Friday, January 2, 2015
LET'S GET PRACTICAL!
Secular or Diocesan priests do not take a vow or promise of poverty. We should be treated differently than those in religious orders, such as Jesuits and Conventual Franciscans who do take vows of poverty.
When I was ordained in 1980 our bishop emphasized at the time that we should be preparing for our retirement. The diocesan pension would not be enough to live on. We should also be paying into Social Security and putting monies away in savings, such as personal retirement accounts. As I am now 9 years away from retirement, I am glad that I did what our bishop recommended. More than likely others will inherit my retirement nest egg.
While secular priests do not make a promise of poverty, there is a nebulous theology that we should live in Gospel simplicity. We don't make a great deal every month in terms of salaries and stipends, but we do live comfortably. We can inherit property and money from our parents, siblings and friends.
Every priest needs to decide for himself what Gospel simplicity means for himself and a presbyterate.
Our diocesan policy is that we are to wear clerical attire when we are on duty. For me that means 24 hours a day! However, I wear gym shorts to the gym and secular clothes on vacation and when traveling. So I have other shirts, pants and shoes that are not clerical clothes.
I drive a nice car. In two years I've put 42,000 miles on it and I travel rural Georgia frequently and have hit a dear in a smaller car and have had numerous close calls. I have a mid size SUV now because it is easier for me to get in and out of given some knee issues and aging issues. It is large and provides more protection in the case of a deer encounter or accident. I have driven Honda Accords for most of my priesthood but this last one purchased two years ago and slightly used is a Nissan Murano and yes it is quite nice.
I do think priests need to be a bit more careful about extravagant vacations especially to Europe. I now of some priests who go overseas several times a year. I can see how parishioners eye brows might be raised. My mother did not go back to visit her sisters and brother in Italy for 12 years after we left Italy to come to Georgia in 1957. She returned to Italy no more than 10 times from 1968 to her last trip when she turned 80 in 1999.
In terms of helping the poor, we priests should not be enabling sin on the part of the poor who take advantage of people seeking money not to feed themselves or their families but to purchase booze of drugs.
We have ministries in Macon to assist the poor. These are what I support. Those who offer these ministries do so in a constructive way. We are fortunate in Macon to have a variety of resources for the chronically poor and street people. We don't need to contribute to their dishonesty by giving them money which they request for one thing and will use for something else that is completely harmful to them.
Finally, I do think that diocesan bishops should encourage more traditional rectory lives. When I was ordained I was in the last days of rectories which always had a full time housekeeper/cook. She or he would provide breakfast, lunch and supper as well as cleaning and laundry. Priests rarely went out to eat and if they did they had to pay for it themselves since they opted to eat out when a meal was prepared in the rectory.
Priests today eat on the run, eat too much fast food, go to too many fancy restaurants and often live as bachelors in their rectories even when there are multiple priests, fending for themselves and eating when they want rather than at scheduled times with brother priests.
There is a crisis of rectory living with priests that no one seems to want to address or to develop a healthier way of doing things which we seem to get right in the 1950's and well into the early 1980's.