The question isn’t “How does the priest live?” but rather “Does the parish love him enough to spare him the need to search for his living?” The Scripture says: “Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?” (Apostle Paul). What milk is this? Paul himself says: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” and by this he means the means of living.

The idea is based on the Canon Law that doesn’t want the priest to search for his sources of sustenance in order to be dedicated to teaching, service and visits. Paul’s thought is that the believer that takes the spiritual giving of his pastor helps the latter to have a decent living. If he was stingy towards him, he will make him busy in money and corrupt.

If spiritual service was the most important thing for us, then the priority of spending is for the priest. He shouldn’t be given a minimum wage under the excuse of building or renovating a church. It is very clear that the priest’s decent living is more important than the physical church because this is the human church. Church councils have continuous projects in some places and restoring churches requires a lot of time. Meanwhile, how do this man and his family eat? I don’t know any family that reduces its kids’ food and their school fees and medication in order to buy an apartment or build a place. Things that are stable for you, i.e. the priority of food over any other project, are also stable for the priest.

What sources of living does this man have? It has become known for us since the beginning of the twentieth century that the priest has a fixed monthly salary and that the faithful honor him when he does a spiritual service for them. However, our experience shows that the biggest part of his income must come from the salary. Sometimes the faithful give a small amount. The number of happy occasions and sorrow ones varies. They increase and decrease and their income doesn’t give comfort. Some parish councils have a very bad tendency to say: Our priest has this number of weddings and that number of baptisms in order to take off themselves the responsibility of giving generously. I am amazed by the behavior of some people that are stingy with money that is not theirs and don’t behave the same towards their families.

Very few are convinced that a priest that has two or three children has to spend exactly as any family that also has two or three children. A lot of people don’t think about that as if there is a tendency to put the priest under the guardianship of the people in control of the Church’s money. As if they are saying that he has to be in need in order to learn humility. Who said that he can’t be humble without being in need?

Then the last and major issue is that the final decision in determining the salary is taken by the bishop who is responsible for the churches’ properties, and the deputies of these properties are only consultants for the bishop. We have to get rid completely of the following kind of speech that insults the spiritual authority: This is the property of our fathers and ancestors. This is not true. They gave, but after their giving these properties became under the guardianship of the church and not the families.

I feel very sad when I face a speech like the following: This is our maximal ability. What does this mean when we have in every parish a bunch of rich people and money in the banks? They also say that we don’t collect a lot in church. Alright, but if 3 to 8% of the faithful attended the liturgy, does this mean that the priest must live from what is collected in the liturgy only and not from a certain system of subscriptions?

These broad lines of our behavior are the thing that pleases the Lord.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “إعالة الكاهن” –Raiati 35- 02.09.2001