Milena Kindziuk

The issues of financing the Church and salaries of priests are still raising emotions. And many environments have been repeating the myth about the wealth of priests for years. The report of the Catholic Information Agency shows what truth on this issue is.

It clearly results from the document that the Church is maintained from the gifts of the faithful in 80%. – The Church is as rich as the faithful are sacrificial – says Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, the chairman of the Episcopal Economic Council. Moreover, the system of financing the Church is also created by: the economic activity of Church institutions and financing from the public means.

A tray not for a priest

There is nearly a general belief that donations ‘on a tray’ are given to priests by the faithful; and that priests ‘gain’ a lot of money every Sunday, whereas a parish, a church and parish buildings and not priests are maintained from the tray or voluntary donations from the faithful. However, the incomes from the tray are various, depending on a region of Poland. As it results from the report of the Catholic Information Agency presented in the Episcopal Secretarial Office ‘Finances of the Catholic Church in Poland’, the average amount of money on the Sunday tray in a small village parish of nearly 1000 inhabitants in the diocese of Tarnów is 487 zlotys. But in a parish of 3-thousand people in the diocese of Bielsko and Żywiec – it is 2300 zlotys, and in a parish in a city, like the archdiocese of Katowice – it can be even 4 thousand zlotys. However, these are not representative data; for we must remember that in Poland there are very poor parishes living on the verge of poverty, like, for example, Korytowo in the diocese of Szczecin and Kamieńsko. In the first year of work during five Sunday Holy Masses I collected about 70 zlotys, today there are about 150-200 zlotys – says the parish-priest Sławomir Kokorzycki who has been living in a laundry, on an attic of a former state-farm block of flats. It is not a separate example. In many cases, as the report of the Catholic Information Agency, the tray is not enough to maintain the infrastructure of a parish, that is, a payment for electricity, gas, refurbishments or salaries for workers; especially that on some Sundays parishes are obliged to give the tray for specific purposes, for example, payments for curia, seminary, the Catholic University of Lublin, for building churches, caritas, pro-life foundation, missions, holders of grants of the Foundation ‘Work of the New Millenium’, etc. Moreover, this economic crisis causes a situation when donations given onto a tray are decreasing.

Below the national average

So we must separate the money collected on a tray from the money from which a priest lives; for only donations go to a priest which come from the so-called Mass Grants, that is, donations collected for ordered Holy Masses and ‘iura stolae’, that is, on the occasions of baptism, wedding or funeral. So, it is easy to count how many times in life we give money to maintain a particular priest.

And here, like in the case of a tray, the variety is vast. The report of the Catholic Information Agency shows that the donation given on the occasion of a Holy Mass intention is from 10 zlotys in the poorest regions to 50-70 or even 100 zlotys in rich regions. A wedding or funeral is accompanied by a donation from 200 to 700 zlotys. Baptisms – amount from 20 to 250 zlotys. But in some parishes the income from these Holy Masses is shared between a parish-priest and a vicar. In the case of ‘iura stolae’, if a parish-priest is on his own, the whole sum of money remains at his disposal, if he has vicars, he uses different systems of division, for example, a sum collected during a month is shared among priests – as we read in the report.

So, how much does a priest earn? According to the calculations of the Catholic Information Agency the incomes of priests from their pastoral work in a parish are from 800 to about 5500 zlotys a month and they approximately amount to 1,5 – 2,5 thousand zlotys. Nearly every second priest is employed as a catechist at school in part-time and receives a few hundred zlotys. It puts the salaries of priests below the national average. According to the Main Statistic Office, the average salary in the sector of enterprises amounted to 3682 zlotys in November 2011, and the average of salaries in Warsaw is about 4900 zlotys.

Salaries of priests are assigned for covering their direct expenses, such as food, clothes, transport, travels, culture, personal equipment, etc. We must also remember that from their earned money, priests pay double taxes. On the one hand the taxes are for the foundation of supporting priests-pensioners, ill priests, missions and seminaries, and they also pay off their education in seminaries and give their donations to charities in their dioceses, for example, a house for single mothers or enclosed religious orders.

On the other hand, they also pay a tax for the sake of the state. The treasury office counts their fixed income tax, considering the number of inhabitants in a parish (including those who do not go to church), whereas priests employed on a contract are subjected to the same tax rules like other employees.

The Church is supporting the State

The report of the Catholic Information Agency also shows the support which is given to the State by the Church which is helping the State in its realizing different social, educational, charity and cultural tasks. The help can be estimated for a few milliards zlotys every year. – It is a vast contribution of the Church in helping people who are in need or people are the poorest and which is seen on the example of caritas. We are conducting 9 thousands centres of material, psychological and legal help on then area of the whole country – says Fr. Marian Subocz, director of Caritas Poland.

Some actions of the Church for the sake of the society have also the support from the state budget; last year it was about 493 million zlotys. On the scale of Poland it is not much because only Caritas gives people help worth 500 millions zlotys every year. Moreover, 89 millions zlotys of the amount coming from the budget was the Fund of the Church. – Today there is a need for destroying a myth built around the Fund of the Church set up in 1950, within compensation for the property taken away from the Church. It is not a gift or a grace from the State towards the Church, but an attempt of giving back justice for what was taken away during the times of the Polish People’s Republic – says Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz. Only one –third part of the property taken form the church has been given back so far. In the meantime, the government announced liquidation of the Fund. – I hope that it will not be a unilateral decision of the government but that the matter will be judged in a bilateral dialogue – says Cardinal Nycz.

Responsible secular people

The report of the catholic Information Agency clearly shows that the belief about the wealth of the Church and clergy full of luxury is a myth. And the economic crisis may cause an inefficiency of the present system of financing the Church. – Therefore we need to look for ways of its reform thinks Marcin Przeciszewski, the director of the Catholic Information Agency, one of the authors of the report.

Answering the question how much money the Church has got, it is worth thinking on one more issue: who composes this Church; because, surely, not only clergy but also secular people compose it. And secular people are also responsible for the Church, also in the material dimension.


"Niedziela" 11/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: