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​​​5.13.7 Compensation and Benefits for Priests

It is a firm commitment of the Church and its faithful that priests are entitled to reasonable material benefits to enable them to carry out their ministry in a manner suited to their circumstances. All priests share in a commitment to be models of Christian moderation. Priests belonging to religious instit​utes take a vow of poverty and their income belongs to their communities. Diocesan priests keep their income, retain the ownership of their goods, and have the right to use them as they elect, in accord with their status as priests.​

The law of the Church distinguishes three generic concepts directly related to the temporal needs of its priests: "decent support" (honest sustenance), "remuneration" or salary, and "social assistance" such as health care, pension, and other benefits. A complementary concept also is considered in relation to a priest's income, namely "stipends" or free offerings to a priest from the faithful intending to participate in specific acts of the Church's worship. All of these concepts are related to the support of clergy; however, the distinctions are important. In particular, it should be noted that the concept of stipends is always connected with the worship that is given to God. See the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (17).

In the archdiocese, these obligations are fulfilled through a multi-factored compensation plan for priests, which includes salary, stipends or an "in lieu of stipend" payment, and various other benefits described below. The compensation plan for religious and diocesan priests is reviewed by the Council of Priests every three years.

Priests may not expect or allocate a portion of the freewill offerings of the faithful to the parish to benefit themselves; such amounts belong to the parish or other place of assignment. Violation of this policy may result in clerical discipline, a referral to civil authorities, or both.

5.13.7.1 Salary

Diocesan and extern priests earn an annual salary paid by their source of salary. They submit a Form W-4 to their source of salary, which issues them a Form W-2 each year. The annual salary for pastors/administrators and associates holding a full-time official assignment is published annually in the first quarter of the year and becomes effective July 1. An associate pastor who has served in full-time ministry in the archdiocese for 20 years receives a pastor's salary.

5.13.7.2 Stipends and Payments "In Lieu of Stipends" in the Archdiocese

Offerings of the faithful given to clergy on the occasion of liturgical acts of worship, and by which the celebrant agrees to make the donor's intention his own in the act of worship, such as Masses, baptisms, weddings, and funerals, are intended to recognize the special role of the priest in these acts of worship and reflect the special relationship that the priest and the liturgical ceremony have to the sacrifice of Jesus in saving souls. Therefore, these offerings, often referred to as stipends, are not intended to be simply a contribution to salary compensation. A priest is expected to understand that these offerings are one of the ways in which a priest continues Christ's redemptive work and concern for the poor and needy. In the words of St. Paul, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God" (Col 1:24–25).

Offerings for Non-Sacramental Services

Canon law provides that "Unless the contrary is established, offerings given to superiors or administrators of any ecclesiastical juridic person, even a private one, are presumed given to the juridic person itself" (Canon 1267.1). Applying the principle to the concept of stipends means that any offering given to any cleric on the occasion of a non-sacramental service (e.g., a house blessing or a quinceañera without Mass) belongs to the parish and is to go into the parish account unless the contrary intention of the donor is certain. When a check is made out to the parish, it is clear that the offering goes to the parish. Even in cases where a check is made out to the priest or cash is offered, the offering is not for the priest unless a separate donation is made to the parish.

Mass Intentions in General

Canon law permits any priest celebrating or concelebrating to receive an offering to apply the Mass for a special intention (Canon 945). The offering is considered a stipend; the amount of the stipend is set by the bishops of the Los Angeles Province. The priest is not required to accept such an offering. Canon law recommends that priests celebrate Mass for the intention of the Christian faithful, especially the needy, even if they have not received an offering. Any appearance of solicitation of offerings or of arranging Masses to receive an offering is not allowed under canon law.

"In Lieu of Stipend" Provisions for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, priests with full-time assignments receive salary and benefits and are given the choice of accepting individual Mass stipends or receiving $3,500 per year "in lieu of stipends." The amount is paid by the source of salary. By choosing "in lieu of stipends," the priest agrees that all Mass offerings (including offerings for funerals or All Souls Day) go to the parish.

The income from the two options is outlined as follows:

RECEIVE STIPENDS

RECEIVE IN LIEU OF STIPENDS

Monthly salary as published annually

Keep individual Mass stipends:

  • All Souls Offerings: $300
  • Funeralia: $25 per month

Monthly salary as published annually

$292 per month in lieu of stipends ($3,500 per year)



At the beginning of a new assignment, each priest who is eligible to choose one of the above options will file a written choice with his source of salary. For accounting purposes, this statement will list the amount the priest is to be paid by the source of salary each year. Normally, the priest will be expected to continue under the same system for the duration of the assignment. If a priest wishes to change to the other option, he should do so effective July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year in the archdiocese.​

A priest who wishes to receive the "in lieu of stipends" amount must be willing to celebrate Mass for the intentions assigned to him at the parish in accord with local procedure.

