Irish Bishops publish guidelines on Mass cards
Various misunderstandings about the tradition of Mass offerings and clear dangers of exploitation of the Mass can easily emerge. For this reason, the Irish Bishops wish to make clear the Church's position on Mass Offerings. The following is a brief summary of the Church's teaching and regulation regarding Mass Offerings.
1. The Eucharist, the ‘source and summit of the Christian life,' is at the heart of our belief, for it preserves the great mystery of our redemption in Jesus Christ. Therefore anything that might weaken or undermine our respect for the Eucharist must be avoided.
2. The practice of giving an offering dates back to the early Church when the faithful brought bread and wine for the Mass and other gifts for the support of the priest and for the poor. Nowadays a Mass offering is a way for the donor to join him/herself to the sacrifice of the Mass; it unites the donor closely with the life and apostolic activity of the Church, the Body of Christ, as the offering becomes a formal of material support for the Church's ministers and pastoral life. The Mass must never be an occasion for ‘buying and selling' or ‘making profit', not should there be even the slightest appearance of making a profit from Mass offerings.
3. Normally a separate Mass is celebrated for each individual offering, however small. The donor specified the individual intention and it is up to the donor to decide what amount to give. Because donors may sometimes ask how much it is appropriate to give, a current recommended diocesan offering is specified; (this amount is agreed by the Bishops at provincial level). A priest may accept less than the recommended offering - and many priests on occasion do.
4. The priest who received the offering has an obligation to apply Mass for the specific intention of the person who has made the offering. He is to celebrate a Mass within a reasonable time. Irrespective of how many Masses he celebrates in a day, a priest may only keep an offering for one Mass per day. If a priest receives too many Mass intentions he must transfer any surplus Mass offerings, in total, to another priest; either directly through one of the Missionary Societies, the Pontifical Mission Societies or through the Diocesan office.
5. The Church does not encourage ‘collective' or ‘multi-intentional' Masses but sees these as an exception. In these exceptional cases, the following must apply:
(a) It must be made explicitly clear to the donor beforehand that the offering is being combined into a single Mass offering and the donor must give free consent to this.
(b) The place, date and time for this Mass should be indicated publicly and such Masses may not be celebrated any more than two days weekly in any church.
(c) The priest who celebrates Mass for a collection intention must not keep any more than the specified diocesan offering, and must transfer any additional amount, in accordance with canon law, for the charitable .purposes prescribed by the Bishop/Provincial.
6. Parishes should put in place an arrangement that makes it possible to have Mass cards available and provide opportunity for their signing.
7. Having signed or stamped Mass Cards for sale in shops and other commercial outlets in unacceptable and undermines the respect and understanding we are obliged, in faith, to have for the Mass.
8. The commercial printing and sale of Mass cards offends against the faith. Giving such cards, especially at times of bereavement, may be considered, though unintentionally, an insult to the memory of the deceased.
9. Such abuse of the Mass is not new and over the centuries the Church has set out very clearly the norms and regulations that govern the pious and laudable practice of having Mass offered as a sign of prayerful solidarity with others, especially at time of celebration or bereavement or illness.