Wednesday, 5 April 2017

How much is a bishop worth?
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(Dreamstime/Newscom/NCR staff)
Mick Forgey  |  

Catholics in Newark, N.J., were outraged to learn that Archbishop John Myers had spent $500,000 for an extension on his retirement home. Catholics in Atlanta questioned the acceptability of Archbishop Wilton Gregory's building a $2.2 million residence for himself.
For many, these actions raised the questions: What is acceptable compensation for a sitting bishop and for a retired bishop? Who determines what's acceptable?
NCR's interviews with bishops and experts who monitor church finances found that no hard and fast rules govern this issue. National guidelines exist, and seem to be widely followed, but specifics on local implementation are hard to come by.
The average bishop's salary seems to be in line with that of priests within his diocese.
"Most dioceses use the compensation levels for their clergy as the reference point," said Frank Butler, principal and founder of Drexel Philanthropic Advisors. "So, we do know what that is. Typically, across the country, average priests' salaries go from anywhere from $15,000 to $18,000, maybe a little bit higher than that." Butler is also former president of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA).
The website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a document titled "Diocesan Financial Issues," which includes a section called "Guidelines for the Retirement of Bishops."
For all bishops in retirement, the section recommends a minimum $1,900 monthly stipend. It also recommends that "in fraternal charity and solicitude," each diocese provide:
·         Appropriate housing and board;
·         Benefits covering the full cost of medical care, as well as home health care, assisted living facilities or long-term care facilities;
·         An office with secretarial assistance;
·         Transportation, including an insured automobile for personal use;
·         Travel expenses to attend official meetings;
·         A funeral and burial.
This is where it can get tricky.
"One of the issues here is that so much of the bishops' compensation comes in the form of perks," said Charles Zech, director of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University.
"They live in a mansion rent-free. Meals and other things associated with the position are often not charged to them. They get a chauffeur driver wherever they go. A lot of what you and I would recognize as compensation really doesn't show up as such, because it's not part of their salary, and it's part of the overall running of the diocese, and it's hard to pull out as being compensation to the bishop, per se."
Jack Ruhl, professor of accountancy at Western Michigan University, provided NCR with some of the only published compensation figures available that were specific to diocesan leaders. Dioceses aren't required to report anything, according to Ruhl.

In its 2013 financial report, the Boston archdiocese listed Cardinal Sean O'Malley's "Reportable Compensation from Corporation Sole" at $43,153. It included in a footnote: "From Cardinal O'Malley's stipend, $35,953 is paid to the Capuchin Priests and Brothers; $7,200 is paid to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston for housing." The document also listed an Amount of Other Compensation Not Included on W-2/1099 for O'Malley of $16,800.
Ruhl also provided a document on benefit plans under Notes to Financial Statements, June 30, 2011 and 2010, from the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese.
"The Archdiocese has a deferred compensation agreement with an archbishop who retired in fiscal 2008," the document states. "The agreement requires monthly benefit payments for life plus health and medical insurance and allowances for other living expenses. The present value of the estimated future obligation under this agreement is estimated to be approximately $429,000 at June 30, 2011 and 2010 based on the expected annual cost of approximately $61,000 for both years."
A bishop's compensation is generally paid for by his diocese, according to Zech. "It comes from diocesan revenues, like the compensation for any diocesan employee. Investments, income from investments that the diocese receives, contributions, and, of course, parishioner contributions are passed on to the diocese through the parish assessment."
Zech said that the diocesan chief financial officer is responsible for setting the budget for a diocese, in conjunction with the bishop, and probably proposes a figure for bishop compensation.
Canon law mandates that every diocese must also have a diocesan finance council, which is usually made up of laypeople, such as accountants, bankers and lawyers. The council is a consultative body that monitors the diocesan budget and advises the CFO and bishop on any financial aspects that impact the diocese. The diocesan CFO or bishop or both in combination appoint council members.
The bishop appoints the CFO for a five-year term, but the CFO is protected from being fired for those five years, "except for a grave cause to be assessed by the bishop after he has heard the college of consultors and the finance council," according to Canon 494.
While the finance council doesn't determine a bishop's compensation, its members would know what it is and they may have input into what amount is appropriate.
"It's more the CFO's job to put together the budget. And then the [diocesan finance council] provides a consultative voice on the budget. But they don't necessarily approve it," Zech said. He said he doesn't think approval for a bishop's compensation usually goes any higher up the ladder than a diocese's CFO.
While the process of overseeing the diocesan budget is in the hands of a CFO and diocesan finance council, Zech said he didn't know specifically how bishop compensation is determined.
NCR reached out to several bishops, active and retired, to ask about compensation. Most either declined to comment, citing travel or workload demands, or didn't respond. Two retired bishops, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, indicated that their retirement benefits reflected the national guidelines recommended by the bishops' conference. Both also said that their retirement pensions were at or near the same level as the priests of their respective dioceses.

