Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Sign In


Print this topic

5.13.8 Retirement Process and Benefits​​

​​The Archdiocese of Los Angeles' primary pension plan for incardinated archdiocesan priests is a Qualified Retirement Plan ("Qualified Plan"). This Qualified Plan is government regulated; thus, strict guidelines apply to plan operations. The archdiocese also maintains a Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan ("SERP") for priests from which it draws funds for additional benefits not covered by the Qualified Plan, such as the allowance for living outside the rectory, certain medical reimbursements, car insurance, retreats, and convocations. ​

Only vested incardinated priests who are retired and are at least 70 years old will receive retirement benefits from the Qualified Plan. Any additional benefit payments will be made from SERP. Retirement allowances provided for qualified externs are paid by SERP.  

5.13.8.1 Retirement Age

The usual age of retirement for priests is 70; every priest must submit his resignation on his 75th birthday. In special circumstances, any active archdiocesan priest with an official assignment from the archdiocese and who has reached the age of 65 can request retirement from the archbishop. The acceptance of all retirement requests is the responsibility of the archbishop who, following consultation, may accept the request. All benefits before the age of 70 are paid through the Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan ("SERP").

If an incardinated priest who is vested in the Qualified Retirement Plan ("Qualified Plan") chooses to remain in full-time active ministry after the age of 70, his payments under the Qualified Plan are postponed until he is no longer in full-time service. In the meantime, his years of service continue to accumulate. He continues on the regular payroll of his source of salary for all his salary and benefits. He is also entitled to six weeks of annual vacation as well as an additional stipend of $400 a month from SERP. Those interested in this program should make their request in writing to the vicar for clergy.

5.13.8.2 How a Priest Retires

A priest wishing to retire from full-time active ministry sends his request in writing to the archbishop. The letter should include:

  • His age

  • His current health

  • His proposed living circumstances

  • The proposed date of retirement

  • Any other relevant information

Unless health concerns or other factors suggest that a different date is more appropriate, retirements normally take effect on July 1 to facilitate the process of making a new assignment on the customary date for changes in assignments. Under certain circumstances, priests may retire effective January 1 or on another date approved by the archbishop.

Before a priest's request for retirement is effective, each priest is required to submit to the vicar for clergy the following documents and information:

  • A legally valid and updated will or trust that is to be submitted in a sealed envelope, dated on the outside, and opened only on a need-to-know basis, at the priest's request, or on the occasion of his death; given the increasing number of retired priests and the continual increase in medical expenses, all priests of the archdiocese are encouraged to remember the archdiocese or the priests' pension plans in their estate planning

  • A properly executed and current durable power of attorney for health care

  • A properly executed and current power of attorney for financial matters

  • A medical information release form

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the person(s) whom the priest has authorized to serve as co-signer, financial administrator, or power of attorney for financial matters

  • The names and addresses of the priest's next of kin and the telephone number of an emergency contact

  • Information concerning any arrangements made at an archdiocesan cemetery or the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels mausoleum; it is highly recommended that the priest requesting retirement also provide any other instructions regarding funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements that he may wish to make

The Office of the Vicar for Clergy is responsible for enforcing these requirements. The Office of the Vicar of Clergy and the Office of the Legal Counsel of the archdiocese will assist priests in preparing or arranging to have the required documents executed if the priest does not have his own counsel or advisors.

During their retirement, priests are also expected to provide to the Office of the Vicar for Clergy any revisions or updates that they make to the documents and information.

Retired priests are invited to stay fully informed concerning archdiocesan activities through meetings, regular communication, and the annual lunch hosted by the archbishop. In addition, the archdiocese has Clergy Connect, which is an electronic communication system for Internet access and email to which retired priests have full access. If any retired priest does not have web access, an email address, or a fax number, he should contact the Office of the Vicar for Clergy so that timely material can be mailed via USPS.

5.13.8.3 Role of the Retired Priest

The priesthood of Jesus Christ involves a lifelong call to ministry. Retired priests, therefore, remain a part of the presbyterate and continue to share in its mission. To the degree that their health, energy, personal circumstances, charisms, and interests permit, retired priests are encouraged to continue in some form of priestly ministry, to take active part in deanery meetings, and to participate in other gatherings of the presbyterate.

If a priest chooses retirement from full-time active ministry and resides in a rectory, whether in a parish in which he had previously served or another parish to which he is invited to move upon retirement, he should be invited to participate in the ministry of that parish and be given suitable opportunities to do so. In turn, the retired priest is expected to be cooperative and supportive of the pastor/administrator. On retirement and while continuing to reside in the parish of his final assignment, a pastor in good standing is designated as pastor emeritus.

Whether living in a rectory or elsewhere, many opportunities for ministry exist across the archdiocese. Retired priests are encouraged to consult the vicar for clergy for information and assistance in identifying potential ministries of interest.

5.13.8.4 Living Arrangements upon Retirement

Arrangements for Priests Remaining in the Location of Their Last Assignment

In general, priests who retire in the same community where they have forged strong eucharistic bonds and personal friendships tend to have more fulfilling retirement years than those priests who have moved to a community where they do not have those same bonds.

