Pensions and powerlessness



Yesterday I was at a meeting where we heard about the parlous state of the Church of Ireland pension scheme. It is, in a few words, sick, screwed, diseased, creaking, shot at. Its future will be voted on by members of  General Synod, many of whom do not pay into it or will receive from it. I’m not complaining, though I should be. The truth is that I am powerless to do anything about it. I am powerless to call to account the wunch of bankers who got us into this mess. With a wry smile I cry, BOHICA: Bend Over, Here It Comes Again. If you attended a fee-paying school in the old days (I didn’t, but I’ve heard), you will know what that might be about.

Church of Ireland clergy can hobble on until they are 75. But for how much longer will parishes be able to afford to pay for them? In the English Church Times, more and more jobs are advertised as house-for-duty, that is, no money other than expenses, but house provided. The assumption is, I suppose, that applicants are already receiving a pension that will support them, or that their spouses are in receipt of salary or pension. Are the days of stipendiary clergy drawing to a close? This would be terrible: who will the Church of Ireland faithful have to complain about if there are no stipendiary clergy? The thought is intolerable.

As yet, I receive no pension. If I live long enough, I may be the recipient of four partial pensions: one from UK university service (14 years), one from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (16 years; this fund is not in terrific shape, I gather), one from the Church of England (miniscule this one, only 5 years) and one from the Church of Ireland. If it still exists. There are many people worse off than me. What really makes me cross, and I’ve ranted before about this, is all those fees paid to financial advisors who cock up spectacularly, and then, one assumes, charge more fees for advising what to do next. All that money – my money – paid in salaries and bonuses to sharp-suited barrow boys who sit in boardrooms. Some of them may even be members of General Synod. I’ve said it before, and I say it again: what about a national day of prayer and fasting?

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