"I receive the same pension that a priest of the Erie diocese receives," Trautman said. "I think the diocese of Erie follows the national guidelines of the conference of bishops. When I was the bishop of the diocese, we followed those guidelines for the retired bishop, Michael Murphy, who preceded me, and now my successor is following those guidelines for me."
Gumbleton said his pension was a little bit higher than that of priests in his diocese, though by an insignificant amount. He also said the Detroit archdiocese follows the guidelines from the bishops' conference.
"The diocese is to provide a retired bishop a salary that is enough to live on, but then provide these other things -- housing, transportation, and they would pay for a housekeeper, too, if you wanted," Gumbleton said.
Gumbleton's diocese provides him with a monthly retirement pension, a staffed office, and an apartment, rent paid. He drives a diocesan-owned car and the diocese pays for fuel.
He said the procedure for determining compensation is fair, but the only problem is "nobody ever asks any questions. If I wanted to live in a big house ... I guess I could do it, and nobody would say anything about it, but I prefer to have a small apartment in the city. I get what I ask for. And each bishop does."
According to Butler, since the bishop is the person who holds the church's property and plays the top role in the diocese's administration, the concern should be how he shepherds all of the funds entrusted to him.
"That's where it's fraught with danger, unless there's good oversight and good transparency. Bishops have been known to use funds for other purposes, other than what they were intended," he said. "They've used funds to cover up, in cases of clergy sexual abuse. They've used funds to curry favor with people in the Vatican. That's what you have to worry about. Not so much their direct compensation. It's what role, what voice, what influence they have in using funds that belong to the church that they're shepherding."
Butler added that donated funds must be used for their intended purposes, since canon law protects donor intent.
NCR asked about suggestions for best practices to help bishops and dioceses determine a just bishop compensation.

"Best practices should set a national standard, using measures [such as] how large the diocese, bishop versus archbishop, years as a bishop," Zech said. This would establish a pay scale, but he added, "Again, it's so tricky, because so much of a bishop's compensation is in the form of perks."
Ruhl said the Boston archdiocese is ahead of the game in terms of financial disclosure. Its financial reporting, available online, "is extremely extensive and very detailed," he said. If bishops and dioceses wanted to be more transparent about compensation and retirement benefits, Ruhl recommended that they prepare a document similar to the annual report produced by a corporation and list the salaries for the top five administrators.
Butler said that bishops should take their spiritual guidance from Apostolorum Successores, or the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, a document published by the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops. Bishops should also become very familiar with the Code of Canon Law, which they often ignore, he said.

Gumbleton said, "There ought to be much more effort on the part of all of us to follow the example of Pope Francis, which is to downsize as much as possible, and to simplify our lives as much as possible."

[Mick Forgey is an NCR Bertelsen intern. His email address is mforgey@ncronline.org.]
PAT SAYS:
I think that the Church, dioceses and parishes should be more open about the salaries of bishops, priests and church workers.
People should expect an annual statement of income and outgoings.
To this day we do not know whether Bishop Noel Treanor spent 1 or 4 million pounds on renovating his episcopal palace - Lisbreen - in Belfast.

