Cathal Barry, Greg Daly and Paul Keenan
There is a widespread variation between dioceses in Ireland with regard to their financial support for priests, a survey conducted by The Irish Catholic has revealed.
Clergy in the Diocese of Clogher, which takes in parts of Monaghan, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Donegal and Louth, are among the best paid in the country, while their counterparts in the Diocese of Derry, which has some parishes in Tyrone and Antrim and the Inishowen peninsula in Co. Donegal, are among the worst.
However, figures are complicated by a variety of differing arrangements in dioceses.
The maximum a Parish Priest in Clogher is allowed to earn annually is €33,960, while curates in the dioceses can earn up to €27,480.
These figures include parish contributions to the priest and also all Mass stipends and donations for Baptisms, weddings and funerals, a spokesperson for the diocese told this newspaper. From this, each priest must meet all of his personal expenses, the spokesperson said.
Each priest in the Diocese of Derry on the first day of each month receives a payment of Stg£720 (€972) from the parish in which he holds an appointment. This places Derry’s priests among the lowest paid in Ireland, however, a number of increments and bonuses are available to them.
In addition to the monthly payment, an increment of Stg£70 (€104) for each completed year in the priesthood is to be paid annually on July 1. After 25 increments the maximum is reached. The first increment is to be paid on July 1 following the first anniversary of ordination.
In addition to the monthly payment and increments, each Parish Priest is to receive a further payment of Stg£750 (€1,118) annually on July 1.
Regulations for the Diocese of Derry, seen by The Irish Catholic, also note that the Christmas collection and stole fees are to be divided equally among the priests of the parish.
“A priest is entitled to his share of the Christmas collection in the parish where he holds an appointment on 25 December. Stole fees are to be divided at least quarterly and on the occasion of the departure of a priest from the parish,” the regulations state, adding that in parishes “where there is no Christmas collection or where the Christmas collection does not produce Stg£3,000 (€3,900) for each priest as a result of equal division, the remainder is to be made up from parochial funds”.
The following items are to be charged to parochial funds:
- Rent and Rates.
- Heating and Lighting.
- Floor coverings, window coverings, light fittings, cookers (including fuel), refrigerator/freezer, washing machine/dryer, vacuum cleaner, furniture for reception room for public use, an aerial suitable for freeview (where available), the housekeeper’s apartment and the furniture for and the maintenance of a private oratory.
- Insurance of house contents.
- Maintenance and decoration of parochial houses.
- Fixed telephone charges and calls on parochial business. Other calls are to be paid for by the person making the call.
- Office equipment, stationery, postage and basic internet used for parochial business.
- Expenses involved in the transfer of a priest from one parish to another – to be borne by the parish to which he is transferred.
After Clogher, priests in the Diocese of Kilmore, which covers most of Co. Cavan and parts of counties Leitrim, Fermanagh, Meath and Sligo, are the next best paid. Parish Priests in this diocese are entitled to an annual allowance, before deductions for diocesan levies, of €31,000, while other priests in ministry receive €29,000. Further details on diocesan levies, however, were not made available to this newspaper.
Both Parish Priests and curates in the Diocese of Ossory which encompasses most of Co. Kilkenny and parts of counties Laois and Offaly earn €28,500 annually.
Remuneration for priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin also ranks high. The basic support for a curate in the Dublin diocese is €23,218 per annum, while Parish Priests, moderators and administrators receive an extra allowance, bringing their annual support to €27,873.
A spokesperson for the diocese told this newspaper that priests in Dublin “are supported by the first collection taken up at Masses in the archdiocese each week”.
“Monies collected for the support of priests in each parish is pooled in what is known as the ‘Common Fund’ this is managed and by Executive committee, a group of priests, who also receive independent financial advice,” the spokesperson said.
Increments are paid to priests at 5-yearly intervals from 5 to 45 years post-ordination in the Dublin diocese.
For example, a Parish Priest ordained for 45 years would receive €30,693 from the Common Fund per annum.
Priests’ medical insurance (VHI) is also paid by the Common Fund, the spokesperson confirmed.
Clergy in the Diocese of Kerry also do well compared to their counterparts in other dioceses, with Parish Priests earning €27,250 and curates taking home €26,250.