No two parish communities are the same; therefore, each case must be reviewed and evaluated by the affected parties with the regional bishop to determine the appropriate arrangements. The regional bishop will also consider any changes that might be required in the facilities should it be determined that the retired priest will continue to reside in his former parish. The spirituality, emotional stability, physical health, and temperament of the retiring priest are important factors in arriving at a decision on whether it is suitable for him to retire in the rectory of his final assignment.

The physical layout of the rectory, its space, and the space impact on the incoming pastor/administrator must be carefully evaluated. The ability of the retiring priest to remain in the rectory may be affected if the parish is put under the direction of a religious community or a parish life director.

In circumstances where a retiring pastor wishes to become the pastor emeritus and remain in the parish, particular consideration will be given to his preferences as well as to the particular needs of the life of the parish. If difficulties arise in determining whether a pastor emeritus will continue living in the parish, the vicar for clergy will provide the parties with the procedure to resolve the difficulties, including the process for the regional bishop to convene a committee to assist him and to monitor the matter after a housing decision has been made.

For a priest who is retired in a rectory, the parish should provide regular meals and reasonable reimbursement for eating out if meals are not provided on a given day.

Arrangements for Priests Not Remaining in the Location of Their Last Assignment

If a retired priest who resides in a rectory or other archdiocesan facility moves from that facility, the decision must be his own in so far as is feasible. If the decision for relocation is not agreeable to him, the matter should be referred to the regional bishop and the vicar for clergy.

If a priest elects to live outside a rectory or archdiocesan facility, his monthly stipend will include a housing allowance. Further detailed information on the current benefit level can be obtained from the priests' pension administrator at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center.

5.13.8.5 Retirement Benefits

This handbook provides only a summary of the retirement benefits for priests. The governing documents are the Qualified Retirement Plan ("Qualified Plan") and the Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan ("SERP"). Copies of the plan summaries are available from the priests' pension administrator at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center (ACC).

The Pension Board has overall responsibility for managing and coordinating the pension plans. Pension Board members include active and retired priests. The Pension Board reviews the current actuarial status and pension benefit premiums every three years and makes needed adjustments as feasible.

An incardinated priest is officially vested in the Qualified Plan after 120 months (10 years) of active service. At least once a year, each priest in active ministry should receive a copy of his benefit service credit as it is recorded in the pension office of the archdiocese.

Vested, incardinated priests who are retired and are at least 70 years old are eligible for retirement benefits from the Qualified Plan. The amount of benefits from the Qualified Plan is determined by years of participation in the plan. The amount of the benefit as well as the housing allowance for those living outside the rectory is set by the Pension Board. Eligible priests are required to participate in the Social Security and Medicare programs so that they receive those benefits; the archdiocese is not responsible for funding eligible persons who have not participated in those programs. Deficiencies will not be paid, as a general matter, from SERP or other archdiocesan resources.

Declining to Accept Pension Benefits

Any retired priest is free to decline retirement payments or benefits at any time by advising the priests' pension administrator at the ACC. Once a retirement or benefit payment has been declined, that particular payment cannot be reissued or recovered. Generally, benefits or payments can be resumed at any time with proper notification in writing to the priests' pension administrator.

5.13.8.6 Accrual of Benefits

Effective with their first priestly assignment, priests ordained for service in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and, upon incardination, former extern priests, are enrolled in the Qualified Retirement Plan ("Qualified Plan"). Priests whose status is active leave may not qualify for service credit unless the terms of the leave provide that the priests will be covered and will accrue service credit. Inactive leave, government employment, or any public or private employment is considered as "service elsewhere" and does not accrue service credit. If a priest is not in service full-time in the archdiocese, he will not accrue service credits for the period of time that he is out of service. The priest should be provided a statement in writing explaining that he will not be covered and will not accrue service credit.

Those priests who retired before the inception of the original archdiocesan Retirement Plan in 1993 will be paid benefits based on their active service in the archdiocese as extern or incardinated priests.

5.13.8.7 Retirement Contributions

The source of salary is expected to make pension plan contributions for a priest with a full­-​time assignment in the archdiocese. The amount of the payment is determined by the Pension Board with the approval of the archbishop. The nature of the plan is to provide for the current needs of retired priests as well as maintain a reserve for future needs. Contributions are not invested in the name of or for the exclusive benefit of an individual priest.

Priests from Another Diocese or Religious in Diocesan Parishes (Externs)


The primary responsibility for the maintenance and care of a priest while in ministry and in retirement belongs to the diocese of his incardination or with his religious institute. The archdiocese does not assume the housing, medical, long-term health care, or vehicle or other financial requirements for externs upon their retirement or termination of ministry in the archdiocese.

However, the archdiocese does wish to acknowledge the important assistance that externs provide. Accordingly, a fund has been established through the Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan ("SERP") to provide benefits for priests who have given significant years of service to the archdiocese. While these contributions are considered part of the compensation to which extern priests are entitled, they are not intended to be a comprehensive retirement benefit.