52 comments:

  1. These figures are truly scandalous and totally at odds with the teachings and the life of Jesus who Nazareth, who did to even have a grave to be buried in after his crucifixion and death. These men are supposed to be servants. The servants of the servants of God. How many of those whom they "serve" could even dream of the financial security that bishops and retired bishops enjoy? These men are no more than parasites upon the people of God. A bishop, however frugally he lives - and many do - will never know the fear of going hungry, not being able to pay the bills, being evicted, or any of the myriad fears that accompany daily life for those men and women that the bishop claims to serve. The whole thing has nothing to do with the elemental teachings of the Christ and is quite obscene. There is a need for another reformation I truly believe.

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  2. In England and Wales there has to be full financial disclosure as all Roman Catholic dioceses are registered charities who have to publish their accounts every year. Failure to do so will result in possible prosecution and / or loss of charitable status. The Church over here is run on a shoe string, and there would be no such extravagance of spending millions on refurbishing bishops residences. In fact many of the bishops have sold them and moved into such more suitable flats and homes. Im told that when Vincent Nicholls moved into Archbishops House, Westminster, the place hadn't been decorated in well over 20 years (since the time of the late Cardinal Hume. Vincent's assistant, Sister Carmel, set about redecorating the private rooms herself, paintbrush in hand!

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    1. Yes when our church needed decorating, the parishioners got together and did it.

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    2. The church in Ireland seems very different from the UK. We have no money and we could never get away with anything because we have no power in the country. We have had one or two rogue priests, but it seems to have been the Benedictines who have brought disgrace on themselves. They didn't follow the Nolan Report.

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    3. @17:31.
      As regards the Benedictines, oooh yes. Mostly the well-fed, well-read and well-bred English Benedictines. It's the same correlation of money and prestige making people think they can do what they like.

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  3. I'm sure it's no were near the amount that the spent doing the bare minium of repairs to your palave +Bishop Patrick. I would consider that you got a raw deal in all of that and that you deserve a pension for all your services rendered during your years on the D&Cs roll call.
    Tell me has Noel invited you over to see the new curtains or like the rest of us just see the palace roof over the fence

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  4. Agreed, Bishop P. . There is far from sufficient transparency about income and expenditure at both parish and diocesan level.

    The fact that Noel Treanor refused to confirm or deny that he spent such a vast sum renovating his home is highly suspicious.

    If clerics continue to refuse such transparency about what are, largely, contributions from ordinary Catholics, then these clerics' names and addresses should be published. Catholics can then decide whether such people are trustworthy and whether they should be allowed to continue 'sponging' off parishoners.

    Other Catholic organisations, including Trocaire and the Vatican, should be held to similar account. I know that Trocaire is not wholly transparent about the money it spends.

    The days of 'trust me: I'm a cleric' are over.

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    1. More FAKE NEWS from Magna Farta!
      Trocaire accounts are published annually and open to scrutiny by anybody.

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    2. It publishes some of its expenditure, you halfwit, but not all of it. For example, the amount of money it spends on sending people like Noel Treanor on 'fact-finding' missions, in other words, 'junkets'.

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    3. @17:02
      You're a bully.
      You're just picking on MC again. FYI the polite thing to say is to say your understand and suggest the other person made a mistake.

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  5. Pat, I doubt that Bishop Treanor spent a cent of your money. So go rattle someone else's cage!

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    1. Your doubt is not our conviction.

      I challenge Noel Treanor to deny the accusation that he spent up to (perhaps more) rennovating his home and to publish all receipts, etc., as proof.

      Go on , Noel. Prove your critics wrong.

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    2. It isn't really HIS home though, is it? As he is the present-day custodian of the building he has a binding duty to maintain it properly and so to pass it on to the next generation in a good state of repair and reasonable decoration. It is the same with say - any old historic building or even a palace for that matter. To allow the building to depreciate in value is generally considered very unwise as it costs the charity more in the long run.
      Having said that however, I completely agree with the view that there is no excuse for unnecessary extravagance and waste. Many poorer folk have to be content themselves with much less. I know that better than most...

