Deacons and wages


I understand that many deacons, perhaps most, are not paid by the Church and either keep a day job or are retired. Why is this? These men have been ordained to ministry and surely there is more than enough work for them to do on behalf of God’s people. I see parishes with thousands of parishioners and only a few priests. An evangelical church of a few thousand people would typically have MANY (perhaps a dozen or more) pastors on salary. Are Catholics so lax with tithing that we can’t pay our deacons?
My wife is a practicing evangelical. Her church of a few thousand must have 9 or 10 paid pastors. A parish or 10 000 may have three priests.


You make a valid point and I have often wondered the same thing. I will be interested in the answers as to why this is.


I asked this on another thread here. See “permanent diaoconate” further down. Thank you as no one spoke as I did then.

People have to eat and live somewhere and raise their families. Priests get paid and my ANglican Bible rich raising reminds me “The labourer is worthy of his hire.”


The Permanent Deacon who works in our parish receives a ‘retainer’ from the Archdiocese. I think it is between a third and a half of an average wage, but I could have misheard. He tops it up with building work when he can. I don’t know if he would get more if he wasn’t able to work.


That is interesting Ah good old UK! Common sense… Give my love to Liverpool…


Will do! Although I wasn’t born here, I love it. It is a marvellous city.


I think the reason, though unofficial, has to do with the hierarchical nature of the church as well as the historical role of the Diaconate in the first few centuries of the Church. In the early centuries, Deacons often acted as administrators of the parishes or ministries.

As time went on, they began to be ordained to the Priesthood which then began what is currently known as the Transitional Diaconate whereby seminarians are ordained to the Diaconate prior to the Priesthood. This is what I remember from reading several years ago.

Protestant churches tend to be different in that they often “ordain” those in charge of an area of ministry of the church and apply the title “Pastor”. They may or may not have theological education. Since they don’t have sacraments or Apostolic Succession, their philosophy of the pastorate is different.


The city with a cathedral at each end of Hope Street…


See paperwights post. so it can be done. And while I understand what you say, it will limit greatly applicants and the poorer will be squeezed out. This is 2016


From what I understand, and in very general terms, a reasonable wage for a married man with a wife, children, a mortgage, someone who has to save for college or is paying tuition, would be triple what the diocesan bishop (whose housing is provided and who obviously lacks dependents) is currently paid - to say nothing of what such a salary would be relative to a parish priest’s, whose housing, food, and car are either provided or subsidized. There is an obvious imbalance there.

The “retired” deacons I know in fact are quite active in “daytime” ministries. Our diocese in New England has a policy of no remuneration for deacons at all unless they are actually employed by the diocese in administrative positions.

Thus the diaconate around here anyway has taken the form of applicants of a certain age who are reasonably financially secure, whose child-rearing expenses (and child-based time committments) are largely behind them, and who are within hailing distance of retirement.


Still doesn’t really answer my question. As I noted, larger evangelical churches will have multiple pastors on salary all of whom have families. A parish of 10 000 is probably only paying for say 3 priests… An evangelical mega church of 10 000 would probably have a dozen plus paid pastors (all making good salaries). So does the fact that we not pay deacons come down to CAtholics simply being very stingy with the offering plate?


The financial piece is certainly a major factor. I was once in a parish that was located less than a mile from an “evangelical mega-church.” We lost a number of members to them, based on their “warm, welcoming, family feeling,” numerous ministries for everyone, tons of programs, big ball field, huge air-conditioned campus, etc., the usual things. The average weekly contribution at their former Catholic parish was $2. and change. The Evangelical church made them tithe - and they did it.

Prior to the restoration of the permanent diaconate, deacons were by definition transitional seminarians already supported by the diocese, so there was no financial infrastructure in place to address permanent deacons, whose application paperwork repeatedly makes it clear that the applicant is making and will in the future make no claim on diocesan finances.


Yeah, that makes sense. It really is a shame. I am now personally literally tithing (10%) at my evangelical wife’s insistence…I know I am not bound to do so as a Catholic but it is definitely still encouraged. The difference is, she puts a full 10% in her church offering plate. I spread my 10% across a few different parishes (for scheduling reasons I’m not always at the same parish - plus there’s weekday mass / confession options to consider), appeals from the archdiocese, and various Catholic charities.


The majority of paid parish ministers in the Catholic church are female. In most dioceses they comprise approximately 80% of people in ministry, not to mention volunteers.


This entire thread demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the spirituality and purpose of permanent deacons.

The only thing liturgically that the deacon is required to do is proclaim the gospel. There are other actions he might do during the liturgy that could also be performed by other ministers.

