This is a sad article about how clergy are losing their tax free housing. It reminds me of the story of St. Lawrence, who lived in the early 200’s. While there are now doubts about the historical accuracy of the story, it goes like this:
During the persecution of the Roman Emperor Valerian, the prefect demanded that Deacon Lawrence gather up and bring to him all the treasures of the Church. When Lawrence returned to the prefect’s presence, he brought with him a huge throng of poor and sick that the Church cared for. Outraged, the prefect had him burned alive on a grid-iron.
Clearly clergy are not under such a threat, but there remains a parallel in governments misunderstanding the church. The church is seen by governments as a tool of wealth rather than as a body of poor souls. Taxing the Church is seen as taxing a faceless organization, but lets look at those faces effected by the law.
Above is the interior of St. Patrick’s in New York. There is an enormous about of cost in constructing and repairing this building, and yet, it is freely open for all to enjoy (note the visitors!). Contrast this with the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which will set you back about 20 bucks. This is true of the fine art in Churches all across America.
Who pays for these churches to be up and running? It is the poor who pay. And they do their best to keep the caretakers of their parishes well cared for. However, the average priest makes only $40,000 a year, which is hardly great money. It’s less than your average kindergarten teacher. By increasing the tax on priests, the effect will be a tax on the poor, who then need to work harder to maintain their parish and to ensure their priest has a respectable livelihood.
This tax won’t change much for the government, it is projected to raise taxes by 700 million. That is only about 6% of one of the navy’s new air craft carriers. The burden on the poor will be much greater, a couple thousand more dollars needed every year.