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    3. 18:30, in a sense, you've missed the point. Homes of this nature should have no place in the lifestyles of men who are meant to follow the poor Nazarene and, therefore, to be setting an example in obeying his commands. One of these was that his disciples be servants, not masters. Since when has a servant lived in such a grand house, having had so much money spent on its renovation?

      Bishops by and large are wilfully missing the point of Christ's teaching. Sell the home and use the money to build something simpler. And then give the difference to the poor.

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    4. Let's not forget that Pat, a former Roman Catholic, continues to enjoy financial support from the Diocese of Down and Connor. I for one see no reason why my money should be spent aiding the ministry of an independent Church with which we are not in communion.

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    5. Buckley, again I see you are interested in us Catholics again. Why not write about your own, whatever you spend your time doing. You are not entitled to see any reports. I am a person who gives 10k plus p/a to my diocese of Down and Connor (I will also leave my entire estate to them). I do so proudly, willingly, I will record in my new will that not one penny will go near you - not one penny.

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  6. I get the impression that the Church doesn't get very much money from people posting on here.

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    1. This blog is full of old bitter men. These same men live well!

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  7. The hierararchical model runs on trust me I'm above you. From parish council up people need to have real clout

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  8. Surely the accounts are a matter of public records???

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  9. If it's not your money being spent then why the big interest?

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    1. Whoever's money it was, it was morally wrong to have spent up to 4 million pounds on its rennovation.

      Stop using strawman argument.

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    2. How do you know 'High and Mighty' Magna Carta the amount was £4 million? You are only relying on gossip, hearsay and rumour you foolish man.

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    3. There's an easy way to resolve this: let Noel Treanor publish ALL receipts etc. connected with the rennovation.

      This matter has been public speculation now for a year or more. Treanor could have settled it ages ago. The matter has even made newspaper headlines. Treanor could not be unaware of it. Why the silence? It does look as if he is indeed trying to conceal a level of expenditure (4 million pounds?) that he knows would cause public scandal and anger.

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    4. That's a matter for him not us as we didn't contribute anything towards it. I would rather people be more transparent about reporting child safeguarding issues, wouldn't you?

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    5. The annual Diocesan financial report IS available. I still have many mine from last year---, There is always a certain Sun at church when the financial copies are available to be picked up by the Mass goers as they leave the building. They are normally stacked up beside that Sunday's news bulletin. But then of course, you need to be at Mass! Could that be the reason why some posters are having problems receiving available information..?

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  10. With curates in the North living high on the hog on vast salaries of £10,000 plus housing, which means that they earn vastly more than their mostly middle-class parishioners who must be earning.....what, £7000 minus housing? - then the luxury lives of these clerics really needs close examination. I for one am sick and tired going into clerical parish houses and being confronted with 1960s carpets and chipboard furniture, while we have to make do with whatever bits and pieces we can afford.

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    1. hmm, poor research there Anon 18:51.

      What is earned depends on where they work. Down and Conor receive the highest salary, followed by Cork and Ross, €31k+ depending on what you bring in, but guaranteed the €31k. Next door in Cloyne they receive €18k.

      Let us not forget that these wages are independent of mileage allowances and rent-free houses that are maintained by the parish, while utilities can be tax deducted as the priest is self-employed.

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    2. Well good for those dioceses, in a neighbouring diocese to Down and Connor a curate gets £10,000 - I specified the North, the South seems to have lost the plot years ago - ironic given that Mass attendance in the North is much higher. Average rental for a house would be about £7,000 if rented on the open market. That gets you to £17,000. No mileage allowances are given. Sufficient no doubt. But the continuous comments about priests living lives of unparalleled luxury and living lives that are undreamed of by most laity are absurd. Unless all of the commentators are in Down and Connor where their curate earns in excess of 31,000 Euros basic salary - I'm sure that might come as a great surprise to huge numbers of parishioners (and indeed curates) in Down and Connor.