But there’s a logic to the deacon doing them, especially the general intercessions. Why? Because it ought to be the deacon who really knows the needs of the community and knows the needs of the people. He should be that person because he is part of that community, that workplace, that family. Ideally, it would be the deacon who’s composing those prayers and personalizing them to the particular community he’s with, so there’s a connection there.

And there ought to be something in the way I preach that’s a bit different from the way the priest would preach. I don’t just mean saying, “I took my family to Disney World last year.” What is your experience in the world showing you? What can you give an insight on that a priest can’t because he’s not in that environment? I know your struggles because I face them too, I have a mortgage like you, I worry about feeding my family like you, I have workplace stress like you, I have family issues like you, I also share the joys that come from living as a person of faith in a secular world LIKE YOU.

If the deacon is already perceived as part of the community, and as the servant to the community in every sense of that word, when you see that person as servant in action liturgically, it cements that. People see the deacon and think, “That’s the guy who works for a living like me, has bills to pay like me." That’s also the guy who does that prison stuff,” or, “This is the guy who goes out and works the soup kitchen, and now he’s challenging the rest of us, in his homily, to join him.” It all comes together.

It’s significant that the deacon gets the last word at Mass. Ite, missa est does not mean “Go, the Mass has ended.” Ite is a Latin word that a Roman commander would use to address his troops. It means “march.” And missa est means the church is being sent. He’s saying, “We’ve (not just 'you")got to link this Eucharist with mission. Let’s go do that.”

This all flows from the place where the restoration of the modern permanent diaconate got its start. During the Nazi era, more than 2,500 priests were incarcerated at the Dachau concentration camp alone, many of whom over the years would be assigned to cell block 26, nicknamed the Priesterblock. Now, what did they talk about?

Quite a lot.

As a priest imprisoned at Dachau, in your teen years you had the First World War, with 16 million dead. You’ve seen the rise of three totalitarian regimes. You’ve lived through worldwide economic collapse, then the Spanish Civil War, then Hitler and the Second World War, and now cell block 26 is just a few yards away from the crematoria.

So as a priest you have to be asking yourself, why wasn’t the church able to somehow influence society to prevent all of this from happening? What can we do in the future so this doesn’t happen again?

Immediately after the war these Dachau survivors, especially two Jesuit priests, Fathers Otto Pies and Wilhelm Schamoni, wrote about their conversations in a series of articles.

One of the things that they had discovered at Dachau was that the church seemed to be too distant from “serving” the community as part of the community, it seemed to missing a servant’s heart. They began to say, “We have images of Christ the king and Christ the priest. But maybe what’s gone missing is Christ the servant, who lived and worked and moved among the people as one of them. Who worked along side them, who fished with them, and who modeled the life we are called to not as some distant “holy man” but as a member of the community. For 100 years we’ve been talking about the possibility of deacons here in Germany—that’s the missing piece, and that’s how this could come together.”

From that initial discussion at Dachau, a group formed to investigate this possibility, which ultimately was brought forward at VII.

If you want more full time paid clergy involved in ministries, pray for more priestly vocations. Making deacons “mini-priests” who spend their lives entirely in ministry is not the answer.

If you seek to make us full time paid clergy, you go along to defeating the very purpose for which we were ordained.

BTW, I have a full time profession, I am married, I have four (4) children, the youngest of whom was 13 when I was ordained, I have and still am putting them all through college, I have a mortgage, my coworkers know all of this, and some of the most important aspect of my ministry come in ministering to those who come to me and say “hey, you are just like me that way, how do I handle it and still remain faithful.” Often those encounters happen in the workplace, at community gatherings, at family events , etc. (and almost never at church). THAT IS OUR VALUE TO THE CHURCH.


SMOM. Interesting and enthusiastic post. The impression is though that you seem to think you are more??Valid?? than the priesthood?

The OP was not talking I think re that but about the simple practicalities.

And of course all you say applies to the Anglican priesthood. Oh apart from the dayjob and they do have “Worker priests”

Not talking re your value to the church but the church;s valuing of and responsibilty to you. . In realisitc rather than idealistic terms.



You have expressed the matter very well, Deacon.

I compliment your formulation in both this response and the one that follows, which is not formatted in a way that allows me easily to quote it.

I will remark, from my own consternation which I share with you, that it is really not useful or well received when persons who are not Deacons endeavour to explain what is “reality” to one who actually is a Deacon and lives that vocation – and I can say the same thing as a priest relative to the priesthood.

