PRIESTS in England and Wales are to receive a minimum of £780 a year (about £15 a week) over and above State entitlement when they retire from active work in their dioceses.
Catholic priests — as celibate clergy — face difficulties on retirement. They normally leave the presbyteries where they lived when on parish work and have to rent or buy accommodation unless they are able tcii take up part-time chaplaincies or can live in a home for retired priests.
Nearly two years ago the bishops set up a committee to see what steps could he taken to ensure adequate provision for all diocesan priests in sickness and retirement. To this time almost every diocese has had its own system. with a mixture of voluntary funds and diocesan funds, many of which are dependent upon collections and levies.
For various reasons it proved impossible to secure agreement to the formation of a national association (or federation) of diocesan and voluntary funds. Subsequently an "equalisation" scheme was proposed whereby each diocese would contribute annually an agreed sum for each active priest to a national fund.
This would guarantee a minimum grant to each priest in retirement and would supplement the benefit of those for whom provision would otherwise 12y inadequate. This latter scheme was also rejected by most dioceses on the score that they could meet their own liabilities and only felt able to make a grant to help cases elsewhere if they were satisfied that everything possible had been done locally.
The Bishops' Committee therefore suggested that all dioceses should try to ensure for retired priests a minimum of 1780 p.a. (£15 p,w.) over and above State entitlement. Those dioceses for whose priests such provision could not be made were asked to consider adjusting their current arangements to raise benefit to this agreed minimum level, All save one expressed their willingness to do this. One diocese only reported that it was beyond its capacity to make adequate provision at this level for its greatly increased number of retired priests.
At the Low Week meeting of the Bishops' Conference, the committee duly suggested that for the current year the diocese which was incapable of meeting its responsibilities should be helped ad hoc by each of the other dioceses making a grant of £300 to cover the deficit,