A spokesperson told The Irish Catholic that the diocese did not have a scale of incremental increases for years of service, adding that if the income for the priest “exceeds the basic salary, the priest keeps 55% of the surplus and contributes the remaining 45% to a fund which supports priests in parishes that do not reach the basic salary”.
Limerick is currently reviewing the financial support it provides its priests. However, this newspaper can confirm that Parish Priests of the diocese currently earn €27,000 and curates make €24,900.
Priests in the Diocese of Killaloe, which has parishes in counties Clare, Tipperary, Offaly, Laois and Limerick, are paid €22,000 annually. Parish priests and Administrators, however, take home an extra €2,600 each year.
Years of service increments for Killaloe are as follows:
- 5 years + ordained: 5% of basic salary = €1,100
- 10 years + ordained: 6% of basic salary = €1,320
- 15 years + ordained: 7% of basic salary = €1,540
- 20 years + ordained: 8% of basic salary = €1,760
- 25 years + ordained: 9% of basic salary = €1,980
- 30 years + ordained: 10% of basic salary = €2,200
- 35 years + ordained: 11% of basic salary = €2,420
- 40 years + ordained: 12% of basic salary = €2,640
Responsibility increments include:
- Parish Priests and Administrators: €2,600
- Other Responsibility (including Moderator who is not P.P.): €1,300
- Extra Responsibility Allowance (P.P. responsible for multiple parishes): €1,000
In the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, all priests are paid €20,400 annually.
The monthly salary for Parish Priest in Kildare and Leighlin is €1,900 and for a curate is €1,750, bringing their annual salaries to €22,800 and €21,000 respectfully.
A spokesperson for the diocese informed The Irish Catholic that when a Parish Priest turns 66 his salary is reduced to €15,000 as he will be in receipt of the old age pension.
“Any surplus a parish had after paying priests their monthly salary goes to the Kildare and Leighlin clergy fund which pays allowances to retired priests and those undertaking further study or on sabbatical,” the spokesperson said.
Priests in Tuam, which takes in parts of counties Mayo, Galway and Roscommon, get paid €22,200 a year. However, they also receive an annual payment €750 for entertainment.
The Diocese of Cloyne, located in the northern and eastern parts of Co. Cork, does not have a salary system. However, a diocesan spokesperson told this newspaper that a priest’s income is managed at parish level with some provision for a redistribution to those clergy who don’t reach a basic level of €22,000 per annum.
There is also an annual allowance of €4,000 for a Parish Priest and increment of €100 per year up to a maximum of 30 years, the spokesperson added.
Likewise, the Diocese of Ferns, which covers most of Co. Wexford and some of Co. Carlow and Co. Wicklow, does not have a central scheme.
Cork and Ross is similar, with parishes paying priests with monies raised from spring and autumn dues, collections on Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, the Novena for the Holy Souls in November, as well as stole fees arising from Baptisms, weddings and funerals.
The detail of how much priests in the Diocese of Elphin are paid is available their diocesan website. In parishes of the diocese where the income designated for the support of the priests does not reach the minimum agreed (€20,004 per annum for Parish Priests and €18,732 for curates), the balance is made up from the parish account.
In parishes where the income exceeds the minimum required for the support of the priests, 20% of the surplus is paid by the priests of that parish to each of the following:
- The Elphin Sick Priests and Welfare Fund.
- The Welfare Fund, which provides support for priests who are not in parochial ministry and for continuing professional development of clergy.
- The Stewardship Fund, which covers any costs associated with operating the safeguarding service of the diocese.
Priests in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore are paid €20,380 annually, while there is an incremental allowance of €50 per year of ordination which is capped at €1,000.
All priests of the Killala diocese are paid €19,200 and a spokesperson told this newspaper that any increments were minimal.
In Raphoe diocese a Parish Priest is paid €18,700 per annum, a curate gets €17,800 and there is a Christmas offering from the faithful which varies from parish to parish. Both health and car insurance are covered for priests of the diocese.
The Diocese of Achonry, which covers parts of counties Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo, pays its Parish Priests €18,000 and curates €16,500. The salary of a Parish Priest can rise to a maximum of €22,000 per annum, a diocesan spokesperson said.
Parish Priests in the Diocese of Down and Connor are paid STG£16,200 per annum, while curates there earn STG£15,000.
