History of Retirement Benefits
for Toronto Diocesan Priests
There were two prior benefit programs for Toronto’s diocesan priests. The first was the St. Michael’s Mutual Aid Society, established in the Archdiocese of Toronto (during the administration of Archbishop Pocock) in 1962. Originally, it was directed by elected representatives of the diocesan priests but the archdiocesan staff assumed responsibility for it on January 1, 1970 because of administrative challenges that arose during the 1960s (including new Canada Pension Plan requirements, more priests retiring, etc.).
The St. Michael’s Mutual Aid Society was renamed the Mutual Benefit Fund and provided:
- Ontario Health Plan Premiums ;
- Blue Cross Extended Benefits;
- Monthly retirement benefits; and
- Retreat fees for retired priests.
It also covered the costs of extended institutional care for priests with health challenges.
The Society received additional funding in 1972 when Archbishop Pocock established a Retirement Fund Reserve with an initial capital of $1.2 million. Interest on this capital was used to supplement the monies required to meet the obligations of the Mutual Benefit Fund. As financial obligations for the retired priests increased this Retirement Fund Reserve was drawn on and eventually depleted. Any additional shortfall was covered by the Archdiocese.
Diocesan priests did, for a time, contribute to the costs of the medical benefits premiums, though this was eventually discontinued.
No personal contribution for retirement benefits was enacted. The parishes and other ministries covered the costs through an assessment, as is the practice today.
Canon 281.1:”Since clerics dedicate themselves to the ecclesiastical ministry, they deserve the remuneration that befits their condition, taking into account both the nature of their office and the conditions of time and place. It is to be such that it provides for the necessities of their life and for the just remuneration of those whose services they need.”
Canon 281.2:”Suitable provision is likewise to be made for such social welfare as they may need in infirmity, sickness or old age.”
To meet these responsibilities and address the seriously under-funded circumstances of the Mutual Benefit Fund. The Archdiocese of Toronto explored setting up a trust, supported by a group of dedicated laypeople who realized the need for one.
Their recommendations led Archbishop Ambrozic to establish The Shepherds’ Trust on August 1, 1996.