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Retired Clergy Living Beneath Poverty Line

Landon77

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  Has anyone thought of building a retirement home just for retired priest and their widowed wives?  I guess it would be a lot easyer to find a solution if we only had one Orthodox Church in N. America - there would be more money to go around.
 

aserb

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This is a disgrace.

Regardless of our ethnicity or jurisdictional affiliation these are ORTHODOX Priests.

The website noted that contributions can be given to the following:

Tax exempt donations will be accepted and can be sent to:

Retired Clergy Benevolent Fund
Fr. Nicholas Soteropoulos
162-41 Powells Cove Blvd. Apt 2G
Beechhurst, NY 11357

 

chris

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"Even though He slays me, it is He I am waiting for"

One of our clergy professors has this quote from Job on his office door. As I have been taught by others, to be a priest is to imitate Christ, and therefore to die to yourself.

This is a shame, and hopefully we in the 'rich' GOA can do something about it. Since this could easily become my future and that of my family's, let us hope so!
 

Ebor

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Dying to self is one thing.  Being reduced to such poverty when ones work and strength are past is another.  :( 

Why couldn't retired priests and their wives also live in such a retirement home? I don't understand why it would only be for those whose mate has died.

Ebor
 

BrotherAidan

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I hate to continually bring this up...
But...
Orthodox churches - generally - can be quite deficient when it comes to stewardship and giving.
The one peice of baggage all cradles should hope and pray that evangelical converts DO bring with them and that it will infect their parish and entire diosese is a protestant understanding of tithes and offerings (which happens to be quite biblical)

Sorry to appear uncharitable, but sadly this is true for the most part

And unfortunately, this sad account does not surprise me.

Annual "dues" and sales of  perroghis or Greek pastries, coupled with a few raffles is NOT biblical steward

How many priests are also working a secular job and/or thier wives must work; then they get to the parish council meeting only to hear everyone bitch about how the medical insurance premium for the priest and his family has gone up or that the utilites for the church and the priest's house have risen again.

I know the branch theory is anathema to most Orthodox, but there are other "streams" that call themselves Christian that do a lot of things well and do them in a biblical manner. Stewardship is first among these things.

 

Aristocles

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I cannot argue against anything you've stated above, BrotherAidan.

Surprisingly, however, even the supposedly "rich" Greeks have these problems - all of our parishes are not 600-1000 families where high salaries and benefits are a rule. Many smaller ones struggle.
 

Psalti Boy

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I just found this update and somewhat confrontational interview in the National Herald with Bishop Andonios of Phasiane.

http://www.thenationalherald.com/issue.asp?issue=11394

I guess I better paste the article, because if you don'y have a subscription to the National Herals, you won't be able to see it.

Andonios: AD Looking Into Problem Of Retired Clergymen
By Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald


BOSTON — The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America responded to the National Herald’s recent report on retired priests living beneath the poverty line.

