Thursday, November 16, 2017

Luna Lovegood and the Quibbler couldn't have done better

(TNH via OCL) - The issue of the salaries and benefits of the clergy comes up very often for discussion in many if not all parishes, and certainly at various gatherings of Greek-Americans through the country.

Something has to be done to review this issue, because the way we are going, fewer and fewer parishes will be able to afford the high salaries and the demands of many of our priests.

Let me say that I have great respect and honor for those faithful, humble, and ethical priests and bishops, no matter in what corner of the world, who serve because they are heavenly men or earthly angels, if you wish. Be assured that there are such priests and bishops, but they are invisible amid the showy lightweight noisemakers.

I do believe that the priests should get decent salaries in order to enjoy a decent quality of life with their families. Like everyone else, they have necessities and obligations. They have children to raise and educate, and of course, those of us with college-age children know first hand the high cost of tuition.

Certainly, the issue here is not about them, but rather about those who make more than CEOs of large corporations. I take issue with those who use “the piety to make money” and exhibit scandalous mercenary-like behavior. If you are going to say something like this, you had better back it up. Otherwise, it's just petty slander.

The Archdiocese of America is the Orthodox Church’s golden fish. That is primarily why priests from other jurisdictions such as the Orthodox Church in America, including Russian, Antiochian, and Romanian clerics, go to the Greek Archdiocese, because the Greek communities pay well. Those priests earn $30,000 per year on average and are forced to take on second jobs in order to survive. I don’t think the day is far off that our Greek Orthodox priests will have to do the same, because our communities become smaller and smaller and cannot endure the huge financial demands many priests have and that the bishops impose on the parishes. The generations who used to put their hand into their pocket and gave generously or burned themselves cooking at the grills at Greek festivals, or went around selling lottery tickets to collect money to pay the priests’ and the bishops’ salaries are gone. The new generations have woken up, and they are not willing to continue the pathetic system to finance the lavish lives of the clergy of every rank. The average Greek parish, were it to shrink by two thirds, would still be larger than many other jurisdictions' parishes. The new generation has "woken up?"! The new generation is not coming to church and not participating in the life of the church as good stewards. You're trying to draw a line between priestly pay and the health of the parish. Actually look at the line items on a Greek parish budget and you'll come to a much different perspective on where funds are going.

Here are some suggestions:
  1. It is time the so-called “tihera” (tips) given to priests and bishops when they do sacraments or Vesper Services to stop, because it is a kind of unprejudiced simony. It is unacceptable the moment they have good salaries and benefits. Basically, they are paid to pray, to condescend to accept “tips,” like waiters in restaurants. We laypersons should acknowledge that we are at fault as well for tipping the priests and bishops. Just think for a moment that all those who enter the churches on Sunday morning are volunteers, except the priests and the bishops who actually get paid by the parishioners. They are the “employees” of the Church, meaning the Body of the Laity, as simple as that. So you want to pay priests less and then remove their ability to supplement what pay gaps there may be by forbidding acts of appreciation by the faithful? I know many priest who rely on this money to put food on the table because they are willing to accept less pay to help grow a church that can't afford the full parish-status rate. Also, calling priests employees shows as distinct lack of understanding about the sacrificial role of the clergy.
  2. Celibate priests wrongly serve in parishes, because as monks, they belong in the monasteries. But they have created a separate sect of a careerist Archimandritism. They should receive the smallest possible salary, because they don’t have wives and children to support. You want to pay men who have chosen the difficult path of celibacy to receive a celibacy tax of lesser pay? Where else in any industry does the employer get to look at your family situation and dock your pay for not having a wife or children? Also, where do the future bishops get parish pastoral experience from these monasteries (that both the OCL and TNH have lashed out against as dangerous)?
  3. Priests and bishops shouldn’t scandalize the faithful with their lavish lifestyles: dining at expensive restaurants, driving expensive luxurious cars, and living in multimillion-dollar homes, when there are members of their parishes and metropolises who don’t even have a plate of hot food to eat. Again, such blanket statements without evidence are scurrilous slander. Also, as there is always someone more blessed than you, there is always someone who is struggling more than you. You should neither be jealous of one nor look with disdain on the other. That said, what are your metrics for deciding on how someone else should live? Did your parish council spot make you the feudal lord of your parish priest?
  4. The chancellors of the metropolises should be abolished. The bishops can do the job by themselves if they manage their time correctly and care only for the Church and no other activities. Two or more million dollars will be saved from salaries, benefits, car expenses, insurances, travel expenses for meetings, and other costs. I don't think you understands the immense responsibilities of the chancellor. My own chancellor runs himself ragged keeping diocesan affairs in order. I don't think you want your bishop sitting in his office doing paperwork when he should be with his flock. The arch-pastoral role and the administrative role are separated (and have been for quite a long time) for a reason.
  5. It is time put an end to the out-of-control spending. Our people in the parishes are sick and tired of the continuous begging one day from the Archdiocese, the next from the metropolis, the third from the camp, the fourth day from the Theological School, and the fifth from the Academy of St. Basil. The milk of the big cow called the Greek-American Community is drying up. Luckily, there are those Greek Festivals with the roasted pigs and lambs that keep the doors of many churches open; otherwise God knows how many parishes would be closed by now. It is true that 400 or 500 families are contributing and working at the festivals basically for two things: to pay the priest’s salary, and to pay the Archdiocese. Does the economic model need some adjustment? Of course. Is the answer to not give money to the orphans at St. Basil's? How about not investing in the future by ignoring the seminary? Where do you want your children to go in the summer? If they don't go to an Orthodox camp, do you wonder which protestant group is going to host them? You seem to not like being asked for money. My pastoral experience is that the person who complains most about money is the least likely to be seen pitching in when it's time to paint something or move something or set up for an upcoming feast. Those people give what they can in time, effort, and money as they can and don't fret - knowing that God sees them building up treasure in Heaven.


