Viewpoint: Pope Francis Inspires Questions about Clergy Lifestyles

by M. Francis Mannion

There is a great deal in Pope Francis’ style of life and ministry that inspires questions about the ways clergy live and minister. What follows are a number of these questions. I will name six:

1. PLACE OF RESIDENCE. Cardinal Bergoglio has always lived in humble quarters. When elected Pope, he chose not to live in the Vatican papal apartments, but in the House of St. Martha, what amounts to a hotel.  Instead of living in their own houses and condominiums, could not bishops and priests follow the Pope’s example of frugality and live instead in rectories?

2. INEXPENSIVE CARS. Cardinal Bergoglio rarely travelled in a car. He took the bus and subway most of the time. In Rome he eschews limousines and stylish cars and travels without much ado in his Ford Focus and his used 1984 Renault. Could not bishops and priests follow his example by buying modestly-priced—even used—cars?

3. USE OF TITLES. Pope Francis styles himself most of the time as “Bishop of Rome,” not as “Pope” or “Supreme Pontiff”—which, of course, he is. In Buenos Aires, even as Cardinal-Archbishop, he was often called “Father Jorge.” Is it not time for bishops and priests to simplify their titles. Instead of being styled “Reverend,” “Right Reverend,” “Most Reverend,” “Your Excellency,” “Your Eminence,” why not be known and addressed simply as “Bishop,” “Archbishop,” “Cardinal?” Besides are not all the baptized reverent, excellent, and eminent? (And why not abolish—retroactively!—the title of “Monsignor” (“My Lord”!)?

4. STYLE OF DRESS. Pope Francis refused the red shoes used traditionally by Popes, as well as the mozetta (the scarlet cape worn over the Pope’s shoulders)—in its more formal version made of velvet and trimmed with ermine, and the white rochet (a lace surplice worn under the mozzetta). Francis has kept the inexpensive pectoral Cross he used as a bishop, and prefers his own simple vestments to the more ornate ones in the papal wardrobe. As many bishops already do, why not have bishops and cardinals leave aside their scarlet and purple vesture and wear a simple black cassock, a pectoral cross, and a cardinal’s or bishop’s skull cap (a zucchetto)?

5. MODEST VACATIONS. Pope Francis rarely took vacations in Buenos Aires. He has not used the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo (at least not this year), but stayed in hot and humid Rome. Perhaps then, clergy should be careful about the kinds of vacations they take, avoiding such things as cruises, trips to Hawaii, and expensive vacations at exclusive resorts?

6. FRANCISCAN ATTITUDE. After his model, St. Francis of Assisi, Francis took the name of the poor man of Assisi. With this comes and attitude of simplicity and humility (the cardinal virtue of the Christian life). Francis wants a “poor church for the poor.” This means a commitment to those who are hungry, homeless, the street people, the imprisoned, those with AIDS, as well as those who are marginalized and spiritually “lost.” The Pope wants priests to identify strongly with these groups, so that they will “smell like the [poor] sheep” to which they minister. To signify such a commitment, could not every bishop and priest donate 20 percent of their salaries to charity? Could not every parish allocate 20 percent of its annual budget to charitable ministry, and conduct a permanent outreach through soup kitchens, food pantries, and thrift stores? This kind of commitment would also be signified by bishops and priests consciously avoiding exclusive clubs and expensive restaurants—to which the poor have no access.

I do not—repeat NOT—hold myself up as a model for anything I am proposing here. I am “preaching” as much to myself as to anyone else. I hope nobody will be offended by what I write, but might find it useful for a sober examination of conscience.

Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul parish, Salt Lake City.

By permission of The Intermountain Catholic, Salt Lake City.

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49 comments

  1. It all depends where you are, the missionary church still faces deprivations every day. It is only a small portion of the church that has the possibility of such a regal lifestyle.

  2. These guidelines are thought-provoking. As for number one, I knew a priest who declined to live in a luxurious rectory and instead took an apartment in the “poor” quarter of the parish. He funded it out of his own salary, cooked his own meals, did his own laundry and such. His pastor was outraged. He was suspended by his bishop.

    Later, when he was assigned to an inner city parish, he shared a rental home with another priest in the neighborhood. It might be that a simple apartment is a better choice than a rectory or condo.

