U.S. Clergy Among Highest Paid Worldwide
By Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald
Some Priests Salaries Inconsistent with Compensation Plan
BOSTON – One of the most basic issues that Greek Orthodox parishes are faced with on a daily basis throughout the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is the salaries of the priests. It is common knowledge, however, that the Greek Orthodox clergy in the U.S. are among the highest paid of all the other Orthodox jurisdictions, including the entire Orthodox Church in the world and also those in Greece.
An average salary in Greece for priests who have a Theology diploma from the Theological Schools of Athens or Thessalonica is between 900 to 1,100 euros per month, while a metropolitan’s salary does not exceed 1,500 euros monthly.
According to the official Clergy Compensation Plan for 2008 that was sent to parishes by the Office of the Chancellor and the Archdiocese Benefits Committee, a priest with service of up to 5 years is paid about $45,408-$61,488 annually. Other payment plans include: priests with service of 6-10 years are paid $61,488-$68,520; service of 11-15 years are paid $68,520-$78,528; service of 16-20 years are paid $78,528-$87,288; service of 21-25 years are paid $87,288-$93,480; service of 26-30 years are paid $93,480-$99,480; service of 31-35 years are paid $99,480-$105,240; and service of over 35 years are paid $105,240-$111,048.
The Clergy Compensation Plan also provides that: “The annual minimum increase in a clergyman’s remuneration must include an annual cost of living increase beginning January 1 of each year. When using these remuneration ranges, the Parish Council should factor in the relative cost of living for its geographic area. In the event a parish provides ‘housing’ by making available a parish owned home, then an equitable and reasonable ‘deduction adjustment’ should be made from the Salary and Housing Allowance figures above, based on the local fair market rental value of the home being provided.”
The plan also provides that “in addition to the above, the parish must provide: an automobile (which the parish purchases or leases) for use by the priest, with all related expenses paid by the parish.
Social Security/Medicare taxes (FICA/SECA equal to the maximum self-employment Social Security/Medicare tax each year, currently 15.3% of Salary and the Housing Allowance (or rental value of a parish home).
The monthly health insurance premium for the Archdiocese-sponsored and approved Orthodox Health Plan, either single or family coverage, as appropriate. All clergymen of the Archdiocese are required to participate in the Orthodox Health Plan.
A minimum annual vacation of fifteen days (2 weeks) to a maximum of five (5) weeks, taking into consideration the clergyman’s cumulative years of service to the Archdiocese.
A three (3) month sabbatical leave for each six (6) years of service with the same parish.”
It is stated in the Compensation Plan that “all parishes are obligated to pay the monthly Archdiocese Benefits Contribution, which for the year 2008 is $450. This includes parishes without a full-time priest. Those parishes with more than one clergyman are required to pay $450 for each assigned clergyman…The Archdiocese Benefits Contribution is not a part of a priest’s remuneration package.”
The above scale is not always observed by the local Metropolises and in many parishes there are huge differences of salaries and benefits. The National Herald found out that there are priests with 50 years of continuous service in the same parish whose salary doesn’t exceed $50,000 annually, while there is the case of a two-year ordained priest who was appointed into a prominent good size parish with a starting salary of $81,000 and in the seven week period he has been pastoring in the parish he requested a $10,000 bonus.
There is also a priest who was appointed fairly recently in a cathedral with a $200,000 base salary and full benefits, while there are other clergy who really live below the poverty line.
The priests are appointed to the parishes supposedly by the Chancellor of each Metropolis, but actually it is the Metropolitan who makes the selection. In many cases, the unwritten law of friendships and favoritism prevails over education, experience and talents.
It is also true that the salary of many priests is much higher and in some instances double and triple than the Metropolitan’s which is around $70,000 per year.
One of the most basic reasons that so many converts are trying to get into the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese as priests is the fact that the Archdiocese is considered the golden fish of Orthodoxy, in other words, the parishes pay lofty salaries.
As far as the salaries of Greek school teachers is concerned, the difference is dramatic. First of all, according to Office of Education of the Archdiocese, there is no salary scale for teachers. The average monthly salary of an afternoon Greek schoolteacher is from $250 to $350 and for the day school teachers from $15,000-$22,000 annually. Teachers also have no health plan, neither pension plan of any kind.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
U.S. Clergy Among Highest Paid Worldwide