Analysis: The “Taxation” Payments of the Parishes to the Archdiocese

Finance Committee Chairman Lazaros Kyrkos is showing the budgets of past Clergy Laity Congress while Archdiocesan Council vice chairman George Tsandikos listens. TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos

This is not the first time that I write about the obligatory “taxation” payments of the parishes to the Archdiocese. I had written about it a while ago. The reason that I revisit this sober and pressing issue is the fact that over the past few weeks many presidents and members of parish councils brought up the subject to me with much anguish and concern.

I was touched by their distress because their parishes are faced with huge financial hardships to …

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  1. Yes, truly, the blood and sweat of my parents and many other Greek immigrants to America in the early twentieth century, created our Greek Orthodox Church and its Archdiocese. And, yes, “the Church situation in Arlington and Lowell” has turned me away from the Greek Orthodox Church.

  2. Parishioners are afraid of the Metropolitans and Chancellors.
    Parishioners are afraid their Priest will be transferred.
    Parishioners are afraid they will not be provided a “good” priest.
    Parishioners are afraid that the doors of the churches will close.
    At some point the Metropolitans and Chancellors will be afraid there are no parishioners left to pay them. It will only happen when all the large endowment funds are depleted and the parish councils are strong enough to say “Oxi!”.

  3. So sad what has transpired not only in Arlington and Lowell, MA. But rather, the dismal situation the entire Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America finds itself as a whole.

    With the exception of certain parishes throughout the country. There definitely seems to be a lack of “Christness.” It seems this institution is run by a group of tyranical despots. Who seem to lack any management leadership qualities. Other than management by fear and intimidation. These hierarchs seem to care more about themmselves and all about putting themselves first. “Humility,” to them, seems to be an eight letter foul word. One which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be in their lexicon.

    Let us recall Christ’s words … “the first will be last and the last will be first.” That’s something well worth pondering over.

  4. I think Mr. Kalmoukos needs to elaborate on his statement that a parish with a budget of $300,000 needs $240,000 of that amount for the priest’s salary and benefits and the payment to the Archdiocese. How much does a priest receive in salary and benefits from a parish that has a budget of $300,000? Should we assume that the priest makes $100,000 with benefits of $25,000 (25% is a generous guess), the balance, $115,000, that goes to the Archdiocese is 38% of the parish’s total annual budget while, if the $125,000 for the priest is correct, that represents 42% of the parish’s annual budget.. Do any parishes allow 42% of their annual budget for the priest and 38% for the annual payment to the Archdiocese? And, of course, if the priest’s salary and benefits is less than $125,000 of a $300,000 budget, how much goes to the Archdiocese?

  5. Here is a thought for the illustrious Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In my humble opinion, it would be simply wonderful if at some point, it decides to cut back its spending on lavish meetings and dinners.

    Rather than holding these events at such elaborate hotels. Perhaps, the wise thing would be to hold them at the Hellenic College/Holy Cross campus or at a large enough church complex that may be able to handle a large audience.

    The Archdiocese should show its stewards it is truly concerned with saving money. Money that the parishes throughout this great country of ours work countless hours to keep their doors open. And, not for the Archdiocese or a Metropolis to unnecessarily throw it away!

  6. Elaborate…Housing, Auto Stipend, Health Insurance, pension and SS is the responsibility of the parishioners. A priest pays little. sometimes no income tax.
    Google “Render unto Caesar clergy tax”.

    1. I’m sorry, how do you know they don’t pay income tax? Do you see their tax returns?
      Only the portion that is housing allowance is not federally income taxable, however it still has self employment tax paid on it. Further, the self employment allowance from some parishes is fully taxable to the priest too.
      Priests who want a pension pay monthly about 6% of their total cash and non-cash comp, to a fund that the Archdiocese has left over $50 million unfunded. Why on earth would you think it’s free to the priest?
      It’s funny, when our parents and grandparents first set up our churches, we were proud to have a priest that would be accepted by the Americans and compensated them somewhat appropriately – now we begrudge every sacrifice they make, and want them to work for free. Ntrope!

  7. Housing and auto stipends, if they are part of the benefits package, also are sometimes offered in many other jobs. Pension and social security are not taxable until you start getting them, just like anyone else who has a pension and/or SS. Nothing different here yet except that housing allowances are often generous, but are not in addition to salary. And there are lots of folks who pay no income tax year after year, and some of those people make a heck of a lot more than most of us. Mr. Kalmoukos’ statements on budgets, salaries, etc., still are not explained.

  8. Very generous…Typically Housing and Auto Stipends are not larger than Salaries. Especially in rural areas. I would love a $2K/month plus Housing allowance. Pensions are paid by the parishes. Pensions and Health Insurance are also paid by the parishes. FICA taxes are also paid by the parishes (I believe? probably not based on $20K). I agree “Mr. Kalmoukos’ statements on budgets, salaries, etc., still are not explained.”.