In Clonfert, which covers almost the whole of East Galway, and has a number of parishes in Roscommon and one in Offaly, curates are paid €17,000, while Parish Priests earn €500 more annually.
Galway diocesan curates are paid €16,356 while Parish Priests receive €17,904. Both curates and Parish Priests also have their health insurance covered by the diocese.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Armagh said they would have to consult the priests’ council before furnishing The Irish Catholic with such details. This newspaper established, however, that Parish Priests there are paid £14,000 (€20,750) a year, while curates receive £13,000 (€19,100).
Parish Priests in the Archdiocese of Armagh get an annual supplement based on number of families in their parish:
- £1/€1.50 for each of first 750 families in the parish
- After first 750 this drops to 50p or 75c per family
Representatives of the dioceses of Cashel and Emly and Meath refused to provide The Irish Catholic with the details of remuneration for priests in their dioceses.
Despite repeated attempts over a number of weeks to obtain figures from the Diocese of Dromore, no information was forthcoming. Varying reasons including annual leave, officials being unavailable and the bishop being on retreat were cited.
Figures need a health warning
A major health warning needs to be attached to all discussions of clerical remuneration in Irish dioceses given the wide variance in customs and practice across the 26 dioceses. Raw data provides a measure, but it can be a crude measure if read in isolation.
In some dioceses, for example, a priest keeps the entire donation that a couple may give for a wedding. In other dioceses, meanwhile, the priest keeps a small portion of this or, in some cases, hands it over to the parish or diocese. In some dioceses, this varies from parish to parish.
There are also benefits which, at first glance, may not seem obvious. Some dioceses, for example, will cover health insurance for priests while other dioceses have health insurance policies but the premium is paid by the priest. In some circumstances, such policies may, in fact, be more expensive than market rate since diocesan policies tend to have a lot of older members and insurers take account of this.
Many dioceses have collective car insurance, but this is still usually paid by the individual priest rather than by the diocese.
When it comes to Mass stipends (the offerings made by Catholics for priests to celebrate a Mass), Church law is very strict. A priest can only keep one Mass stipend per day. Any remaining stipends are transferred to causes and purposes prescribed by the bishop.
‘Stole fees’ are offerings made to priests for baptisms, funerals, house blessings, etc. Again, there are many diocesan policies around such fees. In some dioceses, priests can keep the offering for a funeral, whereas in other dioceses these offerings must be forwarded to the parish priest to cover parochial expenses or to the bishop.
Some dioceses have quarterly collections for clergy, but this usually goes to a centralised account to make up for parishes where the collections are not sufficient to provide for the local clergy. Sometimes so-called ‘Christmas dues’ and ‘Easter dues’ do go directly to the clergy, but more often than not these too go to making up the basic remuneration rather than acting as a bonus.
For taxation purposes, priests are treated as self-employed so are responsible for ensuring their own revenue compliance and contributions to national social insurance schemes.
All of this means that the raw figures do allow for a comprehensive comparison, but they are not the full picture.
DIOCESE PARISH PRIEST CURATE
ACHONRY €18,000 €16,500
ARDAGH €20,400 €20,400
ARMAGH £14,000 (€20,750)(min.) £13,000 (€19,100)
CASHEL & EMLY REFUSED REFUSED
CLOGHER €33,960 (max.) €27,480 (max.)
CLONFERT €17,500 €17,000
CLOYNE €26,000 (min.) €22,000 (min.)
CORK & ROSS No central fund No central fund
DERRY £8,640 (min.) £8,640 (min.)
DOWN & CONNOR £16,200 £15,000
DROMORE — —
DUBLIN €27,873 (min.) €23,218 (min.)
ELPHIN €20,004 €18,732
FERNS No central fund No central fund
GALWAY €17,904 €16,356
KERRY €27,250 €26,250
KILDARE & LEIGHLIN €22,800 €21,000
KILLALA €19,200 €19,200
KILLALOE €24,600 (min.) €22,000 (min.)
KILMORE €31,000 (minus levies) €29,000 (minus levies)
LIMERICK €27,000 €24,900
MEATH REFUSED REFUSED
OSSORY €28,500 €28,500
RAPHOE €18,700 €17,800
TUAM €22,200 €22,200
WATERFORD €20,380 (min.) €20,380 (min.)