The story, "Retired Clergy Living Beneath Poverty Line," — published in the October 15 edition, noted that, among other things, several retired clergymen and their wives are subsisting on cat food or meats discarded by supermarkets because the expiration date had expired.
The allegations were disclosed in the October 2005 issue of "The Epistle," the official publication of the Greek Orthodox Retired Clergy Association.
In an interview with the Herald, His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, Director of the Archdiocese Philanthropy Department and St. Michael’s Home for the Aged in Yonkers, contacted the Herald to address the issue on behalf of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America.
The text of the interview follows below:
TNH: Your Grace, we have been informed that you have already taken measures on the issue of the unfortunate priests and presvyteres (priest’s wives). Can you tell us what they are?
ANDONIOS: His Eminence had asked me to take care of the issue on behalf of the Archdiocesan Council, as it had been brought up in their most recent meeting that there are clerics who receive a minimum pension and are suffering.
Since last year, when the Philoptochos conference took place, we have instituted a fund for this purpose, and it was determined that this September would be the first time that they would raise money for the fund. When Father Soteropoulos (treasurer of the Retired Clergy Association) came here, I called the Philoptochos and asked how much money they had raised.
TNH: How much?
ANDONIOS: Sixteen thousand dollars.
TNH: Where is that money now?
ANDONIOS: In the Philoptochos treasury.
TNH: Why has it not been given to the retired priests?
ANDONIOS: Because there is a system. They did not know where to give it because it is a complicated case, meaning that certain clerics receive assistance from the Benefits Office, while others receive help from elsewhere. Not all of them receive assistance from one treasury or one office.
TNH: The Retired Clergy Association has a treasury too, doesn’t it?
ANDONIOS: Yes, and it helps certain clerics, but there are other offices that help others.
TNH: How many priests are in need of assistance?
ANDONIOS: I don’t know at this point. That’s what I’m trying to find out.
TNH:  So you’re saying that the Archdiocese doesn’t know how many retired priests are in need?
ANDONIOS: That’s right. We do not know. This is why I’m trying to gather evidence.
TNH: What measures have you taken since the issue was made public?
ANDONIOS: When I met with Father Soteropoulos, he informed me that he had enough money to last him until December. I told him that we have money if he needed it, and he replied that "no, we have (money) until December, and from then on, we will ask for help."
TNH: Is the Archdiocese considering organizing a program for these clerics?
ANDONIOS: Indeed, this is what we’re trying to do, because at this moment, the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing, so to speak.
TNH: We have heard from several clerics that this problem has been going on for years. Why hasn’t the Archdiocese taken care of it?
ANDONIOS: I can’t answer that. What I can tell you is that the Archbishop has already shown interest, and that is why he assigned me with this task, and I am determined to do everything I can to assist these people because it’s a shame on all of us.
TNH: Since you are also director of the St. Michael’s Home, are you considering opening its doors to those clerics and presvyteres who are in need?
ANDONIOS: They have been and are still open. We have assisted clerics in the past. Initially, St. Michael’s was meant to do precisely that: to assist clerics, and later on modified its mission.
TNH: How does the home support itself financially?
ANDONIOS: From whatever contributions there are from elderly people, and from donations given by friends of the Home.
TNH: Do you receive any funds from the State?
ANDONIOS: No, because they are Greek Orthodox, so we are not entitled to any help.
TNH: What is the Home’s annual budget?
ANDONIOS: $1.5 million. We have 60 residents. We receive $980,000 from them, and the rest — $520,000 — from donations. Some residents have fortunes and are able to afford their monthly contributions; others do not, so we cover their expenses through donations.
TNH: How much money does the Archdiocese give the Home annually?
ANDONIOS: Why make that an issue now?
TNH: Why not? It’s a question.
ANDONIOS: It does not, but it has helped in times of need. When I first took up the directorship of the Home, it gave me $10-20 thousand to pay for expenses.
TNH: But there is no mention in the Archdiocesan budget for the St. Michael’s Home.
ANDONIOS: Yes, that’s true. But why are we changing the subject to the Home?
TNH: What are your personal thoughts and feelings about the retired priests in need?
ANDONIOS: I am extremely bothered by this, and I am contemplating the ways through which we could help these people who are in this condition. They have given their lives to the Church, and the Church has to provide for them.
TNH: Thank you, Your Grace.
ANDONIOS: Thank you.

 

Fr. George

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PsaltiBoy - I got a prompt for a username and password, so I don't think the article you linked to will work for most here.
 

Fr. George

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Psalti Boy

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You're quite welcome Cleveland.  What do you hear about this issue among other seminarians?

My wife and I have been in touch with Fr. Gaines, President of the Greek RCA.  He is still trying to piece his home together after hurricane Katrina.  I also emailed Fr. Soteropoulos and expressed to him that my wife and I would like to begin a fundraising ministry to assist retired Orthodox priests and widows, from all jurisdictions.

Psalti Boy
 

Beavis

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Too bad Orthodoxy is no longer the state religion in Greece.  Otherwise the priests would be getting a paycheck from the government, like Reformed ministers do in the Netherlands (oohhhhh.....the irony!)
 

TomS

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Beavis said:
Too bad Orthodoxy is no longer the state religion in Greece. Otherwise the priests would be getting a paycheck from the government, like Reformed ministers do in the Netherlands (oohhhhh.....the irony!)
What? I think it still is, and they still do.
 

BrotherAidan

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Sorry to keep coming back to this, but there is something fundamentally flawed in the way the RC Church and Orthodox Churches approach stewardship. The Catholics can cover it by sheer numbers; we obviously can't.

But you don't see Protestant pastors (unless they are with some obscure independent church) in this kind of plight, active or retired.