  1. Good annotations. I agree with this article in substance (more godly and thrifty fiscal management by church officials) but not at all in tone or spirit.

  2. Paying less to monastics (who are theoretically supposed not to pursue money) makes some sense.

    1. Agreed, one can't argue clergy are not merely "'employees' of the Church" and then in the next paragraph complain no "employer get[s] to look at your family situation and dock your pay for not having a wife or children" (since no employer would be able to require an employee be celibate for a leadership role or bar them from getting remarried if their wife dies).

      Bishops and monastics don't need high pay now because they have a special status in the church. What is at issue really with this particular class of clergy is whether they can be cared for in retirement. One can very easily see the value in monastic clergy and bishops receiving modestly lower wages while ensuring pension and health contributions that will pay off when they are no longer able to serve. Guaranteed care in a monastery or clergy retirement home could also be considered. Again, they are either employees or not, but that can't be one or the other only when it best suits their wants. Not that anyone would argue for destitution or homelessness, but do monastics merely take so-called vows of poverty or is that another example of liberal economia?

    2. I believe Met. Anthony Bloom made sure his married clergy with families received more than he and other monastic clergy did. Of course, they could also rely on a more robust social safety net in Britain.

    3. Agreed, one can't argue clergy are not merely "'employees' of the Church" and then in the next paragraph complain no "employer get[s] to look at your family situation and dock your pay for not having a wife or children" (since no employer would be able to require an employee be celibate for a leadership role or bar them from getting remarried if their wife dies).

      My argument being that we should treat our clergy better than hired hands. So that I can in fact argue that point.

    4. So, for monastic clergy the measure of how well we treat them is the amount of salary we give them? So, they take a vow of poverty but we pay them lavishly anyway?

      The question of whether we should pay our married parish clergy more is quite separate from the appropriate compensation for monastics.

  3. That this is even a significant issue illustrates our poverty.

  4. The real problem is that being modern consumers we monetize everything and expect a utilitarian outcome of a cost-benefit analysis. Nonesense.

    That kind of thinking itself is horribly at odds with the life of the Church yet we are all poisoned by it. Unfortunately it is a sort of scholasticism and the premises are bought into by everybody.

    Can't have a genuine discussion until we at least try to put off our blinders and see more deeply. Otherwise we are rearranging deck chairs on a fantasy Titanic.