least in the comparison with “full-time Episcopal priests’ salaries, $75355”.

    It is very difficult to obtain a full-time Episcopal priest salaried position— even more so now that the Episcopal Church is shrinking even worse than the US Catholic Church. Many Episcopal priests I have met labor part-time for many years, and have to balance family and a second full-time job, which is exhausting. Plus, one cross word with the rector and you’re out on your behind. And so why ex-Jesuit Fr. Cameron Ayers, who became an Episcopal priest, also has to teach at a school to supplement his income.

  4. Michael McDermott says:

    Indeed Gratias – the dilemma of not wanting to support leftist / feminist / homosex Hate Pogroms, and Not Wanting to Tar Good Priests with their disgrace, presents a problem for the Faithful who want to Support Good Works & Workers

    Your approach has merit – more than donating to the likes of “the abbot of the monastery at Monte Cassino, Pietro Vittorelli, was arrested for misappropriating more than half a million euros for charity – money he used for traveling the world, mainly to Brazil, in search of homosexual enjoyment”

  5. Vince Ryan says:

    My guess is the priest in my parish probably makes less than nearby shipyard workers on an hourly basis. His overtime pay, holiday pay, graveyard shift pay will not be paid prior to his eternity retirement.

  6. In San Diego, I was paid about $24,000.00 a year as a pastor. I paid the full 15% social security tax as a private contractor not employee, plus regular state and fed income taxes. Still, my living expenses were paid: lodging, car insurance, health insurance, food up to $700/month, electricity, gas (not gasoline), cable, internet, cell phone, office supplies, maid service, laundry, dry cleaning. I always had money left over for charity and for savings because of this. God’s people took me out to eat frequently and gave me gifts besides. I dd not struggle at all financially. The retirement of $1,800 plus social security are enough to live modestly.

    • Dear Father Richard, glad to see that you chimed in. We need your input. Best wishes on your retirement, your reward will be in Heaven.

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