Why did Orthodox and and RCs only insist on a few dollars a week from their parishoners in the form of dues, then supplement with bingo, raffles, peroghi and Greek pastry sales? (the first two of which isn't stewardship, but a form of gambling). There were plenty of poor German Lutherans (my grandmother among them) and rural Baptists (black and white) and Pentecostals, etc. among the Protestant, tithing churches, so the poor immigrant excuse doesn't wash.

But why did the two churches with apostolic succession settle for (by only demanding the minimum) the crumbs from its parishoner's tables for its successors to the holy apostles?
 

Bizzlebin

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BrotherAidan said:
But why did the two churches with apostolic succession settle for (by only demanding the minimum) the crumbs from its parishoner's tables for its successors to the holy apostles?
See my sig, "Christianity is not a religion of minimums." But also remember we are not a religion of legalism, either. The Orthodox Church, even Christ, demands not 10%, a tithe, but everything, 100%, the maximum. However, it's up to the members to give 100%. If the Church isn't getting funding, it's not because it doesn't ask, it's because we are selfish and do not give.
 

Jonathan

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Bizzlebin said:
See my sig, "Christianity is not a religion of minimums." But also remember we are not a religion of legalism, either. The Orthodox Church, even Christ, demands not 10%, a tithe, but everything, 100%, the maximum. However, it's up to the members to give 100%. If the Church isn't getting funding, it's not because it doesn't ask, it's because we are selfish and do not give.
I disagree, not giving 10% when things are hard is a lack of faith in God to provide.  If we believe that 100% of what we have is His, and that He provides according to His will then we won't have fear in giving 10%, thinking that there won't be enough.  And giving more than 10% shouldn't be done without the permission of one's father in confession since it can lead to testing God, or acting inprudently and ending up in financial trouble of our own making.

The Church gives us fasting so that (among other reasons) we can learn obedience by subjecting our will and obeying the fasting schedule.  We don't say, oh, Orthodoxy isn't about minimums, so you don't have to fast.  Likewise the Church teaches us to tithe so that we can learn obedience, and trust in God.

Of course we shouldn't be looking for the minimum we can do, that's the wrong attitude.  We should be looking to subject our wills to the amount of fasting, prayer, tithing, etc that the Church prescribes for our sickness.
 

Bizzlebin

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Jonathan said:
I disagree, not giving 10% when things are hard is a lack of faith in God to provide. If we believe that 100% of what we have is His, and that He provides according to His will then we won't have fear in giving 10%, thinking that there won't be enough. And giving more than 10% shouldn't be done without the permission of one's father in confession since it can lead to testing God, or acting inprudently and ending up in financial trouble of our own making.

The Church gives us fasting so that (among other reasons) we can learn obedience by subjecting our will and obeying the fasting schedule. We don't say, oh, Orthodoxy isn't about minimums, so you don't have to fast. Likewise the Church teaches us to tithe so that we can learn obedience, and trust in God.

Of course we shouldn't be looking for the minimum we can do, that's the wrong attitude. We should be looking to subject our wills to the amount of fasting, prayer, tithing, etc that the Church prescribes for our sickness.
Anyways, why set the number at 10%? Why not 11% or 12%? Why not 15%? As I said, we cannot say "*Enter legalism mode* Ten percent or Doom! *end legalism mode*" Tithing is a fine standard, if a person needs help finding a standard, but there is no sense in taking an Old Testament guideline and making it Church Law. A person can tithe and still test God, get into financial trouble etc. It's not about the money, but the heart. Setting up a minimum only encourages giving the minimum.

It is precisely because Orthodoxy is not about minimums that we do fast. (I think you may have taken what I said backwards)

Exactly.
 

Psalti Boy

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Forgive my possible ignorance, but what does the Church of Greece have to do with the pensions of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America?  Is there a financial connection that I am missing?
 

Psalti Boy

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My wife and I just completed a website that we hope will assist us in raising awareness to the issue of the retired priests and widows.  We also hope that those who visit will send a donation to the Retired Clergy Benevolent Fund.  We would like to eventually raise funds for priests or widows of priests that have a financial crisis, no matter which jurisdiction they are in. 

Please visit our site at:    http://www.freewebs.com/cbg22/  Please pass it around.

Any suggestions,please let me know.

Psalti Boy
 

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The 100% thing and giving from your heart is bull and a copout.

