Priests and The Vow of Poverty

From my understanding and reading of history many priests in previous ages took vows of poverty in order to serve the calling of being a member of the clergy. However, these days vows of poverty are only really taken by some priests and primarily by monks at monasteries.

I’ve read the didache of Saint Paul and he says that those in positions where they are ministering shouldn’t take money for their work because it can cloud their judgment while doing work in the name of Christ and can lead some into practicing prosperity gospel.

Do you think members of the clergy should take vows of poverty? Should someone be paid salary to minister?

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In the US, employees must be paid. Even men and women religious make an income. Some receive salaries, but they give their salaries to the community and it is used for the common needs of the community. The church is not exempt from labor laws.


You want Catholic priests to take the bus, panhandle and go to food pantries? For what purpose?


Professed religious (monks, friars, nuns, etc.) have always taken a vow of poverty. Any money they may make from a certain ministry goes to support their community.

Diocesan priests do not take vows of poverty and they are paid, as they should be. It would be highly impractical and unfair for them to take a vow of poverty. That said, it is good for priests to live fairly modest lives within their means.


I wasn’t saying they were, just asking what people’s thoughts were on the vow of poverty.

People need essentials even Priests but they should not go by overboard.

St.Francis of Assisi would not let the first order take money. They could take food for their labor but never money.

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The church could provide things like housing and food to priests if they took a vow of poverty.

Personally I think a vow of poverty isn’t a bad thing. I think it would be something that could strengthen priests. Money is a necessary thing in the realm of day to day life outside Church. But within the Church money shouldn’t be necessary

I don’t think it’d go overboard if they asked for things like food and housing. Those are two things that I believe would be perfectly acceptable

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But not even monks take a vow of poverty, right?

Yes, typically they do.

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The Church already does this.


I’m aware. What I’m saying is that I think more priests should take a vow of poverty and rely on the Church for housing and food

What would that look like? Paying them the US poverty wage?

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Not all priests are called to the religious life. While Diocesan priests are required to live simply and within their means, to be called to the radical poverty entailed by religious vows is a different vocation entirely.



The thing is, most orders who live in poverty also have very, very strong community, which makes the burden of poverty far more bearable.

Contrastingly, most Diocesan priests (un-ideally) live alone, and combining solitude and intense poverty can be dangerous for those unable to take it.


Like others said diocesan priest get a salary with room and board provided. Sometimes church members give them a check ($200-$500) to be nice to them. Some diocesan priests can be very wealthy through inheritance. Orders take vows of poverty. I always understood that orders “pooled” their resources. Sometimes the standard of living for an order is still very comfortable (there is nothing wrong with that)…they are appropriately modest at the same time though. Sometimes I thought the term “vow of poverty” was a bit of a misnomer. Perhaps I’m wrong, but sometimes the orders who take a “vow of poverty” may actually live a higher quality of living than the diocesan priests…this is in part based on the strength of their community.

@OnAJourney…I think this is a huge and important issue you’ve asked. On one level some protestant religions come across as big social organizations (sometimes advertised on the side of bus), and you pay a lot to be part of these organizations. Catholicism can reach a different type of person…people who are poor or who want a different experience. On the other hand, if Viri Probati (married older priests) are ever made a common exception in the US for Catholics, the entire pay structure of priests will need revisited.

Would you say it’s wrong to think as I do about the matter concerning the vow of poverty, Father? From reading the didache I that’s how I feel.

Great, when are you taking your vow of poverty then?


I’m not called to a life in the clergy, and I’ve spent the last few years with no job or money to speak of. I was speaking of in terms of it not being a bad thing for members of the clergy, which it’s not.

I think as long as my priest is living pretty much the same as the majority of his congregation, or perhaps a bit more humbly if he happens to be serving in a rich parish, then a vow of poverty is not necessary. I want my priest to be modest overall in his lifestyle, but I also think he should have good basics like a car that runs and that he can easily drive, and a comfortable bed so he gets enough rest to do his job, and decent food, and occasional treats or recreation.

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