Parish Salaries: Public Information or Not?

Here’s an interesting discussion for you parish folk. Pew people. Clergy. Lay ecclesial ministers. Catholic school administration and teachers.

Fr Jon brought a request to the staff meeting today. The Finance and Budget committees are preparing the budget earlier than ever this year. I’ve already submitted my ’11-’12 worship numbers. As the groups discuss salaries, there was a request that more information on what we earn be distributed. How do we compare with other campus ministries around the country? With similar parishes in our archdiocese and in the Des Moines metro area? If staff members are being asked to swallow a salary freeze, they ask, exactly where are we asking them to stay?

So Fr Jon mentioned that only three people in the parish know what the staff earns: he does, our business manager, and the financial secretary. Did we object if the working committees knew? Here’s my answer:

No. Tell anybody, not only those who need to know, but those who want to know.

I have no real worries about my current position, and neither, I think, does my pastor. For the last ten years, I’ve been able to support a family and a largely stay-at-home spouse.

In many parishes, I suspect the pastor doesn’t want people to know not because of what the people will think about employees, but because of what they will think of him.

So here’s the discussion: why shouldn’t parishes make available the breakdown on the personnel line? If you parish does or doesn’t, is that good or not? Would you prefer nobody knew what you earn as a church employee.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to Parish Salaries: Public Information or Not?

  1. Mike K says:

    Todd, I am with you 100 percent. It may be a risk for the pastor who does this, but it would be – IMHO – the most complete form of consulting with the laity.

    The only possible risk is basic human jealousy (the parish secretary, for example, might get upset that you make more than she does). But that’s a risk worth taking. It allows the parish as a whole – laity, religious, priests – to have a healthy discussion about what’s needed to keep the parish operating, and what might be excess. And while publicizing this information might – and should – lead to a healthy discussion, it should not be allowed to diminish or reduce the roll of the pastor/parish priest in any way. By Canon Law, he has the final say on all matters related to the parish, including finances.

    I’m not sure about this, but aren’t parish financial councils now required in most (if not all) parishes in the US?

  2. No.
    No.
    No!

    I’ve been at this professionally for forty plus years. The clergy is hardly prepared to explain to a disparate laity who are predisposed towards contention in most things ecclesial, much less rationally explain why this person is compensated for talents and bodies of work and accomplishment that cannot be compared/contrasted/measured to other professionals on staff. Yes, the finance council should be provided total access to all budgetary concerns; but they should represent a balanced and competent fiscal interest. But when the day comes that I can, without fear, ask what each congregation at each of our churches donates in first and second collections, then the laity can argue whether I’m worth what I’m paid.
    Professionalism means many different things to different people. Proof is in the pudding.

  3. Mike says:

    The people pay your salary with their donations, Charles. They should know what they’re paying you.

  4. Y’know, I’ve been at my present parish assignment for the last 19 of those 40+ plus years. Not one raise in salary is to be seen in the rear view mirror. Not a problem. And I’ve seen a great deal that exemplifies the realities of the economic and political arenas of parish life, in the pews, the offices and among the individuals and factions of the faithful.
    But you’re absolutely correct, Mike. You know best. I’ll just chalk this one up to naivete. My bad.

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