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    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Stipends for Mass intentions seems odd

    The current Church rule is that priests, who are generally surviving on salaries well below the minimum wage, may accept a maximum of one financial offering for each Mass they say, and no more than one per day. Any surplus should be applied for the benefit of the Church in other ways.

    In one case I know of, an Irish priest is supporting hard-up missionary priests in Argentina by donating his surplus Mass stipends for distribution among them. Each time this happens, the missionary receiving the money is instructed to say a precise number of Masses, one Mass per offering, thus honouring the donors’ intentions.

    But Church authorities themselves are not doing enough to avoid the perception that a mass can be ‘bought’ and its spiritual benefits enjoyed at a price. For example, many religious orders invite people to participate in a ‘novena of masses’ whereby they make a donation and are included in a community of people to be remembered during a particular Mass. No problem with that, in theory, provided the money is used for a good purpose and no one is being hoodwinked. Indirectly, however, this introduces the notion of the cut-price Mass, such enrolments being cheaper than going to a priest and offering €10, say, for a Mass to be celebrated.

    It may be time for the Church to break the link altogether between the offering of Masses, which we are entitled to request at any time, and the financial maintenance of clergy at home and abroad, which is part of the ordinary duty of Christians. This might improve people’s attitudes both to the meaning of the Mass and to the obligation to support the clergy.

    Seems this is an old custom of monetary "Mass Offerings" we still honor without thinking much about it. Who would want to deny the Church a few bucks, and what parish would refuse a donation? Yet paying for things spiritual is too odd, even though we have a tenuous explaintion.


    Blogger Papalist said...

    I'm not disagreeing that payment of things spiritual is odd. But our sacrificial offerings for priests and parishes sometimes can't beat cold, hard cash. Will we bring grapes for our vineyard to the altar? Or wheat from our farms? Of course not. Our sacrifice is the most common denominator available. Spirituality doesn't flow from the thing but the sacrifice of the thing. A mature view doesn't see a monetary offering as payment for spriritual reward, but rather as an objective manifestation of our willingness to part with that which we value (i.e., sacrifice). It should also be mentioned that a priest cannot canonically refuse a Mass intention for lack of money.

    January 05, 2006  

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