    1. I understand what you are saying and I think we are getting closer to agreeing more. Yes, all those things are paid by the parish. But all employers must pay FICA and employees as well. Many employers have pensions for their employers. I believe the issue is not how priests are compensated. Sure, a few get ridiculous salaries, but that’s the hierarchs’ fault. But most priests don’t. The real issue here is the money paid to the Archdiocese. The national ministries are of little value. Many priests don’t like the materials put put by the Dept of Religious Education. Internet ministries? Most parishes could do their own websites. There are many young people who could do that work. There doesn’t need to be a central registry of weddings, baptisms, funerals,etc. The registry can be kept on a metropolis level. However, the real ssue of the money sent to the Archdiocese and the Metropolises is a pastoral one. Many parishes have one priest ministering to 300 or more families. Such large parishes should have 2 priests, and maybe 3 for the really large parishes. But too much money flows out. It is my understanding that annual assessments are made based on the budget the parish has. It used to be based on income but that was changed because parishes were hiding income. Salaries, pensions, FICA, housing allowances, etc., would not be a big issue if so much money wasn’t going out.

  9. An absolute truth: “If you think the issue is not about money, you’re wrong, it’s still about money.”

    The only language heard by the Archdiocese and the Metropolises is money. Absolute proof is how they respond to wealthy parishioners, but disregard the rest. We have all seen that behavior and they are stupid if they think we don’t. That arrogance even makes us question their faith. And the silly thing is, the many parishioners who would give more, in the absence of this anapodia, could eclipse the easy money that the Archimandrites cull from their anointed chosen sheep. And yes, I do choose to insult the wealthy for lacking Christian modesty and regard for their fellow parishioners. (BTW, tax-deductible donations can anonymous)

    They are so wrong-headed and hard-headed, that to make them hear at this point (and perhaps save their own souls in the process) money must be disrupted and diverted from their hands. Let them howl at the ceiling when that power of money is taken from them.

    The issues will quickly, easily and simply sort themselves out from there.
    That they’ve been given the PRIVILEGE to manage the Church’s money in secret is the cause of huge problems, which includes, but is not limited to their monumental, blasphemous ARROGANCE.

    I would gladly tell this to their faces, in English or in Greek, and I encourage ALL my fellow Greek Orthodox Christian parishioners to do the same. It is our OBLIGATION to fix our Church. Kyrie Eleyson Hmas.

    1. PS I intend to start with my current Metropolis, located in the city that starts with D for Denver.

  10. “Priests who want a pension pay monthly about 6% of their total cash and non-cash comp, to a fund that the Archdiocese has left over $50 million unfunded. Why on earth would you think it’s free to the priest?”
    Because the Parish pays the Pension for the Priest ($600 or $700/month). I have never heard of the Priest paying this 6% figure. Our budgets state that the parish pays the pension. Maybe our parish is unaware of this. How do you know?
    The budget also states that the Priest shall receive the Archdiocese Healthcare (which is very expensive).

    As for income taxes a new priest can declare all income as housing allowance… pays little or no income taxes. This is common knowledge to all Priests. Otherwise they pay income taxes on the small salary portion of their total “package”. Google this yourself.

    BTW, no one is saying a Priest should work for free or not receive a pension.

    1. If you’re Greek Orthodox, go ask your priest if he has a payroll deduction for pension. Btw, we all are required to pay this by a letter we sign to the Archbishop upon ordination. We pay for the bulk of the pension ourselves.
      The monthly amount paid by parish is NOT specific to the parish priest’s pension account, but covers other insurance benefits and was supposed to cover the $50 million shortfall by the Archdiocese.
      A new priest can not legally claim all of his salary as housing allowance unless it goes to cover housing, this is the same for any priest. If the priest is paid $50k, and his housing costs are $4k/mo, then his federal taxable income is $2k. If his housing costs are only $1k/mo, his federal taxable income base is $38k.
      I’m not sure where you get your information, but it is completely inaccurate in terms of federal taxation and the pension funding.
      Orthodox Health Plan is extremely expensive, like any other employer provided health insurance (thanks Obama for covering everybody’s sexy changes and abortions). However it is an absolute legal requirement for the Archdiocese to provide this as an employer.

  11. The level of ignorance exposed in these comments is another indicator of why there is complete systemic and enterprise failure from the smallest parish to the largest cathedral and to higher levels such as the St Nicholas Shrine. We don’t know the accurate numbers, the terms and provisions, the margins ( plus or minus), and we have no clue with regard to accountability and audits. The ship is sunk. Find a new ship.

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