It is understood that an extern will return to his home diocese or community upon completion of his assignment in the archdiocese. Priests who return to their home diocese for retirement may receive some benefits from the archdiocese upon reaching age 70. Some externs—because of family living in the area or other reasons—may choose to remain in the archdiocese and, if so, may be eligible to receive certain benefits at age 70. Upon retirement or completion of an assignment, an extern who remains in the archdiocese generally lives outside the rectory.

Priests from other dioceses or religious priests living apart from their communities (externs) who have an official full-time archdiocesan assignment participate in the archdiocesan pension plans. Payments are made by the source of salary for each priest, beginning at the end of the first year of full-time official assignment in the archdiocese. The amount of the payment is determined each year by the Pension Board with the approval of the archbishop. An extern can only be credited for months of active service in the archdiocese if his source of salary contributed to the plans in his name.

Exceptions from participation in the archdiocesan plan may be made by the vicar for clergy (e.g., when priests participate in an established plan in their own diocese or religious institute). In such a case, the source of salary will make a contribution to the priest's other plan; the amount will not exceed the base retirement assessment paid yearly for religious serving the archdiocese.

If an extern is incardinated into the archdiocese, he will be credited with his time of service as an extern when his vesting and benefit amount are determined under the Qualified Retirement Plan ("Qualified Plan"). Externs who are never incardinated into the archdiocese and for whom contributions have been made to the pension plans for at least five years may receive benefits, upon request to the Pension Board, when they retire and are at least 70 years old. The amount will be paid from SERP and will not exceed the comparable time of service benefit paid by the Qualified Plan.

If an extern priest chooses to remain in full-time active ministry after the age of 70, he continues on the regular payroll of his source of salary for all his salary and benefits. He is also entitled to six weeks of annual vacation, as well as an additional stipend of $400 a month from SERP. Those interested in this program should make their request in writing to the vicar for clergy.

For priests in religious institutes that are staffing a parish, annual contributions to the retirement funds are set by the moderator of the curia, with the approval of the archbishop.​

5.13.8.8 Other Retirement Benefits

The following benefits are available only to those priests in good standing who are incardinated into the archdiocese and were in full-time active ministry at the time of their retirement.

Transportation

Upon retirement, unless health or safety reasons require otherwise, customarily a priest is given a suitable vehicle by his source of salary. Title to the vehicle is transferred to the priest at retirement. The retired priest is personally responsible for the purchase of any additional vehicles he may wish to buy during his retirement.

The retired priest is to arrange for car insurance. The cost of the insurance for the vehicle provided at retirement or an equivalent replacement purchased by the retired priest is reimbursed through the Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan ("SERP"). The retired priest is responsible for insurance for any other vehicles or for vehicles where insurance exceeds the customary amounts. The parish will cover usual vehicle operating and maintenance expenses for retired priests who live in the parish rectory and are able to drive.

Retreats and Convocations​

Retired priests are obliged to make an annual retreat and are encouraged to participate in the annual Ongoing Formation Week, the Chrism Day of Recollection and Mass, the annual Convocation of Priests, and the retired priests' luncheon. Costs are covered by SERP.

Medical Expenses and Convalescent Care

Medicare is the primary health insurance for retired priests. All archdiocesan priests must apply for Medicare Part A at age 65, even if they are not intending to retire until age 70 or later. Before retirement, priests must apply for Medicare Part B. Medicare is valid only for health care within the United States. Priests who choose to live all or part of their retirement in other countries are responsible for arranging their own health insurance either through the national health plan of that country or through a personal health insurance policy valid in that country.

  • Retired priests and priests eligible for Medicare: For retired priests eligible for Medicare, that plan is primary; bills in excess of what Medicare and other health insurance plans cover should be submitted to the archdiocese under SERP. Priests eligible for Medicare and who are not retired continue on the archdiocesan plans, which coordinate with Medicare according to archdiocesan and plan protocols.

  • Supplemental coverage through the pension plan: The archdiocese cares about the health and welfare of its retired priests. No priest will be left without adequate health care. For those needs not covered by Medicare or archdiocesan plans, special arrangements provide a priest up to $20,000 in additional medical coverage each year. Catastrophic illness and skilled nursing care can be very expensive. While its priests are young and in good health, the archdiocese encourages them to purchase a supplemental policy to cover convalescent and long-term care. The vicar for clergy is developing resources and referrals for consultation on these matters.

5.13.8.9 Incardinated Priests Who Leave Active Ministry

Incardinated priests who leave full-time active ministry before reaching retirement age:

  • Will be vested in the Qualified Retirement Plan ("Qualified Plan") if they have served in active ministry for 120 months (10 years)

  • Are eligible for vested benefits under the Qualified Plan at age 70

  • Are not eligible for benefits under the Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan except with a written exception from the archbishop

Requests for these benefits should be sent to the priests' Pension Board in writing. 


Resources