    A point on #4. I never quite understood the recent indulgence for the cassock, essentially a leftover of monastic practice. What about a simple black suit with clergy shirt? A priest or bishop should dress neatly and with dignity.

    As for #6, the same pastor mentioned above urged his parishioners to tithe, and eventually the parish was giving 15%, up from 12, 10, and 5 in his earlier years.

    These are all good guidelines for any lay person in ministry to consider. But it must be said we operate a good class or two under the priests for whom we work in terms of standard of living.

  3. Thanks Msgr. Mannion for six excellent topics for reflection. I would favor abandoning any clerical titles or garb that are meant to highlight authority and elite status. Special attire should be limited to whatever is needed to distinguish the various ministries in the liturgy. Anything else would seem to be in direct conflict with gospel simplicity and Jesus’ words of warning about that crazy human urge to be noticed in public. Also, as a footnote, I have seen multiple examples of “rectory living” that could not possibly suggest anything about frugality.

  4. I wonder if all who are commenting on how priests should live and where they should live and how they should dress, etc would be doing so if the priests were married. There is a distinction between those of us who have taken the vow or promise of poverty and those of us in the “secular” or diocesan priesthood who haven’t taken any such promise or vow. Gospel simplicity can be lived in a variety of ways.
    Pope Francis as a Jesuit took a vow of poverty as a Jesuit and now he models his life after Francis a medieval monk who also took a very radical form of poverty. It makes perfect sense for him. But he risks being seen as eccentric and as soon as he is gone, so will his eccentricities be gone just like red shoes, mozzettas, surplices and Vatican Motel 6 living.
    That’s just the way it is today.
    But I wonder how healthy this preoccupation with what Pope Francis does and what other bishops and priests don’t. Don’t we have more important things to examine?

      1. @Barry Hudock – comment #5:
        In the Protestant south where I live, and where Protestant tithe, their pastors, ministers and paid personnel are paid handsomely and live very well. Of course those who want the best pay have to climb the latter to the bigger and richer congregations. First Baptist Church in Augusta pays their pastor close to $200,000 a year, provides a housing allowance and quite a few other perks. If you want married clergy, we’d have to follow the same model, smaller churches you get a smaller salary, larger churches a bigger salary and more material perks. That’s the way it is.

    1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #4:
      “But he risks being seen as eccentric …”

      Sounds like Jesus. I would be very surprised if I ever saw a pope in ermine and red shoes again in my lifetime.

      “Don’t we have more important things to examine?”

      I don’t think so. Rooting out antigospel tendencies in the clergy impacts evangelization directly. I wonder how healthy the resistance to suggestion is among many clergy.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #7:
        Nothing like the pot calling the kettle black – really, Allan?

        Any of us can probably find 100 or more comments/posts from you comparing Francis to Benedict (usually negative comments) or about pre-VII liturgical accidents that completely focus on the *eccentric* which you liked.
        And now things are reversed and you want to suddenly drop the comparison and focus on *more important things to examine*….really?

        You trot out the usual mantras:
        – religious take a vow of poverty; secular priests don’t but, yes, are called to gospel simplicity. Oh yes, the old *prudential* decisions
        – so, is gospel simplicity merely an Ideal that you may or may not live or can interpret as you will? (would suggest that this issue is a very important issue)
        – the usual comparison to protestant exceptions – know plenty of protestant ministers who support their families but barely make it by (you again try to divert the conversation using exceptions)

        Todd’s approach has some good points:
        – rectories – expecially old/big with one priest why? clustering priests in an apartment complex makes better sense – provides support, allows some distance from work environment, good for mental health, etc. See more and more rectories being used for parish community purposes
        – yes, financial decisions can be prudential but don’t forget the examples that folks see with their own eyes (a nice financial justification just isn’t readily visible)

  5. He’s rooting out anti-gospel tendencies not only in the clergy, in the Vatican but also in religious life and in that largest group, the laity. This is great especially as it regards the “adolescent progressives” he recently excoriated using terms that I don’t think even Pope Benedict used. And now we see him celebrating a Mass “ad orientem” and thanking Archbishop Marchetto, his one time next door neighbor here in Rome, for correcting his imprecisions and confirming Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic of “reform in continuity” as opposed to the Bologna school of a new church in rupture.
    I wonder how healthy resistance to the pope’s corrected course will become? Denial and silence about it in all the suspected places is ear piercing.

