By Michal Kramarek, Ph.D.
CARA has recently concluded the National Diocesan Survey: Salary and Benefits for Priests and Lay Personnel. One of the many questions explored in the report is how much the Catholic Church in the United States pays its priests. The median annual salary of a diocesan priest in 2022 is estimated at $33,439 (see the chart below). The median annual salary received by a newly ordained priest is $30,211.
The salary is the first, typically the most substantial, component of diocesan priest’s taxable income. The second component, other taxable cash income, constitutes about 18 cents of every dollar of priests’ income and includes, for example, an allowance for housing, food, car and general expenses. Altogether, a diocesan priest makes $9,018 in other taxable cash income.
The least substantial component of diocesan priests’ income is other taxable non-cash income, accounting for 14 cents for every dollar of total income. Non-cash income includes, for example, diocesan housing, meals prepared for priests as well as priest retreats facilitated by the arch/diocese.
The three components add up to a median overall taxable income of $49,171 for a diocesan priest. How much is it in comparison to other U.S. males who share a similar level of education? Not very much. Between 1996 and 2022 (in the ten years for which the data are available or estimated), diocesan priests’ taxable income accounted, on average, for 56% of the income of men ages 25 and over, with a Master’s degree, in the United States. See the chart below (the dotted line indicates missing data).
Diocesan priests’ income is fluctuating over time. In the examined time period (between 1996 and 2022), diocesan priests’ median annual taxable income grew by 2%. But in the last five years (between 2017 and 2022) it decreased by 7% after adjusting for inflation.
How does diocesan priests’ compensation compare across different job assignments and experience levels? How do lay employees compare to diocesan priests in terms of salary and benefits? How do all those groups compare across different regions? Those are some of the questions CARA explored in the recent report National Diocesan Survey: Salary and Benefits for Priests and Lay Personnel, commissioned by the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA).
A more detailed list of topics included in the report can be found in the table of contents here.
The report can be purchased from NACPA (https://www.nacpa.org) through their online store here: https://www.nacpa.org/diocesansalarysurvey2022