How are priests and nuns compensated re pay and benefits?

Do they get a reasonable salary? What are benefits & retirement like?

It depends.

Let me start with religious priests and nuns (as opposed to diocesan priests).

First, many priests and nuns have actual jobs with actual salaries from whomever it is that is employing them. Say a nun that works as a nurse in a hospital will be paid by the hospital a salary similar to any other non-nun nurse in that hospital.

That salary, though, normally doesn’t go to their pockets. It goes to their congregation (the Jesuits, the Franciscans, whatever). Their congregation, in turn, pays for all their expenses (rent, meals) and often gives them a “discretionary budget” for them to buy all those minor little things that are too much of a pain to ask for (toothpaste, movie tickets, etc).

In many cases, they live in a house owned by the congregation, so there is no rent or meals to pay. Cars are normally owned by the congregation so there are no car payments and they get money for gas.

All these expenses are covered no matter what the actual job situation is. A member that works a highly paid job gets his expenses paid the same as some other that cleans the garden at their house. Ditto for retirement. The expenses are just covered no matter how much you contribute or have contributed to the congregation.

This can mean anything from a life of affluence to miserly poor, depending on the congregation’s finances. Many small sisters orders are desperately poor, while the big names offer a real bullet proof financial stability.
Diocesan priests are a different matter. Usually they just pay themselves from whatever comes from the collection. They must save for their own retirement and own their cars, house and all that. They also give/receive contribution to/from the Dioceses depending on how viable their parish is. Again, this ranges from desperate poverty in some locations to a life of luxury in more affluent areas or to priests who secure generous sponsors.

In addition to that, in some countries priests of all denominations get to draw a paycheck from the State - here in France, they get minimum wage, although not all opt to accept it (our own pastor for example didn’t care to, as he already got substantial State money from teaching physics in a prestigious public university and didn’t need the double whammy).

I don’t know whether that only applies to diocesan priests or if monks & nuns get some of that too, either through individual checks or bulk subsidies to their congregation.

I have a sister who is a nun and a nephew who is a priest. The Nun’s get a small pittance to buy personal things. Most money is handled by the head of the order who is called Mother. My nephew gets some money from the diocese and some from donations from the people who have him say a Mass, both have their health care,food, room, and board supplied by the diocese. My sister is 86 and still does sewing for her order.


Huh? I guess you must live in Alsace or Lorraine, because those are the only parts of France where priests (or pastors, rabbis, whatever) are paid by the state due to them being under German control in 1905.

Otherwise, priests in France are paid by the Catholic Church, and, I understand, not much.

Not I (born and bred parisian asshole :p) but he did come from Alsace and was already a priest there before he moved here so maybe he got the wrong idea - or, much more likely, I misremember his explanation and got my stuff mixed up, as it’s been quite a long while since I’ve last graced the temple with my presence.

In any case, thanks, I stand corrected.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the US…(this was as of 2000)

I work at a college run by Franciscan friars (and a few priests). A few years ago, an article stated that the college president got $400 a month. The other friars get paid less, maybe $200.

These costs are solely for incidentals. The friars live in the friary with a cozy common room plus dining. Their meals are included (and the used to have a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America, so they were good).

Incidentally, on Canadian income tax forms, there is an actual line where you can list the fact that you are a nun or monk living under a vow of poverty and have turned your income over to your order, with (I suppose) various favourable tax consequences.

(We’ve had various interesting stories about that. At one point, a nun from Nova Scotia was named a senator, but owing to her vow of poverty, she would not have been able to meet the - in most cases obsolete - property requirement. The convent transferred some land to her name, enabling her to make the cutoff.)
What I’d like to know is: according to the description by Sapo, as a religious you must turn your earnings over to your order, and consequently cannot save any money. Now if they stay in the order that’s fine, they will presumably be taken care of in their old age as well. I would like to know whether there is an arrangement for religious who leave the order. Do they get some kind of severance, or do they have to start over with nothing?

I can’t say that this is typical, but…

I went to a Catholic high school. My calculus teacher was a priest (in fact, he’d gone to high school, at a different Catholic school, with my father).

As it turned out, he had become a priest, in part, because his mother had wanted one of her sons to become a priest (he had a twin brother, who pursued a secular career). Soon after his mother died, he left the priesthood, and, soon thereafter, married. (At this point, he was in his early 60s.)

His mother had some money in her estate…but, she didn’t leave anything to the (now ex-) priest, since his retirement needs were going to have been provided for him by his order. And, his twin brother (who was named executor) turned out to be rather a jerk about it, and refused to give his brother anything from their mother’s estate. My understanding is that, because he’d left the order, they were under no obligation to provide him with a retirement, either.

So, the ex-priest took a new job, teaching math at a local prison. My father keeps in touch with him, and tells me that he’s still teaching, at age 75, not because he really wants to, but because he needs to get in enough years working for the state to get a real pension, since none of his salary from his years as a priest ever even had any Social Security taxes taken from it.

I’ve heard of it being a problem for defrocked priests too. But I don’t remember any detail.

Some defrocked priests have received pensions. The issue hasn’t been consistently resolved as yet.

From what I know, they do get some kind of severance, but it is entirely up to the congregation and has little to do with what the member contributed.

I saw some guys keep their cars (just signed over to their name) and some transition money. Plus the order kept all their debts (student loans and all that). All in all, it was somehow making sure they were not leaving in a tight spot, but not a whole lot more than that. I am sure mileage does vary a lot on this one.

One of our local hospitals is a Catholic-owned and run system that is run by actual nuns. The administrator is a nun, as are numerous staff members. They’re covered under the same Blue Cross plan that the rest of the employees get. AFAIK, most doctors’ offices are happy to waive the balance, if there is one, due to the nuns’ vow of poverty.


See, Siena overpays its president. Our Vincentian president gets an annual salary of $0 :smiley:

My mother went to a Catholic University and was studying to be a nurse (in the 40s) she used to say the nuns couldn’t go any where alone and they’d always tag along with the student, who had to buy them their movie tickets, or ice cream sodas or whatever, 'cause the nuns never had any money

When I was a seminarian, it used to be the other way around. With all my expenses paid, my discretionary budget was almost purely my entertainment budget and my friends were always the stereotypical students with debts and no money. I used to treat them to the movies, ice cream sodas (make that beers), or whatever.

The OP didn’t specify, but obviously all the discussion has been about Catholic priests and nuns.

In the Episcopal Church (the American offshoot of the Anglican Church or Church of England), clergy are paid on a scale determined by each diocese based upon the size and budget of the church at which they serve. Clergy who teach or do other work are paid whatever the employing institution chooses to offer and they choose to accept. All Episcopal clergy pay into, and may draw from, the same big retirement system, which I’ve heard is pretty generous.

There are a handful of Episcopal nuns, and I don’t know how they’re paid.

When a priest at my old parish died, he left evreything he’d saved through his life to the parish. I know that most priests and nuns are expected to kicka good bit back to the diocese or their order. And one priest mentioned in a homily that he has the option of paying into social security or not. He chose to pay into it, noting that his mother received social security benefits.