    1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #9:
      Nice example of *adolescent conservative* – citing a one time event required by limited space and fact that altar is glued to wall; one time event w/Marchetto in which Francis actually confirms Marchetto’s right to express himself (nothing more).
      And you continue your *kick* on the anti-Bologna School – oh yeah, that’s right, SC was really *rushed* which created an inaccurate document.
      Healthy resistance – you seem to only exist in a world of either/or and require an *enemy* to move forward. Thought that resistance for you was *dissent* which is bad, very bad.

      1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #24:
        Okay – for what it is worth:

        http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350668?eng=y

        You can spin it anyway you want but some highlights:

        “….get the impression that the pope simply considers the council an event that is not up for debate and that, as if to stress its fundamental importance, is not worth discussing at too great a length.
        “Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture,” says the pope. “Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation. Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today—which was typical of Vatican II—is absolutely irreversible. Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation.”

        “And praise for these same words of the pope has come – for example – from the foremost of the Italian liturgists, Andrea Grillo, a professor at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm, according to whom Francis has finally inaugurated the true and definitive “hermeneutic” of the Council, after having “immediately put in second place that diatribe over ‘continuity’ and ‘discontinuity’ which had long prejudiced – and often completely paralyzed – any effective hermeneutic of Vatican II.”

        In effect, it is no mystery that “service to the people” and a reinterpretation of the Gospel “brought up to date” are concepts dear to the progressive…

      2. @Bill deHaas – comment #13:
        When you describe Allan it seems you are really writing about yourself. A black and white approach, either/or, needing an enemy are all aspects that describe your posts rather perfectly (Allan is but one of your needed enemies, almost anyone who disagrees with you seems to be either stupid or a bad person in your eyes).

      3. @Jack Wayne – comment #35:
        How judgmental and if you read my posts, your opinion is way off the mark but, of course, it probably makes your feel better. SAD.

      4. @Bill deHaas – comment #36:
        Actually, it doesn’t make me feel better. I made my observation because I have read a number of your posts. Perhaps I am being judgemental, though I don’t think you have a right to call me such based on your own postings.

        Perhaps you should review your posts and interactions with others and imagine you are a disinterested third party when doing so.

      5. @Jack Wayne – comment #35:
        I am a priest now for forty-four years. I have lived in very poor Rectories and in better ones. My point here is that wherever I lived, I lived in THAT house, with THAT priest, in THAT parish because I was sent there by my bishop and went there, lived there and worked there out of obedience. Isn’t obedience a form of poverty? I sure think it is!
        By the way, after reading some of these comments on how I should dress, live, eat and be addressed,etc, I am SO glad to be retiring soon!

      6. @Father James A Bucaria – comment #44:
        Fr James, in all sincerety, thank you for your priestly service and for all the sacrifices that went along with it. We bloggers find all kinds of things,great and small, to put under the microscope but for priests just one thing is important: ‘Feed my sheep”. God bless and reward your 45 years of feeding sheep!!

      7. @Father James A Bucaria – comment #44:
        Hello Fr Bucaria, didn’t you hear? Priests don’t retire anymore:)
        Head over to the newly remodeled Cathedral of St. Jude in St. Pete, you’ll be treated well, appreciated and respected too!

  6. Upon reading Msgr. Mannion’s piece, I was immediately reminded of the late bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, Bishop Bernard Topel (1903-1986).
    He was known, as a bishop, to live in a small apartment and he grew his own vegetable garden.
    Bishop Topel stated, “I have come to the realization that the most important thing I can do in the church, and that applies to Christians in general, is to live simply in order to give money to the poor” (In Spokane: A Pauperish Yet Princely Churchman” Time Magazine, 11-13-1978).
    One has only to imagine how Bishop Topel is smiling upon the pontificate of Francis, Bishop of Rome.

  7. ….”This kind of commitment would also be signified by bishops and priests consciously avoiding exclusive clubs and expensive restaurants—to which the poor have no access.”

