The Catholic diocese of Waterford and Lismore has said it had no money to pay its priests' wages at Christmas as a result of a major downturn in the amount of funds collected from parishioners.
Administrators already had to borrow from diocesan funds to pay the 60-odd priests last September and had to raise money from parish reserves in December for the last quarterly salary payment.
Now they are waiting for collection returns to see if there will be enough for the next due payment in March or if diocesan funds will have to be used again.
There are three envelope collections each year that are supposed to fund the priests' salaries, held at Christmas, Easter and in autumn, but the amounts being raised by this method have dwindled in recent years.
"There was no money at Christmas and we had to get €5,000 from each parish out of parish funds," Waterford and Lismore spokesman Fr Liam Power said on Monday afternoon. "Long term, it's not sustainable... it's seriously depleted, that fund."
The parish funding used in December was just to pay the priests' latest quarterly salary instalment.
Priests in Waterford and Lismore receive a basic salary of €21,000 per year and this can be added to by up to €5,000 per year because of allowances for certain ceremonies.
Fr Power was on WLR FM's Deise Today programme on Monday morning to discuss the issue of using contactless card payments to collect money from parishioners.
The customary "basket collection" is used for church maintenance and upkeep and has always been kept separate to the "envelope collection" held three times yearly to pay priests.
However, he said on Monday afternoon that the envelope money hasn't been enough in recent times to make up the priests' salaries. It is possible that each parish will be set a minimum amount of money to raise, to ensure the payments can be maintained.
"Each parish should be contributing enough to the common fund to support its own priests. If not, maybe they would have to contribute from the basket collection."
Fr Power said that "over a number of years, it [envelope collection] has seriously depleted."
There are a number of reasons why fundraising from traditional sources is down, he said: a decrease in the amount of people attending Mass, an increase in the amount of people who have turned away from the church and younger people who do attend Mass from time to time for special occasions or funerals not being in the habit of making contributions.
He accepted that scandals within the Catholic church in recent decades has "undermined our credibility and our moral authority" and said many people's attitude to the church has "radically changed" in the last few years.