Padre, best skip the refried beans

John Taylor: February 25, 20080 Comments

The belt buckles open and stay unfurled several times a year. Confirmations, baptisms, weddings, quincineras, ends of fastings. An Orange Cove priest once told me that refried beans (cooked in lard, of course) were his favorite pig-out food and, since every parishioner had a slightly different recipe, there was no way to say no.

But there may be now. The Washington Post reports that the high cost of health insurance for ministers and their families is jeopardizing the finances -- and the mission dollars -- of some mainline Protestant denominations.

The story cites research claiming that mainline ministers tend to more stressed, overweight and depressed. Burnout tends to lead down the same paths for the ordained and the ordinary --- ceaseless chowing, overimbibing and physical inertia. Consequently, some denominations, like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are asking their clergy to take health-risk assessments and offering "wellness rewards" and covering the cost of preventive services.

Some of the artery-hardening blame goes to the friendly flock that foists their fatty fare upon their clerics. So, for ministers to have a stake in their good health, it may take a financial "stick" to sway them to carrots rather than carrot cake.