    To this I would add #7, priests and especially bishops should also be at the soup kitchens and assist in serving the food with the lay members, not a 10 minute photo op but for one day a week or month.

  8. Some of this makes a great deal of sense to me, and some seems a little superficial, or even counterproductive.

    It’s the travel, I suppose, that irks me. I can see the need for ad limina visits, but some bishops and churchmen hardly ever seem to be at home. And when will we see them (including the Holy Father) struggle to put their carry-on in the overhead compartment i coach like the rest of us do, and not striding into first or business class? To me, that’s far more demoralizing than a mountain of ermine. Heck, you could probably buy cappa magnas for every cardinal for cost of a couple of first class airline tickets!

    1. @Paul Goings – comment #12:
      Have you checked out the price of a cappa magna recently? Each would be quite a bit more than what one would pay for a few first class airline tickets.

      1. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #14:
        They run a couple of thousand if purchased commercially. A competent seamstress could run one up for quite a bit less. Just one *business* class ticket roundtrip from New York to Rome in the off season runs $9,149! So I’m not sure where you’re getting your prices?

      2. @Paul Goings – comment #39:
        I guess I shouldn’t accept everything I read on the PTB. A while back, someone mentioned that a cardinal serving the Apostolic See plopped down a cool $40,000. I guess that included other stuff in addition to the cappa magna.

        Ma faute.

      3. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #40:

        I feel pretty confident in saying that there likely is a cappa magna that costs $40,000, just as there likely is a business class ticket from NY to Rome that costs less than $9,149.

        And I wouldn’t mind seeing the day come when the clergy is no longer associated with either extravagance.

      4. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #40:
        Sure that you can find or make all kinds of things – this is posted by Richard Sipe (so, please don’t take Fr. Ron to task)

        http://www.awrsipe.com/Burke/TheCostofLookingGood2007.pdf

        Sure you can find a ticket for $9K but a first class ticket could cost up to $18K or more – really depends upon all kinds of things – same with cappa magna.

        Keep in mind, also, as many have posted; cappa magna really isn’t a liturgical vestment – it is worn during the procession to the foot of the altar and then removed. Unfortunately, just like the feast of Christ the King – the original meanings seem to have been lost…..take off the cappa magna as a sign of service and humiliity (again, think Burke;) or those who interpret the feast as something other than a totally different type of kingship – triumphant; or worse.

  9. I agree with Msgr. Mannion up to a point. Clergy should be allowed to use the styles of their titles. Similarly, laypersons should be permitted to address clergy according to their titles. I would even go so far to say that ring kissing should be retained where it its customary. While some might say that the medieval titles are anachronistic and even, as Mannion notes, disrespectful towards the baptismal priesthood, sometimes customs help people feel comfortable. It would probably be a good idea to rationalize and simplify even further the various titles of the clergy (most of which carry no special or extra responsibility even today). Still, if a culture and its customs call for a certain behavior towards prelates in particular, then the culture’s customs should be respected.

    As for the cassock — I have no difficulty with priests wearing the cassock and biretta within the confines of the church and church property. I would think it highly inappropriate to wear anything else other than a clergy suit for “off campus” functions, even exclusively Catholic functions.

  10. Why doesn’t Pope Francis just mandate some changes as Popes Paul VI and Pius XII did? Junk the cardinal’s scarlet throne room and private chapel. Abolish the ring kissing, the coat of arms for the “prince bishops” along with the ermine, violet opera capes and cappa magnas. Then, as Msgr. Mannion suggests, have them wear the cassock, the zuchetto, maybe a purple cincture, and a pectoral cross. By all means a dignified dress , but not the usual medieval riding costume loaded with grandma’s lace.

    Some bishops in Europe have been living in apartment houses for decades. Compare that to the bishop’s palace in the town square. There’s certainly no reason U.S. bishops couldn’t have similar digs, or live with some priests in a rectory. A pretty common practice in the early Church. The cathedral or collegiate canonries come to mind.

    I’ve known plenty of Protestant and Orthodox clergy who are certainly paid very well, especially the Anglicans and Presbyterians. $150,000 to $250,000 for an Anglican rector in a good size parish isn’t unusual. I know of one who is also a successful real estate speculator in northern California and lives exceptionally well, but I think that’s hardly typical.