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  11. You have made a good point. I ran the youth group for 15 years. After a while you realise you are providing free baby sitting for people who earn twice as much as you....and don't bother to come to church.

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  12. The national average wage is £26,500. Priests in the North at least earn a pittance frankly.

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  13. Wilton Gregory's side kick is an ex Waterford student. Very interesting character!

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  14. 20:29, no it is not a matter for Treanor, at least morally. If he has spent diocesan money on this rennovation (and he almost certainly has), then it is only right that he give account of himself to the diocese for the expenditure, especially if it ran into the reported millions of pounds. Spending such a colossal sum in a time of economic recession is indefensible, and morally disgraceful; it eclipses the $500,000,000 spent by Archbishop Myers in the U.S.; and this was bad enough. If it is legitimate for American Catholics to question THIS sum, then how much more legitimate it is for Irish Catholics to question spending a sum that may be more than EIGHT times higher than this. The fact that Treanor has ignored reasonable public concern about his expenditure suggests not only gross arrogance on his part, but that he actually has something very significant indeed to hide.

    I, too, want people, especially clerics like Treanor, to be more transparent on reporting child safeguarding issues. Let's be honest: they weren't too transparent in the past. Nor it seems are some of them willing to be transparent today about the amounts of other people's money that they spend upgrading their lavish homes. So let's have transparency all round. Yes?

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    1. Maggie it's none of your business.

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    2. Abuse of donated money is everyone's business.

      Why are you defending Treanor?

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    3. Maggie Carter is out of her cave and running up and down Prince Albert Street roaring like a heifer having calves. Somebody send for Big Lily quick!

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    4. You've mixed your metaphors: 'cave', 'street', 'roaring heifer'. What were you trying to say? You're confused, aren't you?

      As for 'Big Lily', we're off on a shopping spree!

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    5. Mad cow, Maggie Carter, lives in a cave uppa Cave Hill. Time to time she gets blocked and descends upon wee quiet neighbourhoods like Prince Albert Street. She used to be afeard of the Big Dean but now only Big Lily can control her, usually by means of a tranquilliser dart. Big Lily is a good shooter from her days in Cumann na mBan. Big Lil sometimes agrees to go on shopping sprees with aul Maggie because she hasn't two hapennys til rib tilgether and Mags is buying. Lol

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    6. Correction to poster at 14.44
      Whoops!.. Who can spot your biology bloomer? (Answers on a postcard please) I take you're not a country guy/girl. Definitely not a farmer, I'd say!!

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    7. Well spotted 17.59! You made my day..

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    8. Aul Maggie Carter defies all the laws of nature and biology LOL

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    9. Ha ha!.. You get the point - -

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  15. He was also in Thurles and he didn't make it.......then he went to the US and has done very well. Fair play to him......he's a great guy.

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  16. Parallel universe?
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/calls-for-greater-transparency-on-churchs-financial-support-for-its-bishops-35597852.html

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    1. That report is about the Church of Ireland - not the Catholics.

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  17. 20.29
    Who didn't contribute to the renovations of treanors house, speak for yourself
    Yes we did contribute.

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  18. Our breakfast conversation today was trying to work out the Bishop with the most expensive car. You soon became the subject of the conversation, is it true you are driving a luxury car? Drive through Maynooth in it, give us a laugh.

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    1. I like cars. I have a 1989 Mercedes worth c £6,000

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  19. What a load of scrap,Pat, a smaller car is more environmently friendly.
    You should be concerned about that, but obviously
    you don't give a shit.

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    1. Actually I do.

      Up until recently they advised us all to drive diesel cars.

      Now they say petrol is more environmently friendly?

      I never claimed to be an environment saint.

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  20. There are two other things which should be considered when thinking about clergy income.
    One is of course the many gifts of money, meals, and so on priests get from the faithful.
    The other is that most priests will only have themselves to support. Any income is proportionally bigger without dependents. There's a phrase for this...the pink pound!

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