Our diocesan secretary has written saying that because our parish is behind with paying the quota, then the diocese is effectively meeting the costs of priestly ministry here; and that our priest cannot expect to continue to receive a stipend if the parish does not make more of a contribution to his costs. Is she right to link quota with stipend in this way?
No. The diocesan quota, or ‘parish share’ as it is often called these days, remains a voluntary contribution. Any attempt to levy it in the style of tax, which is the implication of a threat to impose sanctions (If you pay insufficient quota, then we will reduce the stipend’) could be unlawful. It is disturbing that a direct link is being made between a PCC’s voluntary contribution and the payment of part of the priests stipend from the diocesan stipends fund, and the threat to sever that part.
What if the incumbent perhaps thoroughly supports the payment of the quota, but the rest of the entire PCC, which he – or she – chairs, votes for some reason to reduce, or withhold, their contribution? It would be absurd that a priest’s full stipend be dependent upon the votes of others in a PCC.
In any event, a court would be highly unlikely to support a diocese which attempted to withdraw payment of a stipend in the way threatened. True, the only part of the stipend which is absolutely certain is the guaranteed annuity (for those who have elected to retain it) and the fee income; the rest of the stipend – that paid by the diocesan stipends fund – is discretionary. But that is only so at the outset
Once the stipend level has been determined and payment made, then the cleric has a right to its continuance. The financial maintenance of the clergy is a fundamental aspect of church life; it is not something to be used as a lever on parishes.