From the National Herald [Ethnikos Kirikas]:
GOA Priest’s Salaries Reach New Heights
By Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald
BOSTON – The salaries of the priests of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America have reached unprecedented heights. Base salaries have been reported at the levels of $150-170,000 and at least one priest receives $200,000 per year. The salaries of priests are among the two largest expenses in the annual budgets of parishes, along with the annual monetary allocation to the Archdiocese.
Over and above their salary, Archdiocesan priests receive generous benefits: housing and car allowances, medical insurance, social security payments, pension plans, conference expenses, including those associated with the biennial Clergy-Laity Congress and the retreats and meetings of the local Metropolis.
It is widely known that the Greek Orthodox clergy in the United States earn the highest salaries in the Orthodox Church worldwide, including the Church of Greece.
According to the official Clergy Compensation Plan for 2009, for priests with service up to:
five years the salary range is $47,232 – $63,960;
from six -10 years, $63,960 – $71,280;
11-15 years, $71,280 – $81,672;
16-20 years, $81,672 – $90,792.
21-25 years, $90,792 – $97,224.
26-30 years, $97,224 – $103,464.
31-35 years, $103,464 – $109,464.
For more than 35 years the range is $109.464 – $115,512.
The Plan also provides that: “a) 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,” and “b) 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:
1) An automobile (which the parish purchases or leases) for use by the priest, with all related expenses paid by the parish.
2) Social Security/Medicare taxes (FICA/SECA equal to the maximum self-employment Social Security/15.3 percent of Salary and the Housing Allowance (or rental value of a parish home).
3) 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.
4) A minimum annual vacation of 15 days (2 weeks) to a maximum of five weeks, taking into consideration the clergyman’s cumulative years of service to the Archdiocese.
5) Expenses for attending District/Metropolis Clergy-Laity Assemblies and Retreats, the Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, Clergy Continuing Education programs and the Archdiocese Presbyters Council Retreat.
6) 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 2009 is $475 starting on January 1, 2009. This includes parishes without a full-time priest.
Those parishes with more than one clergyman are required to pay $475 for each assigned clergyman. The Archdiocese Benefits Contribution is not a part of a priest’s remuneration package.” All that applies for married priests with wives and children also applies for celibate priests who serve in parishes. The above salary scale is not always observed by the local Metropolises. In many parishes, there are huge differences in salaries and benefits among clergy with equal experience. Some Metropolitans, in order to “take care of their own boys,” allegedly put pressure on parishes to give the priests more money – in some instances, up to double the amount that the Archdiocesan salary scale calls for.
It is widely believed, erroneously, that priests are appointed to the parishes by the Chancellor of each Metropolis. It is actually the Metropolitan who makes the selection. There are many reports that the “unwritten laws of friendship and favoritism” prevail over education, experience and talent. In many instances of injustice, the Metropolitans are believed to “turn their head the other way.”
The National Herald is in a position to know that there are priests with 50 and more years of continuous service in the same parish whose salaries do not exceed the amount of $50,000 annually, while there are cases of newly ordained priests with less than two years in the priesthood who were appointed with starting salaries of $80,000. After less than one year of service in their new parish, they reportedly demanded a $12,000 raise, threatening to leave the parish if their demands weren’t met.
In one such instance, the priest was ultimately forced to leave the parish before completing two years of service, while the actions of the local hierarch caused dissension in, and the subsequent paralysis of, the parish. A priest who was appointed in the past two years to a prominent cathedral reportedly earns a base salary of $200,000, in addition to full benefits, while there are other clergy who live below the poverty line. It is also the case that the salary of many priests is much higher than, in some instances double and triple, the salary of the Metropolitans, which is around $80,000 thousand per year base salary plus all benefits and expenses paid. One of the main reasons so many converts are trying to join the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese as priests is the fact that the Archdiocese is considered the “golden fish of Orthodoxy,” in other words, their parishes pay the highest salaries.
Above and beyond the high salaries and benefits there is, unfortunately, the unwritten custom of gratuities known as (τυχερά) that the faithful give every time family members partake of the sacraments of marriage or baptism, or call for a funeral service. The gratuities are like tips that customers give to waitresses and waiters in restaurants or to the bellmen of hotels. The Herald has in its possession documentation from parishes in New England indicating that there are parishes that send written instructions. There are also many reports about priests asking funeral directors to include their “tip” in the general expenses of the funeral. There are even cases where the relatives of the departed give clergymen a “tip” in cash, which the clergymen took without informing the relatives that they had already been paid through the funeral director.
The unfortunate custom of gratuities also applies to many hierarchs who receive $500 or more when they officiate at church services. They might not ask for it directly, but the priest plays the role of intermediary by recommending to the parish council that they “give something to the Bishop.” By comparison, the salaries of Greek School teachers, who are also devoted professionals and perform a vital role in the community, are substantially lower. Their situation is chaotic and abounds with injustices because there is no formal salary scale.
The average monthly salary of an afternoon Greek School teacher is between $250 and $350, and for the day schools the salary range is $15-25 thousand annually. The teachers do not have health plans, and there are no pension plans. In Greece, the average salary for priests who have a degree in Theology from the Universities of Athens or Thessaloniki is between 850 and 1100 euros ($1210-1560), while a Metropolitan’s salary does not exceed 1500-2000 euros ($2130-2840) monthly.
They also receive “tips” when they perform various services such as funerals, memorials, weddings and baptisms, which can sometimes double than their regular annual salary. The priests and the Bishops in Greece are paid by the government, and are considered state employees.