US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Should we be peddling the priesthood to the unemployed?

Liz Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

“I do not offer you a great salary. I promise you a permanent job,” says a recruitment video for the priesthood recently produced by Spain’s Episcopal Conference. For many in Spain, a country experiencing the highest unemployment rate in Europe, job security sounds great. But is promising a permanent job the best way to attract new recruits to the priesthood?

According to the LA Times, the average Spanish priest earns a salary of about $1,000 a month. This amount is less than the average income, but is above the official poverty line for a single worker. Throw in the possibility of free housing for seminarians, and the priesthood can look like an attractive financial option for an unemployed single male in Spain.

Would promoting the priesthood as a permanent job pay off in the U.S.? It’s no secret that the church is experiencing a shortage of priests, or that our country’s unemployment rate is hovering near 8 percent. In 1965, the U.S. had more than 58,000 priests to serve in about 17,000 parishes, while today we have less than 40,000 priests for a nearly identical number of parishes. And, we do employ some creative tactics to speak to youth to help promote vocations.

“I promise the fact that you have been chosen,” says the video. This seems like a pretty bold claim, considering how much discernment is required for this life-changing decision. (Interesting to note: the video does not mention celibacy, though showcases many other elements of being a priest.) Is this a resourceful way to encourage vocations, or will people who haven’t truly discerned the calling to the priesthood be lured in by the promise of job security?

My guess is that those who have been chosen will still know so in their hearts, whether or not the spirit spoke to them through a recruitment video.