    Most non-Catholic clergy live a much more modest lifestyle. They have children who often get a reduced tuition rate for attending private schools affiliated with their denomination, particularly the elite schools. I think Princeton gives Presbyterian ministers a substantial break in fees. For a lot of Protestant clergy it isn’t unusual for their wives and children to hold down jobs to bring in extra income.

    As in the Catholic Church, the clergy usually get the parsonage without charge. I know several priests who receive a new car from their parish every year. They have substantial stock or real estate portfolios, and travel to Europe almost every year. Its a great life!!

  11. “While some might say that the medieval titles are anachronistic and even, as Mannion notes, disrespectful towards the baptismal priesthood, sometimes customs help people feel comfortable.”

    I think they are less anachronistic and more aristocratic. Outside of European traditionalists, it might be that these post-Reformation trappings help people feel uncomfortable.

    Personally, I think secular employees have to do too much a**kissing as it is. Having a healthier, mutually respectful relationship with clergy seems to avoid the worst of the world’s power games.

    While I appreciate Fr Allan’s comments as they are, a priest who aspires to be an alter Christus should realize that metaphor doesn’t end at the Communion rail. Outside of that rail, I’d say that cassocks are good to go. Even for the bishop of Rome.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #17:

      Todd: Personally, I think secular employees have to do too much a**kissing as it is. Having a healthier, mutually respectful relationship with clergy seems to avoid the worst of the world’s power games.

      Part of the issue here is the threefold nature of orders. Bishops are part of the faithful. However they, like all the faithful, have a particular mission and charism. There’s a balance between respect for the special responsibilities bishops are given as shepherds, and also a bishop’s due respect for the entire community. One aspect of Catholic life which has largely gone without renewal in the postconciliar era is the way bishops interact with their diocese as a community and the Church as a whole. Perhaps the best response is not to radically reform the office of bishop in one or two actions, but let it reform towards a more accountable system through subtle but forward-looking and continual changes. No one can promise a end to power games, but it is possible to make the relationship between a bishop and his diocese more equitable.

  12. Both bishops and priests (at least here in the USA) live very satisfying lives, and are unlikely to change their lifestyles very much in response to Francis. They may even become more self-satisfied given that many people like Francis.

    The “Francis Movement” does not need much support from bishops and priests in order for it to succeed. The key element in its success will be the “peripheries” not the clerical establishment.

    Christianity has always evangelized and renewed itself through the “peripheries.” It was not so much Peter and Jerusalem that drove the expansion of early Christianity but rather Paul working out on the peripheries. Catholicism has constantly been renewed by its religious orders developing in the peripheries rather than in the centers of its establishment, e.g. early monasticism in the desert, later monasticism in rural areas, the mendicant orders in towns and universities, the Jesuits and apostolic orders in a wide variety of ventures outside the diocesan structures. Protestantism has constantly renewed and expanded itself by producing new sects, e.g. Methodists, South Baptists, the Evangelical and Pentecostal movements here in the USA.

    Why are the peripheries, including the poor, those alienated and disinterested in the church, and non-Christians so important? Simply, they have far more to gain from new movements than those who live self-satisfied lives as Christian clergy and laity. The religious establishment always fears that it has much more to lose than to gain by change.

    Where does Francis criticism of clericalism and self-satisfied life styles fit into this model? He is simply letting people at the peripheries know that he understands they need more than what the clerical establishment can now provide but that some people will be inspired by his preaching to serve the needs of the peripheries, and if history repeats itself will find innovative ideas, structures and ways of doing that.

    Certainly many people here in the USA have become dissatisfied with religious institutions (not simply Catholic ones) but they have not become dissatisfied with God and the call of the Spirit. They are looking for a breath of fresh air, and many are seeing it in Francis.

    Francis is not simply being a critic of religion however. He is saying and doing many things that make him attractive such as being joyful, respectful, attentive, caring, and merciful. Those who want to develop ways to serve the various peripheries would do well to watch how they respond to his positive messages rather than spend their time responding to Francis criticism of present church ministers and ministries.

