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British priests seek pension scheme

The National Conference of Priests (NCP) in the UK is asking the Church set up a stakeholder pension scheme to ensure 6000 priests have a retirement income.

The Conference, which represents priests in England and Wales, warns that without the pension scheme, many priests will face "immense hardship" in their retirement years. It plans to lobby the November meeting of the Bishops' Conference.

NCP vice-chairman Fr Rob Esdaile told The Times that priests wanted their own payments into a stakeholder pension scheme to be topped up by their parish and diocese.

Fr Esdaile added that it was vital the scheme was organised nationally to provide equal benefits to all priests, who usually retire at 75.

The structure of the Catholic Church with 23 dioceses in England and Wales, each headed by an autonomous, Pope-appointed bishop has hindered the creation of a single pension fund or salary scheme for priests.

Instead, retired priests live on charity handouts, small disbursements from their diocese and the state pension. The living allowance priests receive during their active years, even when supplemented by church collections, is not enough to allow for significant retirement savings.

Priests, like everyone else, are living longer, which is putting pressure on the charities and diocesan benefit funds. Meanwhile, some congregations are shrinking, reducing the amount of money collected.

Francis Fernandes, partner at actuaries Lane Clark & Peacock, said that it was vital the Church made adequate pension provisions now, in case attendance continued to decline.

Pictured: Priests from last year's NCP conference (from NCP website)

The Times

National Conference of Priests (England and Wales)

26 Sep 2003