Good discussion on the Bishop Martino thread. Join in if you wish.
Regarding Catholic school teachers, let me relate an incident passed on by a friend in Catholic education many years ago. The pastor was assembling a list of big parish donors: print it up in the bulletin, honor them by name and numbers, and encourage new donors. My friend, when he heard about the amounts of money donated, asked out loud why his name and the names of his teaching colleagues weren’t on the list. What do you mean, the priest asked. He figured the parish school’s teachers were working for wages about 30-35% below what their public school counterparts were earning. My friend thought it was perfectly reasonable to list the people who were “tithing” thirty percent next to the wealthy upper crust who weren’t matching percentage of earnings, let alone dollar amounts in some cases. The pastor was horrified at the thought.
I don’t recall if I was told the list went forward with traditional donors only. Maybe prospective givers were emboldened. I tend to doubt that Catholic educators were encouraged.
I have served three parishes with Catholics schools. My colleagues in catechesis and education have been singularly generous, dedicated, and fine examples of the Christian faith to children and adults. Pastors, for the most part, are appreciative of teachers. They may also feel a bit of shame that they can’t pay a market wage. But for career educators to persist in serving the Church and our children for decades is a testament to their commitment, a commitment that transcends drawing a paycheck or working under particular shepherds.
If only bishops like Joseph Martino could match this fervor.
Frequent commenter John “knows” I don’t like Bishop Martino. I’m sure he’s a fine guy and a decent priest. But no, I tend to dislike bullies–and that’s how he bears himself in the public eye.
It may be that Catholic pragmatism has buried parish schools. Catholic education may be a value if it costs $100 per year, with $10 per extra child as it was in my home parish back in 1969. (As non-Catholics, my parents paid double: $240 for the three of us.) But as the price goes up, more takers have stepped out of the picture. I don’t have any easy answers for parish-based schools. If the government were willing to subsidize them as they do in Europe, I suppose the landscape would be totally different. Conservatives would demur, I suppose.
As to my suggestion that lay people share in the benefits accorded priests, John wrote:
I don’t think the comparison with clergy makes any sense, Todd. First of all, clergy compensation is rather modest, although it does include room and board. But priests promise at ordination to obey the Bishop and his successors, and at least theoretically to go where they’re sent and to do the job they’re told to do. They commit their lives. Would lay teachers be willing to make a similar commitment?
Clergy get a bit more than room and board. They get cars, sometimes cooks and housekeepers, often education, and the like. I lived for two years in a parish house (rectory) and worked for a lower salary in return for certain benefits. I had few objections to an arrangement like that. The average priest compensation in parishes I’ve served is about $45,000 to $50,000. Below Protestants, but still above most teachers.
John’s last question is a good one:
Would lay teachers be willing to make a similar commitment?
It’s a good question. I know many teachers who have made this commitment. I know a few others who might. Most are the secondary wage-earners in their family, so when the husband (usually) gets transferred, the teacher moves on.
Personally speaking, I’ve never been asked to make this kind of commitment. The only people I’ve known who suggested I might have a vocation to the priesthood were lay women. I worked as a single man in the Church for seven years under three pastors. None of them suggested I make a commitment.
But as I’ve entered by sixth decade of life, there’s a certain attraction to the stability of working under a bishop in a particular diocese. Too bad the Church doesn’t recognize that kind of vocation, outside of the diaconate, perhaps.
I probably dislike Bishop Martino less than I find him frustrating. Bishops like him lack the vision to open up to God’s desires and the possibilities of ministry and commitment. They have no frame of reference for the deeply committed lay people who serve with them to spread the Gospel. They see lay people and sometimes their own clergy as commodities–much like the corporate masters of the secular world. They hire multiple business managers for their dioceses and parishes, but vanishingly few spiritual directors. They seem more interested in saving a buck or two than investing in their most valuable resource: personnel. They alienate their lay partners in ministry, and do so with a callousness that betrays a lack of intellect, much less any sort of spiritual sensibility.
Naturally a lot of single lay people come to work for the Church. Often they come young. You’d think these folks would be prime candidates for orders and religious life, yet vocation directors and bishops still troll the high schools looking for the immature, untested, and … sure, some really good young guys.
If someone were to ask me what I’d be willing to do, I suspect the answer would be quite a lot. I’d have lots of company. Sad thing is that most Roman Catholic bishops don’t even think about asking the question. They’re not even in the same ballpark. It’s hard to maintain anger in a situation like that. I feel pity for them.