  13. From Jacques Maritain’s “On the Church of Christ”:

    1. On a change of vocabulary and a change of clothing appearances. — It is a question here of things entirely secondary, but which, like all external signs, have however their influence, and not wrongly, on the mental reflexes of the human being.

    With regard to the name which one gives to the persons who in one degree or another hold spiritual authority, it seems desirable that the simplification which began after the Council be extended as far as possible. It is good that all that which seems to elevate the servants of Christ above other men be eliminated, that one call now “Cardinal” those who were till now “Your Eminence,” and that one dispense with the “Excellencies.” It is not so long ago that a bishop was “Your Grace.” They prefer now for themselves the name of “Father.” It would be good also that there be eliminated the expressions in which words belonging to the order of the sacred are employed in a merely honorific sense which offends the ear. Why say “the Sacred College” when one could say “the College of Cardinals,” and the “Holy See” when one could say (as Paul VI often does) “the Apostolic See”? Why call the Pope “the Holy Father” or “His Holiness” when one could call him for example (which would simply be conformable with reality) “Revered Father of all” or “Revered Vicar of Christ”? (In the Eastern Churches, the term in use goes still further, — is not the Patriarch “His Beatitude”?)

    With regard to clothing appearances, it is otherwise that the question presents itself, for here one cannot forget that the disappearance of every distinctive sign, be it only, at least when it is possible, a small cross pinned on one’s sweater or on one’s jacket, would itself be the sign of a serious cultural lowering.

    1. @John Swencki – comment #26:
      Very much agreed John, I always cringe when I hear cardinals and bishops on television and elsewhere refer to the “Holy” Father and other titles given to religious dignitaries.

      After all, in Luke 18:19 and Mark 10:18 Jesus Christ Himself refused to be called “good” and rebukes the rich lawyer for calling him so. Jesus said “no one is “good” except God alone”. IMO I might add these self important titles to the rebuke: your holiness, sacred, your excellency, your grace, my lord, etc.

      Following Christs’ example all these dignitary titles, (as Todd best calls them, “aristocratic”), should be dropped.

      (And just in case someone is thinking that “father” as a salutation should be dropped the answer to that is no but for other reasons.)

  14. Well, many here will spin this as they may, but the Vatican website released a letter by Pope Francis commorating the 450 anniversary of the Council of Trent. In this very formal papal letter, the Holy Father, uses the royal “we” and “our” and once again and most explicitly refers to Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic of renewal in continuity for not only the Council of Trent, but the Second Vatican Council. This is great news indeed, kind of like a bombshell. Read the whole letter at Rorate Caeli:

    “Graciously hearing the very same Holy Ghost, the Holy Church of our age, even now, continues to restore and meditate upon the most abundant doctrine of Trent. As a matter of fact, the “hermeneutic of renewal” (interpretatio renovationis) which Our Predecessor Benedict XVI explained in 2005 before the Roman Curia, refers not only to the Tridentine Council but also to the Vatican Council. The mode of interpretation, certainly, places one honourable characteristic of the Church in a brighter light that is given by the Same Lord (Benedict XVI): “She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God” (Christmas Address to the Roman Curia).”

  15. The rector of my Episcopal parish in Macon, GA, is compensated very modestly. And since many Episcopal priests are in second careers, they are also paying off the not insignificant cost of their seminary education as well as contributing to the support of their families.

    While some Protestant clergy are richly compensated, there are probably many more (especially in the African-American and Hispanic communities) who receive little or no salary and who hold down full-time jobs in addition to their ministries.

    My guess is that there are relatively few clergy who pull down six-figure salaries.

  16. I don’t care how a priest dresses, what car he drives, or where he lives, I care about how he celebrates liturgy, his attitude, and how he interacts with the faithful. The above list seems too concerned with looking humble instead of actually being humble. Some people can both look and be humble, some people don’t look humble but are, and others look humble but are not. My favorite priest lives in a very nice condo, drives a new car, and wears a clerical suit, but when you interact with him he so exudes Christian joy and love that I have yet to meet anyone who did not like him. I’d rather have all around authenticity from someone- which is why I think people like Francis. It is also why I liked Benedict- he didn’t put on a show.