The archdiocese will assist parishes in financial need to meet the expense involved if priests choose the "in lieu of stipends" option. In these circumstances, or in the case of resident priests whose source of salary is the archdiocese, priests may be asked to fulfill Mass intentions for which the archdiocese has received bequests or donations. In case of difficulties arising out of this system, the priest(s) involved should consult with the vicar for clergy.

Priests electing to receive stipends may accept Mass intention stipends from parishes or from the office for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Any priest in need of stipends may request Masses from the office of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith and receive stipends.

All stipends and "in lieu of stipends" are considered as taxable income by the government and should be reported by the individual priest on his tax returns and included on the W-2 form submitted to the IRS by the priest's source of salary.

Separate and Collective Intentions


Canon law states that separate Masses are to be applied for the intentions of those for whom a single offering, although small, has been given and accepted (Canon 948). In other words, only one offering for one Mass. The decree Mos iugiter (February 22, 1991, Congregation for the Clergy) does permit intentions to be accepted collectively for a single Mass, provided the following conditions are observed:​

  • Before collective intentions are accepted for a single Mass, the donors must be informed that the Mass is for several intentions and must consent to combining their offerings for the single Mass. Also, the place and time for the Mass must also be previously announced.

  • Masses with multiple intentions may not be celebrated more than twice a week at a location (whether a parish or other facility).

  • A priest who has chosen to receive stipends may keep for himself as the celebrant the amount equivalent to a single Mass stipend and the rest of the offerings collected must be applied as prescribed by the archbishop.

  • A priest who is receiving "in lieu of stipend" payments must apply all of the offerings collected as prescribed by the archbishop.

Lost Offerings

Canon law states that the one obliged to celebrate and apply Mass for the intention of those who gave an offering is still bound by the obligation, even if the offerings received have been lost through no fault of his own (Canon 949). In other words, a cleric who accepts a stipend, regardless of which option he has chosen, incurs the obligation to apply a Mass for the donor's intention and does not lose that obligation should the offering be lost in any way.

Unspecified Number of Masses

Canon law prescribes that if a sum of money is offered for the application of Masses without an indication of the number of Masses to be celebrated, that number is to be computed on the basis of the offering established in the place where the donor resides, unless the intention of the donor must be presumed legitimately to have been different (Canon 950). This means that one must be careful in accepting such an offering so as not to incur an obligation impossible to fulfill or that cannot be legitimately passed on to others to fulfill.

One Offering per Day

Canon law states that a priest who celebrates several Masses on the same day can apply each Mass to the intention for which the offering was given, but subject to the rule that, except on Christmas, he is to keep the offering for only one Mass and transfer the other offerings to the purposes prescribed by the archbishop (Canon 951.1). This obliges the priest who opts to receive stipends. Unless other direction is given by the archbishop, excess offerings are to be turned over to the parish or source of salary as provided for above in this policy.

Under this norm, a visiting priest retains his right to receive the stipend, as well as any additional fee due to him as a supply priest. However, while it is the responsibility of the visiting priest to assure that the Masses are said for the specified intentions, he must remit the additional stipends as specified by church law because he may not personally keep the offerings from any additional Masses celebrated in one day.

Finally, canon law prohibits a priest who concelebrates an additional Mass on the same day from accepting an offering for it, with no exceptions (Canon 951.2). In all such cases the offering belongs to the parish or source of income as noted above.

Limitation on Offerings Accepted

Canon law stipulates that no priest or institution is permitted to accept more offerings for Masses than can be satisfied within a year (Canon 953). Mass intentions not satisfied within the year are to be transferred to their ordinaries according to the method defined by the latter.

Excess Mass Offerings, Transferal of Mass Obligations

Canon law contains additional norms regulating Mass offerings that cannot be satisfied in a particular location or by the priest himself (see Canons 954 through 956).

Records of Mass Intentions Accepted and Satisfied

Canon law requires that every priest must make an accurate record of the Masses he has accepted to celebrate and those that he has satisfied (Canon 955.4). Canon law also requires that the pastor or the rector of a church or other pious place that regularly receives offerings for Masses is to have a special book in which he notes accurately the number of Masses to be celebrated, the intention, the offering given, and their celebration (Canon 958.1).