That's why our churches are in such financial difficulty, with priests working secular jobs and priest's wives working and retired priests eating canned pet food to survive.

When we all reach a point in our personal journeys of theosis that we can be trusted to follow our heart - then great!

Until then...
church utilities and the priest's health insurance and car allowance and monthly salary; not to mention outreach into the community and maybe having a part time person overseeing the Christian education program and supporting foreign missions of the Church and supporting a monastery or helping when tsunamis or hurricanes or other disasters strike -- those things cost LEGALISTIC dollars (the utilitycompany doesn't say to give whatever is on your heart to send in this month).

It's time for some straight talk about stewardship in Orthdox circles and it's time for our people to pony up and pay a decent wage to our priests. And it's time to throw off the struggling ethnic immigrant minority syndrome (most are now 3rd and 4th generation with college educations and post-graduate degrees) and start reaching out into our communities and evangelize and increasingly pagan nation.
 

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Giving 100% is not a copout, it's what we're called to do. From the widow who gave two coins, to the Church in Acts give us clear examples. Ananias and Sapphira didn't die for giving less than 10%, they died for giving less than 100%. Even the Epistles tell us to give from out hearts. 2 Corinthians 9:7

"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."

God never said, "Give from your heart when you reach the point where you give a lot." If it is not in a person's heart, then it will show.

If a person wants to tithe, good and well. If they don't, good and well. There are people in my parish that give more than they make, you can't tell them to tithe! There is no rule that says we must. The priests salary will reflect the condition the parish is in. Putting extra money in the priests pocket by a rule of giving is going to help the priest, sure, but if the congregation isn't giving willingly, it's not the humble priest that is in danger!
 

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I read a pamphlet entitled Tithing, by J. Richard Ballew, a few years back, which attempts to outline evidence for the continuance of the practice among Christians. I was not fully persuaded by the pamphlet myself, but they do try to outline the history of the practice (including it's pre-mosaic-law foundation), and rebut arguments against it (including the charges that it is legalistic, and that it is a modern Protestant phenomenon). Here are some of the references they gave from the Church Fathers:

St. Ireneaus, Against Heresies, 4, 8, 3
St. Ireneaus, Against Heresies, 4, 17, 2-3
St. John Chrysostom, Homily 4 on Ephesians (specifically, the commentary on v. 10)

I'm not sure that anyone is seriously saying that we should just give 10%. Period. I've never met a pro-tithe person who said that if someone wanted to give 15% they shouldn't be allowed, or that if someone couldn't afford to give 10% that they should be physically (or otherwise) forced to. The Israelites gave much more than 10% anyway, once you added in all the offerings and gifts they had to give. In the pamphlet by Mr. Ballew, when arguing against the practice being legalistic, he compares the practice of tithing to that of fasting. We have rules about fasting (e.g., fast from certain things on Wednesday and Friday), he points out, but that doesn't make it legalistic. I think this is an excellent point. If indeed tithing is an Orthodox practice, then the rules themselves are not legalistic, but legalism can only enter in with an overbearing application of the rules, just as with fasting (and many other practices).
 

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Asteriktos said:
I'm not sure that anyone is seriously saying that we should just give 10%. Period.

If indeed tithing is an Orthodox practice, then the rules themselves are not legalistic, but legalism can only enter in with an overbearing application of the rules, just as with fasting (and many other practices).
No, not here. But it seems to be an unfortunate consequence that many people do see it that way. That is why I advocate tithing as a [personal] choice for those who need help finding a standard, but not as something that should be a universal standard like fasting.

Agreed.
 

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Hey, it's not just retired clergy living below the poverty line.... try ACTIVELY Serving Clergy & Clergy Families - including being without Health Insurance of any kind!
 

Fr. George

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Mat. Elizabeth said:
Hey, it's not just retired clergy living below the poverty line.... try ACTIVELY Serving Clergy & Clergy Families - including being without Health Insurance of any kind! 
Very true and far too prevalent, especially in the jurisdictions where the 50-family parish is the rule (not the exception).
 

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Annual median income in USA in 1999 (quick google search) was $41,994. Multiply by 50 families and take 10% and you have an annual parish budget of almost $210,000! Even 5% would be over 100K.

I'm not saying eveyone makes that much, but some undoubtedly make more.

But it beats a church dues of $3 per week, last adjusted for inflation in 1942.
 
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