    Living closer to the poor would seem a good reason to rent an apartment rather than live in a free rectory if that rectory is far away from them, but otherwise turning down free living quarters because they look too fancy seems rather decadent. Most of the old rectories around here aren’t that great inside unless you like living in a place that looks like someone’s grandmother decorated it in the 70s and then preserved it like a museum.

  17. @Jack Wayne #35

    Really Jack, I think Allan can defend himself. Furthermore, if you are as non judgmental as you state then to be fair you should comment about the language in #24 and #32.

    Actually I think Bill has “bit his tongue” and has behaved quite nicely in the face of Allan’s goading (#32). But Bill doesn’t need me to defend him either, the depth and breadth of his experience and knowledge stands on its own and can put most of us to shame. He can be a bit edgy but so can you and I and almost everyone else here. Blogging is not for the faint at heart. Just saying.

    1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #38:
      I wasn’t so much defending Allan as commenting on Bill’s demeanor in general, which stretches far beyond his bantering with Fr Allan. I wasn’t saying I’m not judgemental, just that Bill is very much a pot calling the kettle black in a lot of his posts regardless of how smart or well read he may be.

      To get back to the real topic (and I should apologize for taking things off topic – I should have known better). I see Cappa Magnae as being a liturgical/Church function garment rather than something comparable to lavish vacations, cars, or living quarters. Also, I imagine once you buy one you’re likely to keep it for a long time rather than buy one several times a year every year.

      I think there is a divide amongst people regarding lavish vestments which makes it hard to have discussions. One side – which I’m more a part of and which could characterize people in blogs like the NLM – sees them as being for the entire parish, for liturgy, and for God. The other side seems to see them as being more for the priest and reflective of how he sees himself and his position in the parish.

  18. When the costs are totaled up, priests in our diocese cost a parish somewhere around $60K a year. For an individual, that is a fine level of remuneration to be sure. I often remind the newly ordained that they must be mindful that they will always have far greater control of their time and far more “disposable” income in their pockets than most of the people we serve here in south Georgia. I am very grateful for their generosity and love.

  19. I don’t know if anybody will even be checking back to this conversation, but I gotta say, in our zeal to advocate for gospel simplicity (of whatever sort), it seems like a lot of us have run roughshod over the very charity it is meant to preserve.

    I have been genuinely scandalized by the way certain priests (both religious and secular) spend their money, but I’m very, very hesitant about making presumptions this way. Different dioceses really do have very different policies, and so it’s probably unwise to presume that because I’m a priest in Diocese X and I live a basically middle-middle or upper-middle class sort of lifestyle that the priests in the next diocese over necessarily do. What’s more, many dioceses base their pay scale on seniority alone without respect to current position. Consequently, depending upon where you are at, you can have a mostly dysfunctional permanent associate (and we all know who these guys are) who gets paid twice what a man ordained less than ten years gets even though the one is busting his butt and the other is constitutionally slothful.

    I get the pope’s car concern; when I was in high school the priest-president drove a luxury car and lived in a high end townhouse so that he could “entertain” donors. People appreciated him as an administrator and a fundraiser, but I don’t know anyone who thought of him as a priest.

    St. Dominic saw gospel poverty as pertaining to the credibility of the gospel. Surely this is the same thing Pope Francis and Monsignor Mannion are advocating. But even the most radical simplicity lived out in a spirit of discontention and strife is going to be a counter-witness. If it doesn’t move you to greater charity then it moves you away from it, and we do have a word for that: sin.

  20. All priests in my diocese receive the same compensation in terms of monthly salary. The extra perks come with assignments to parishes where the people are on the affluent side of the scale. If they like their priests they give them “tips” in the form of Christmas, ordination, and birthday gifts. These could easily add up to thousands of extra dollars per year. Even the priests in our “poorest” parishes live in homes that do not qualify as hovels. I lived in a 70 year old house that once was a home to four mission priests, but it had central heat and air and was quite comfortable. When I was a newly ordained priest, I remember complaining to my pastor about the meager compensation we received. He let me go on and on before interrupting with the question: Do you tithe? I told him I was giving my whole life to the church. He repeated the question. That signaled the beginning of a new time in my life in which there was no more complaining about “poverty”. My problem at 72 is making sure that I am giving more and more each year. It’s been piling up (since I don’t take expensive vacations).

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