The Average Salary of a Catholic Priest

By Jay White

February 11, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Though the calling of a priest comes with it a call to charity and poverty, it also brings a small salary. Small is an important word here, because when a comparison is made between the religious faiths, the catholic church seems to pay the least. Though this number is adjusted by regions, and those who serve a population with a higher cost of living will also receive higher salaries, the US median salary for catholic priests in 2011 was a mere $33,100 per year. This is a third less than protestant ministers, who averaged around $48,000, and significantly lower than rabbis, who came in around $140,000 per year. Of course, this is only a part of the story. All religious leaders gain a few extra benefits with their salary that make up for their large hours of charity toward the health and well-being of their flock.


Many churches come with parsonages, homes owned by the church that are provided as a free place to stay for the clergy. Since housing is often the single highest cost for many Americans, this can be a huge financial burden taken from a priest. In certain cases, when a parsonage is not provided, the opportunity to deduct housing and utility costs, up to the amount of the priest’s salary.

Lack of Family Cost

One justification that the catholic church may use for the lower salary of priests compared to protestant pastors is that there is no family to pay for. Because marriage is forbidden in the catholic church, the amount of money that is needed is only enough to pay for a single person.

Vow of Poverty

To best understand the spiritual needs of a flock, the bible recommends avoiding the temptations that come with wealth. Christ himself claims that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. It is unlikely, based on this philosophy, that the church will ever give large salaries to their clergy. Even in the highest ranks, the popes and archbishops have use of priceless artifacts, but those items remain the property of the church, and not the religious leaders themselves.

The Intangibles

Of course, the main reason that a person becomes a priest is not for the money. The chance to show others the glory of heaven and to counsel them in their times of need is worth much more than money.

Jay White

I started Dumb Little Man many years ago so great authors, writers and bloggers could share their life "hacks" and tips for success with everyone. I hope you find something you like!

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