5.13.7.3 Service Fees

Service fees refer to the monetary compensation that a parish gives to supply priests for Masses, baptisms, weddings, confessions, penance services, funeral services, retreats, talks, or other ministerial activities. Service fees are not stipends; the stipend policy does not apply.

The purpose of the archdiocesan policy on service fees is to promote equity in the financial support of clergy and parity among parishes and other ministries in the archdiocese.

While the Church's abiding principle is that priests should not seek any compensation for administering the sacraments beyond voluntary offerings given to them by the parish or pastor/administrator, the archdiocese recognizes that customarily, supply priests are compensated, particularly when the priests may be relying on this compensation to support their personal needs or where a parish relies on supply priests to meet its ministerial requirements.

Accordingly, in consultation with the Council of Priests, the archbishop has established the following guidelines and parameters to which parishes are to refer. The guidelines recognize the wide range of resources available to parishes, the diverse practices among clergy, and the varying cultural traditions of the communities the priests may be serving. 

SERVICE

SUGGESTED SERVICE FEE

Daily Mass

$20–$50

Sunday Mass or a holy day of obligation Mass

$50–$100

Baptism

$25–$50

Wedding

$50–$100

Scheduled confession

$25–$50

Penance service

$50–$75

Funeral service

$50–$100

Retreat

$100 per day

Spiritual talk

$50–$100

Quinceañera, etc.

$50–$100​
















A priest who is assigned to a parish or who receives full in-residence benefits is not entitled to receive service fees from his parish. A priest must fulfill all of his ministerial responsibilities at his assigned location and receive approval from his pastor/administrator before accepting an invitation to serve in any capacity at another parish.

All service fees are considered taxable income to the individual priest, unless the priest is a member of a religious institute, in which case service fees are paid to his institute. Service fees must be reported by the individual priest on his tax returns. The parish will provide a report of the amounts paid to the IRS and will provide the priest with a W-2 form.

5.13.7.4 Masses and Services Not at a Parish Facility

Masses and other worship services (such as charismatic and healing masses, special ethnic and cultural celebrations and devotions, etc.) may be celebrated at a non-parish facility only with the permission of the regional bishop, moderator of the curia, or vicar for clergy. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, celebration of Masses in a home (other than for the homebound sick in special need) is not allowed unless prior permission has been granted by the moderator of the curia. The sponsoring organization, parish, or celebrant may request permission.

All proceeds from collections at such events belong to the sponsoring entity unless other arrangements have been made when permission is granted for the services. If the event includes the celebration of Mass, the collection may be taken, but the celebrant is entitled only to the applicable Mass service fee.

Given the nature of some special services, including healing services, and the potential vulnerability of some in attendance, the celebrant or other clergy participating in the event may not solicit individual participants for direct contributions. Violations of this policy will subject the priest to disciplinary action by the archdiocese and possible referral to civil law enforcement.

5.13.7.5 Bonuses

Priests may receive a bonus at Christmas and Easter as determined by the pastor/administrator. If the amount is given to the pastor/administrator on a customary basis and in a customary amount, the amount is to be reported as a taxable compensatory bonus.

5.13.7.6 Social Security/Medicare

The archdiocese requires that diocesan and eligible extern priests participate in the Social Security system. Under U.S. government regulations, priests are considered self-employed for Social Security/Medicare purposes. Therefore, the source of salary should never withhold payments for Social Security/Medicare from a priest's wages. Instead, the source of salary reimburses a priest for the quarterly self-employment tax payments the priest must remit from his wages for Social Security/Medicare. The priest's source of salary will advance Social Security payments to the priest; the priest is responsible for making the appropriate payments to Social Security.

A priest will be reimbursed for Social Security tax he has paid based on the total of his salary, the stated value of the parsonage allowance, and the "in lieu of stipends" amount. Reimbursement for Social Security tax is based on the previous year's W-2.

A priest who chooses to receive stipends will be reimbursed for Social Security tax on the total of his salary, the stipends he fulfilled, funeralia, the stated value of the parsonage allowance, and the All Souls Day offerings. He should submit a written statement to his source of salary specifying the amount for which he is seeking reimbursement and stating that he included this amount in his Social Security tax payment.

Members of religious institutes whose communities do not participate in the Social Security system may receive from their source of salary a sum of money equal to the Social Security tax, which is then to be given to the retirement fund of their community.

All externs (other than religious priests from communities that do not participate in the Social Security system) must be prepared to submit documentation upon request that verifies their participation in Social Security. An extern who does not qualify for Social Security and Medicare benefits at age 65, either because he has not yet received sufficient credits to qualify or has not paid into Social Security, may be disqualified from continuing in ministry in the archdiocese or may not participate fully in the archdiocesan benefits, depending upon the circumstances and review by the vicar for clergy.

