From Iceland — Priests Taking Under-The-Table Payments

Priests Taking Under-The-Table Payments

Published August 21, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Helgi Halldórsson

Some priests have taken to accepting “under the table” payments for baptisms, weddings and confirmations, a practice church leadership frowns upon.

Vísir spoke with Kristján Björnsson, the chairperson of the Icelandic Society of Priests, who admitted the practice happens, and that higher-ups in the church are both aware of it and displeased.

Numerous incidents have been reported of priests asking for cash payments for performing weddings, baptisms and confirmations, and not issuing receipts. In some cases, they have also charged more than state regulations for these services allow.

“We have emphasised that these prices [for these services] are not guidelines, but set prices,” he said. “We have to take that price and nothing more.”

Awareness of the problem reaches all the way up to the Bishop’s Office, and some priests have had to answer for breaking the law.

“I can’t deny that the bishop has had to talk to some of these priests about this,” he said. “This doesn’t happen a lot. I remember one incident like this two years ago.”

As reported, Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir is unhappy with budget cuts made to the national church, despite them being in harmony with cuts made to other government institutions. She believes the church has reached the breaking point.

The current budget that the Icelandic government pays out of tax coffers to the National Church totals over 4.1 billion ISK. The bishop herself makes 1,036,000 ISK per month, while the average base salary for a parish priest is about 585,000 ISK per month, although many make significantly more.

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