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[Latin stipendium, a tax, import, tribute; in military use, pay, salary; contraction for stipipendium, from stips, a gift, donation, alms (given in small coin), and pendere, to weigh out]

A stipend is a fixed pay, salary; retribution for work done; the income of an ecclesiastical living. In canon law stipend is a general designation of means of support (sustentatio congrua or congrua) provided for the clergy. In the early ages of the Church no special provision was made for the maintenance of the clergy. St. Paul, the tent-maker, set the example (1 Corinthians 4:12) of earning his own livelihood. In imitation of him many clerics worked at some craft or followed some profession, living by the labour of their own hands. Even in the fifth and sixth centuries there were bishops, priests, and deacons, who in keeping with the advice of the Fourth Council of Carthage (a. 398, cann. 52, 53) supported themselves by their own labour. Early legislation (Canon. Apost., can. 6), which forbade the clergy to take up certain occupations and professions, is an indication that clerics sought to maintain themselves. Many of the laity, however, even from the beginning, were quick to follow the instructions of Christ and his Apostles (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Timothy 5:17-18), founded on the practice in vogue among the Jews (Leviticus 27:30 sq.; Numbers 18:23 sq.; etc.), who gave tithes of all their goods and produce for the sustenance of priests and levites. Thus did the laity provide for the bodily welfare of the clergy in return for the spiritual gifts received through their ministry. Later the payment of tithes was frequently insisted on by St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and others (Thomassin, "Vet. et nov. eccl. disc., " III, II, xii, xiv). The Synods of Tours (560) and Mâcon (586) strenuously exhorted the faithful to pay the tithes ordained by God. Charlemagne made their payment obligatory on his subjects by a royal ordinance of 779, the requirements of which he himself faithfully observed. The obligation of giving tithes has long since ceased almost universally, but the faithful, of course, must contribute to the proper support of sacred ministers.

The voluntary offerings of the people made on Sundays and other occasions were also intended in part for the maintenance of clerics, that they might not be compelled to engage in pursuits which might ill become the ecclesiastical state or withdraw the clergy from their spiritual work. In most countries the offerings of the laity still constitute the chief support of the clergy. A quasi-contract obtains between the parish on the one hand and the clergy who minister to its wants on the other. Pastor and assistants are engaged in the work of the parish and receive in return a definite salary from the income or revenues of the parish. These revenues are derived from pew-rental, offerings, collections, subscriptions, and whatever other sources of income the parish may possess. Clerics engaged in teaching or other work not parochial are supported in much the same way, obtaining a salary from the institution by which they are employed. The salary (congrua) of pastors and assistants should be a fixed sum, such as will suffice for their necessities. The amount paid will depend on various circumstances of time, place, persons, income of the parish, and duties of the incumbent. The Council of Trent (Sess. XXIV, c. 13, de ref.) directs bishops to arrange. the congrua in the most convenient way. Salaries of pastors in the United States are determined in diocesan synods or otherwise with the advice of the diocesan consultors (Cone. Plen. Balt. III, n. 273). Stole fees (jura stolæ), or perquisites received on the occasion of the administration of the sacraments or sacramentals, are not in the nature of stipends. At times, nevertheless, by diocesan regulations, they form a portion of the salary of pastor and assistants.

In regard to so-called state aid of the clergy, the State began indirectly to help the clergy in the time of Constantine, who gave a legal existence to churches as corporate bodies, permitting them to receive donations and legacies and to hold the same in perpetuity (Cod. Theod., XVI, 2, 4). He ordered contributions of grain to be given annually to the clergy out of the public granaries. He contributed large sums from his own resources for the support of the clergy in Africa, and exempted the Church from imposts in an edict imposing a general tax (Cod. Theod., XI, i, 1). Direct support of the clergy by the State is of comparatively modern origin, having developed since the Reformation. It obtains particularly in Catholic countries that have entered into a concordat, or treaty, with the Holy See for the support of the clergy. This support is in recompense, far inadequate indeed, for the sequestration of ecclesiastical funds and property. Austria, Spain, Italy, and certain countries of Central and South America thus directly support the clergy, paying salaries to bishops, vicars-general, pastors, and assistants. France and Portugal, as well as Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippines, when under Spanish rule, did the same.

Since the time of Constantine the right of the Church to possess temporal goods has been universally acknowledged and protected by civil governments with some exceptions. These exceptions refer chiefly to bequests and legacies. The possession by the Church of temporal goods and the surrendering of the same to the clergy for their sustenance gave rise to benefices, the fruits or income of which constitute the chief provision for the maintenance of the clergy possessing them. The fruits of a benefice will maintain the incumbent, even though he have private means of support. He should have not only what is necessary for sustenance, but sufficient for fitting recreation and hospitality, and a modest portion for future contingencies: he may also assist near relatives to some extent. If anything remain, it is to be used in charitable works. Ecclesiastical goods are not to be bequeathed in any considerable quantity to profane purposes. There are other methods in vogue for the support of the clergy akin to, or divisions of, those mentioned: voluntary offerings, tithes, quasi-contracts, state aid, and benefices. Stipends for the application of Masses were originally intended for the daily maintenance of the celebrant. (For treatment of the Mass-stipend see SACRIFICE OF THE MASS.) It is in this latter sense that the word is mostly used at present, though it occasionally designates certain allowances made from ecclesiastical foundations in favour of students seeking a more special or more profound training in the arts or sciences. (See BENEFICE; ENDOWMENT; TITHES.)

About this page

APA citation. Meehan, A. (1912). Stipend. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Meehan, Andrew. "Stipend." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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