5.13.7.7Housing and Room and Board

Priests in active parish ministry are expected to reside in the rectory or other house established in their parish for that purpose and to foster a sense of community life among the priests assigned to that parish or in residence at the parish. Since many priests now live alone or with only one other priest, deans are encouraged to promote a sense of community life among the priests in the deanery and, in particular, to create opportunities for priests to share community life with priests in their deanery. Retired priests and priests in residence should be included and encouraged to participate or take a leadership role in fostering a positive community experience for priests within their locale, including retired priests who may be living privately.

The parish is expected to provide adequate furnished living quarters and all meals. If a parish does not have a cook or a part-time cook, arrangements should be made for food in the rectory or reasonable meals out. The parish provides basic items such as linens, blankets, towels, laundry, dry cleaning, and other customary household items. The priest himself is responsible for all personal toiletries and other personal and health items.

The parish should also provide access to television and other basic informational and entertainment programming and electronic communications service in the office by the most reasonable means available. Priests are expected to participate in Clergy Connect, which provides clergy with a cell phone or other connected device. The parish or other source of salary may make a computer and other electronic devices available to the priest if the devices are integral to his ministry; he may also choose to be responsible for purchasing his own personal computer or other devices, as well as for paying related service charges. In all instances the priest's use of electronic communication devices is subject to the Acceptable Use and Responsibility Policy for Electronic Communications ("Archdiocesan AUP").

Parish insurance does not cover personal property and each priest should consider obtaining his own property insurance policy.

5.13.7.8 Transportation

To assist priests in carrying out their ministerial duties, the priests' source of salary shall provide a vehicle to those full-time priests who are officially assigned to the location and are able and licensed to drive in California. The current authorization for the price of a new vehicle is $21,000, including tax and license fees, and any amount in excess of $21,000 must have the prior approval of the regional bishop. Each priest has a right to a serviceable, safe, and adequate vehicle. A total of 100,000 miles and/or five years might serve as a guideline for replacement.

At the time of a trade-in, a priest, in collaboration with his pastor or other appropriate authority, may have his choice of vehicle and model within the guidelines set forth by the archdiocese. The pastor is not to give his used vehicle to the associate pastor unless this arrangement is agreeable to both parties. Otherwise, the used vehicle is to remain available for the needs of the parish or for a trade-in and cannot be disposed of without review by the Parish Finance Council. The amount allocated for the trade-in does not increase the total amount that may be spent on a new vehicle. A priest who wishes to purchase a vehicle that costs more than $21,000 must have the prior approval of the regional bishop or must personally fund the difference.

If a priest is unable to drive and does not have a vehicle, the parish is responsible for reasonable reimbursement for costs of transportation. Out of consideration for the safety and welfare of the priest and the public, the vicar for clergy will assist priests who are no longer able to drive with alternative transportation planning.

The archdiocese has no obligation to provide a vehicle to a priest who has no assignment. Extern priests who have an official full-time assignment and are able and licensed to drive are also to be supplied with a vehicle for their use by their source of salary. Visiting supply priests have no inherent right to the use of a vehicle. If a priest is allowed to use a parish vehicle, the pastor is responsible for ensuring that the priest has a driver license that is currently valid in California. Persons living in California generally must obtain a California license within 10 days of coming to the state. A copy of the license is to be made and kept on file for insurance purposes.

Gasoline and regular vehicle maintenance costs related to ministry shall be the responsibility of the source of salary. Traffic tickets, parking tickets, etc., are the priest's individual responsibility even if incurred during the course of duty. If an accident or arrest occurs during the operation of a vehicle by a priest, regardless of who is at fault, it must be reported immediately to the Insurance Department or the moderator of the curia at the archdiocese. As a general matter, archdiocesan vehicles may not be insured when being driven out of state and are not insured to drive in Mexico. Any travel with a vehicle outside of California must be coordinated through the archdiocesan Insurance Department to arrange for special insurance coverage or to determine whether a rental vehicle may be the preferred arrangement.

5.13.7.9 Archdiocesan Health Plan for Priests

The archdiocese maintains health plans in which priests participate. For more detailed information, contact the archdiocesan Insurance Department. Information concerning health plan and related benefits are provided to clergy at the time they receive faculties from the archdiocese and annually during the Open Enrollment period.

