Source: The National Herald
By Theodoros Kalmoukos
The issue of the salaries and benefits of the clergy comes up very often for discussion in many if not all parishes, and certainly at various gatherings of Greek-Americans through the country.
Something has to be done to review this issue, because the way we are going, fewer and fewer parishes will be able to afford the high salaries and the demands of many of our priests.
Let me say that I have great respect and honor for those faithful, humble, and ethical priests and bishops, no matter in what corner of the world, who serve because they are heavenly men or earthly angels, if you wish. Be assured that there are such priests and bishops, but they are invisible amid the showy lightweight noisemakers.
I do believe that the priests should get decent salaries in order to enjoy a decent quality of life with their families. Like everyone else, they have necessities and obligations. They have children to raise and educate, and of course, those of us with college-age children know first hand the high cost of tuition.
Certainly, the issue here is not about them, but rather about those who make more than CEOs of large corporations. I take issue with those who use “the piety to make money” and exhibit scandalous mercenary-like behavior.
The Archdiocese of America is the Orthodox Church’s golden fish. That is primarily why priests from other jurisdictions such as the Orthodox Church in America, including Russian, Antiochian, and Romanian clerics, go to the Greek Archdiocese, because the Greek communities pay well. Those priests earn $30,000 per year on average and are forced to take on second jobs in order to survive. I don’t think the day is far off that our Greek Orthodox priests will have to do the same, because our communities become smaller and smaller and cannot endure the huge financial demands many priests have and that the bishops impose on the parishes. The generations who used to put their hand into their pocket and gave generously or burned themselves cooking at the grills at Greek festivals, or went around selling lottery tickets to collect money to pay the priests’ and the bishops’ salaries are gone. The new generations have woken up, and they are not willing to continue the pathetic system to finance the lavish lives of the clergy of every rank.
Here are some suggestions:
- It is time the so-called “tihera” (tips) given to priests and bishops when they do sacraments or Vesper Services to stop, because it is a kind of unprejudiced simony. It is unacceptable the moment they have good salaries and benefits. Basically, they are paid to pray, to condescend to accept “tips,” like waiters in restaurants. We laypersons should acknowledge that we are at fault as well for tipping the priests and bishops. Just think for a moment that all those who enter the churches on Sunday morning are volunteers, except the priests and the bishops who actually get paid by the parishioners. They are the “employees” of the Church, meaning the Body of the Laity, as simple as that.
- Celibate priests wrongly serve in parishes, because as monks, they belong in the monasteries. But they have created a separate sect of a careerist Archimandritism. They should receive the smallest possible salary, because they don’t have wives and children to support.
- Priests and bishops shouldn’t scandalize the faithful with their lavish lifestyles: dining at expensive restaurants, driving expensive luxurious cars, and living in multimillion-dollar homes, when there are members of their parishes and metropolises who don’t even have a plate of hot food to eat.
- The chancellors of the metropolises should be abolished. The bishops can do the job by themselves if they manage their time correctly and care only for the Church and no other activities. Two or more million dollars will be saved from salaries, benefits, car expenses, insurances, travel expenses for meetings, and other costs.
- It is time put an end to the out-of-control spending. Our people in the parishes are sick and tired of the continuous begging one day from the Archdiocese, the next from the metropolis, the third from the camp, the fourth day from the Theological School, and the fifth from the Academy of St. Basil. The milk of the big cow called the Greek-American Community is drying up. Luckily, there are those Greek Festivals with the roasted pigs and lambs that keep the doors of many churches open; otherwise God knows how many parishes would be closed by now. It is true that 400 or 500 families are contributing and working at the festivals basically for two things: to pay the priest’s salary, and to pay the Archdiocese.