How much money does a parish priest make?

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By William J. Byron, S.J.


I’m curious about salaries for parish priests. How much do priests make each year? Can they keep what they earn?
- T.M., Illinois


Your question arrived in the same mail that brought my copy of the Baltimore Catholic Review for July 5, 2007. That issue carries an article titled, “Not in it for the money: Bishops, church groups set pay scale for priceless priests.” The article responds to your question and reinforces the point that priests are, indeed, not in it for the money.

Diocesan priests, sometimes called “secular” priests (those who belong to a territorial diocese and are under the direct jurisdiction of a local bishop), may keep what they earn, what they inherit, and what they receive as gifts. Religious or Order priests (those with a vow of poverty) are paid, but they may not keep more than is necessary for ordinary living expenses. They may not inherit or accumulate wealth; whatever money they receive must be turned over to their respective Religious communities.

According to the newspaper account I just mentioned, a priest’s salary “can range anywhere from a little more than $18,000 to more than $31,000 depending on length of service, whether they are a pastor or associate pastor or if they are involved in a special ministry, according to the guidelines of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.” Typically, diocesan priests receive free room and board, a car allowance, and a modest allowance for professional expenses.

The Diocese of San Jose, California, has a recently published “Parish Compensation Program,” a handbook designed to assist the Diocese of San Jose’s pastors, parish administrators, and staff “to administer the salaries of those working with them in an equitable and consistent manner.” For priests, the “basic stipend” this year is $32,616, with a grant of $600 for a “study week,” another grant of $500 for the annual spiritual retreat, and a contribution of $11,718 to the retirement fund.


I know the only unforgivable sin is one against the Holy Spirit. My problem is what sort of sin could that be, and how or why would it be against the Holy Spirit?
- D.F., TEXAS


You are referring to the sin mentioned in Mark 3:29, Matthew 12:32, and Luke 12:10. (When you find it in all three synoptic Gospels, you can rest assured that it is central to the tradition.) The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 1864) offers this translation: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” And the Catechism offers this explanation: “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.”

The sin referred to here is sometimes thought of as a condition of ultimate despair. It is distrust beyond imagining — an inexplicable refusal to accept forgiveness. Why, you ask, is it thought of as somehow being “against the Holy Spirit?” Because, I would suggest, it is a rejection of God’s life and love. Th is means rejection of the Spirit given for us, and intended, by God’s providence, to be God’s life and love within us. CD

William J. Byron, S.J.

Readers are welcome to send questions to Father Byron at Catholic Digest, P.O. Box 6015, New London, CT 06320, or to send e-mail to him.