The following are eligible for health insurance coverage under one of the archdiocesan plans:

  • Priests, whether diocesan or religious, who hold an official full-time assignment in the archdiocese

  • Incardinated priests who do not hold an official full-time assignment

  • Student priests residing and assisting in a diocesan parish

  • Priests belonging to rites other than the Latin Rite who serve within the boundaries of this archdiocese

The following are not eligible for coverage:

  • Priests from other dioceses or religious communities who are offered hospitality by this archdiocese

  • Priests doing summer supply or other temporary work in the archdiocese

  • Priests belonging to religious institutes that have parishes or institutions in the archdiocese, but who serve outside the archdiocese

Priests in full-time ministry are customarily reimbursed by their source of salary for that portion of covered medical or prescription expenses not paid by the insurance plan. If a priest chooses a non-preferred provider or medicine, this reimbursement may be limited. Procedures not covered under the plan(s) are the personal responsibility of the priest. Priests should consult the vicar for clergy for information on these matters.

Retired Priests and Priests Eligible for Medicare

For retired priests eligible for Medicare, Medicare is primary and bills in excess of what Medicare covers are submitted to the archdiocesan Retired Priests Supplemental Health Plan overseen by the archdiocesan Insurance Department.

For priests eligible for Medicare who are not retired, archdiocesan insurance remains the primary coverage; the priests are expected to register for Medicare Part A coverage as their secondary coverage. All priests are to apply for Medicare before their 65th birthday. Retired priests who elect the EPO plan follow the guidelines of that plan.

5.13.7.10 403(b) Plan

Incardinated priests for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will receive a monthly contribution from their source of salary to an archdiocesan-organized 403(b) plan. The amount of the monthly contribution is determined by the archdiocesan Financial Services Department. The purpose is to assist archdiocesan priests to prepare for retirement and the high cost of living in Southern California. Priests may designate part of their own monthly salary as an added contribution. For more detailed information, contact the archdiocesan Financial Services Department.

Retirement for Religious Priests in Ministry

Religious institute priests serving in parish ministry in the archdiocese may be reimbursed for the same retirement amount received by religious institute priests working in education, campus ministry, and archdiocesan offices or in similar assignments. For exact amounts, refer to the Compensation for Religious Financial Guidelines circulated annually by the archdiocese. (The sum equal to Social Security is included in this amount and is not added to it.)

5.13.7.11 Time Off

Days off are important and should not be delayed in an attempt to accumulate them for extended periods. A priest is encouraged to take an overnight away from the parish for his day off, when possible. He may leave in the evening after finishing his duties for the day (recognizing that evenings are prime time for priests in parish ministry), and he will be available to do a full day's work on the day following his day off. Alternatively, he may leave on the morning of his day off and return by noon the following day. Flexibility in adjusting days off is expected in order to meet parish needs (e.g., funerals).

Priests 65 and older are entitled to two days off per week. For example, the priest might take time off starting on Tuesday morning and return Wednesday night, or he might take a full day on Tuesday and a full day on Friday.

Vacation

Each priest is entitled to a month's vacation, but the period should not exceed four Sundays. Traditionally in the archdiocese, priests also receive five days off after Christmas and Easter. The Christmas and Easter breaks may be taken at any convenient time depending on the needs of the location. The time after Christmas and Easter is important recovery time and normally should not be delayed to be combined with summer vacation. Likewise, it is important to take vacation time each year. Vacation may not be accumulated to the following year. Time away leading pilgrimages is considered vacation time.

5.13.7.12 Policy on Loans to Priests

In cases of need when a priest's personal financial resources are insufficient to enable him to meet significant expenses (e.g., a parental health crisis), the archdiocese is willing to make loans to its priests at a reasonable rate of interest.

To apply for a loan, the priest must first contact the vicar for clergy and the moderator of the curia, who will refer him to the appropriate person in the Financial Services Department. The priest must supply copies of his recent income tax returns and supporting documentation, as well as complete an application form inquiring about his assets and current financial status. The amount and terms of the loan (e.g., any collateral, the rate of interest, and a schedule for repayment) will be negotiated with the priest by the Financial Services Department. Final approval of the loan is reserved to the moderator of the curia. The terms of the loan will be incorporated into a promissory note to be signed by the priest.

5.13.7.13 Benefits for Visiting Priests

Visiting priests are not covered by the archdiocesan health insurance, pension benefits, or similar plans, but they are entitled to housing and room and board.

The source of salary is not required to provide visiting priests with a vehicle. If any transportation is provided, it should be for work in a parish. If a visitor is allowed to use a parish vehicle, the pastor/administrator is responsible for ensuring that the visitor has a valid driver license allowing him to drive in California.

Normally, the pastor arranges a reasonable service fee with the priest. ​


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