And, what is worse, to dismiss what you say on the grounds that it is “idealistic” (!) is beyond the pale…just as it would be frankly nothing short of insulting for a lay person to dare to presume to explain to me “reality” about a vocation I have not only lived for decades but that I have formed seminarians to live, whether as secular clergy or as Religious.

You have addressed the various points raised but one…which is what I have read as a type of proposition that Deacons should receive a sort of honorarium per function they fulfill.

In fact, varying from diocese to diocese, it can happen that a Deacon, if he be the presiding minister of a baptism, funeral, or wedding, and he receives a gift from the family for the occasion that he has presided, he can be allowed to keep the gift…or not. This is governed by diocesan policy.

However, any concept that a Deacon receive a cash payment per Communion call made or Mass assisted at would be something abhorrent to every Deacon I have ever worked with…as though their sacred ministry could be reduced to a crass per-piece labour for money.

The nature of the vocation is understood by the man before he begins formation.

It does happen, in dioceses where there is a shortage of priests, that the Bishop may choose to name a Deacon as Parish Administrator. Depending upon the scope of his responsibilities, that can indeed be his full time employment (or it can be part-time) and remuneration would have to be examined in the light of the circumstance.

A Deacon, instead of a lay person, could be hired as a Director of Religious Education. He could be hired as a Family Life Minister or school principal or hospital chaplain or prison chaplain or administering a charitable agency or so forth.

In all other circumstances, a Deacon’s ministry in a parish is part-time, coming after his family and professional commitments, and he sees to his needs and those of his family from his profession’s salary.

Which brings me to how this is actually to be approached for all clergy…be they Deacon or Priest. It is well expressed by the Church in Australia. They articulate it as follows:
Australian taxation regulations regard clergy as ‘religious practitioners’ or ‘servants of God’ who receive a stipend and not a salary or wage in exchange for their labour, as an employee. This too is how the canons on the financial support of clergy interpret the matter. The financial support is not to be considered a wage for services provided or hours worked and in fact anything which would create the impression that clergy are employees is to be avoided.
In other words, the incardinating entity assumes an obligation that the incardinated cleric is not in penury and has his essential needs fulfilled regarding clothing, shelter, and food and that which is necessary to his maintenance…but “the labourer deserves his hire” is not the paradigm to be applied in regard to maintenance of the clergy.
*Can. 281§1. Since clerics dedicate themselves to ecclesiastical ministry, they deserve remuneration which is consistent with their condition, taking into account the nature of their function and the conditions of places and times, and by which they can provide for the necessities of their life as well as for the equitable payment of those whose services they need.
§2. Provision must also be made so that they possess that social assistance which provides for their needs suitably if they suffer from illness, incapacity, or old age.
**§3. Married deacons who devote themselves completely to ecclesiastical ministry deserve remuneration by which they are able to provide for the support of themselves and their families. Those who receive remuneration by reason of a civil profession which they exercise or have exercised, however, are to take care of the needs of themselves and their families from the income derived from it. ***
It is from this latter provision that the ministry of Deacons is largely non-stipendial.


Thank you Deacon for educating me and I apologize for any offense this thread may have caused. I have never met a permanent Deacon. As I have expressed elsewhere on this forum, Western Canada did NOT restore the permanent diaconate in the wake of Vatican II (or at least my province didn’t). I have no actual experience with the ministry of deacons and am woefully ignorant Beyond the academic list of things they “may” do (preside at weddings etc etc). Our archdiocese finally restored the permanent diaconate about 5 years ago. As it happens, I believe I laid eyes on a permanent Deacon in the flesh for my first time at a Mass at our cathedral tonight. I hope the ministry takes root here. I remember being at the ordination of a transitional Deacon about a decade ago in the neighbouring diocese. At the reception a woman at my table said “so what the heck is a Deacon”? We’ll learn in time :).


I realised last night that what we are referring to is what has been in the Church of England since time immemorial. We called them “non-stipendiary lay preachers/ lay readers” and there were women among them in the long ago days before women’s ordination

We were always a very socially aware church always dependent on a large "army " of volunteers, myself among them and no great fuss as it was simply part of our church life. And then of our lives. I would not ever live without giving all my skills and very cent i can spare away; it is how i was raised in my church.Part of my Christ-life.

So it seems… odd… to see what is being written now re deacons. Simply another form of volunteering.

And speaking of problems paying bills etc. The real problems are borne by clergy raising families . Thinking of one rector I know here with six children.Never a word of complaint and he grows food etc.

Different traditions and all are holy. All in Christ. Just a different language and tradition, and should be an egalitarian church as mine was. No great fanfare!

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