Sharing an article from the “Dear Padre” column.
A priest died and left my father some money. How could a priest have had money if he took a vow of poverty? Do all priests take the vow of poverty? ~ Ann
Not all priests take a vow of poverty. Diocesan priests don’t, and they’re allowed to personally possess and use money, goods, and property. The Code of Canon Law calls members of the diocesan clergy to material simplicity, but it does not bind them to a vow of poverty: “Clerics are to foster simplicity of life and are to refrain from all things that have a semblance of vanity” (282). Other priests do take a vow of poverty, however. These priests are members of religious communities who profess the classic evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Redemptorists, the Franciscans, and the Jesuits are examples of such communities. Religious communities differ, however, on the nature of their vows. Some require members to profess a solemn vow of poverty, while others require only a simple vow. Those who take a solemn vow of poverty cannot acquire or use property for themselves, while those who take a simple vow can acquire property but not use it. For example, a Franciscan priest takes a solemn vow of poverty and can never hold or inherit property of his own. In contrast, a Redemptorist priest takes a simple vow, so while he cannot make use of personal property (that is, spend money he inherits on himself), he can hold or inherit such property and eventually pass it on in his will to his community or to someone else.
Matthew Allman, C.Ss.R.