ASK FATHER: CDW doc says don’t charge for concerts in church. German bishops charge.

From a reader…


Dear Fr., in “Concerti nelle chiese” (1987) from the CDW, it says “si attenga, in ordine all’autorizzazione dei concerti, alle seguenti condizioni, che l’Ordinario del luogo potrà precisare: […] c) L’entrata nella chiesa dovrà essere libera e gratuita.”

The German Conference of Bishops has published the following document in 2005: HERE

In nr. 4.9 on page 43, they cite the direction from the CDW, but say that it only forbids entrance fees which aim at making a profit, thereby leaving room for fees which just cover the costs.

Can the Conference of Bishops decide that? Is it a legitimate form of “precisare” the condition from the CDW? Or are they not bound to “Concerti nelle chiese” at all, because it is just a Declaratio which is neither from the Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts nor has been approved in forma specifica by the Holy Father?

The document says don’t charge.  The German bishop charge anyway?  Imagine my shock!

If the obligatory pay-to-pray Kirchensteuer is in force, then why not pay-to-hear in church, too?  In 2012 the Church in Germany only gained some $7 billion.

The CDW  decree was not signed in forma specifica, so it remains a document of the CDW merely.  However, it deals with something that pertains to the competence of the CDW, and so has that authority. For the bishops conference to prescind from it, they would need permission from the Congregation or the Holy Father.

It seem that the German bishops are not specifically prescinding from the law, but rather interpreting it imaginatively to allow a fee to cover expenses. They may have a case. I think it’s tenuous.  That said, the reality on the ground is that, during this pontificate, it’s unlikely that the German bishops will be corrected in any way.

Unless … perchance, the matter is presented to the German press in such a way that it sits up and pays attention.  For example,


“German bishops prevent poor from attending concerts”

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24 Responses to ASK FATHER: CDW doc says don’t charge for concerts in church. German bishops charge.

  1. David in T.O. says:

    Happens in Toronto all the time.

  2. Andrew says:

    A church is not a place for concerts. I wonder if I am the only one who thinks so.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Westminster Cathedral Choir in London has charged for concerts in the Cathedral for many, many years, including the one coming up next week. I know, as I have paid for tickets to hear things there.

    The logic is that the tickets pay for the choir and the upkeep, etc. and as the British Catholic Church is dirt poor, I do not mind, or did not mind paying something to hear the best choir in Europe.

    However, is against strict interpretation of CDW doc. It is possible that the Catholic bishops in GB has gotten permission for such charges.

  4. Gabriel Syme says:

    A couple of years ago, I paid entry to a Classical concert in St Stephens Basillica in Budapest.

    I also noticed that (distinct from the concert) tourists were being asked for a donation just to enter the Basillica to view it. It didnt seem like they were able to decline.

    I was even asked for a donation when entering the building to attend Sunday mass, but the guy backed off when I raised my missal (and my eyebrows!) to indicate my purpose.

    Incidentally, the mass was very good and easily the best Novus Ordo mass Ive ever attended. Latin was prominent, no lay people distributed communion, which was on the tongue only and there was a server with a plate to hold under the chin (as per TLM) when receiving.

    I would have been happy to pay to get into it, compared to the novus ordo masses I grew up with!!

  5. liebemama says:

    When the Regensburger Domspatzen come to town we do have to buy tickets in advance. The price is not high and I just assume it is to cover costs – 60 boys, food, lodging , transportation…(600km one way)
    Otherwise, for local choirs, there are usually people standing in the back of the church holding baskets for donations. Anyone can attend the concert even if you haven’t got a halfpenny.

  6. Imrahil says:

    They may have asked for permission. They may interpret Rome’s silence as tacit permission. They may claim that their legal interpretation is correct*. Anyway, there are reasons to criticize the German bishops, but this is not, in my view, one of them. And otherwise, one can still call the practice out to the Signatura or to the Congregation for Bishops (I don’t know where the responsibility here is).

    The decision is not, in this case, between having a free concert and having a charged concert, but between having a charged concert and having no concert at all. There are uncharged ones, too (by lay musicians), and these happen anyway.

    [* A note: When they say that they don’t do the concert for profit, they mean “the Church’s / parish’s profit”. The musicians, however, do earn money; I conclude this from the fact that if they played for free or for a breadroll with meat-cheese and a beer, a voluntary donation would definitely suffice.]

    The parish hall is less beautiful and can house less hearers, and some towns and cities do not have a concert hall. Hearing a preferredly spiritual, at least classical, concert in the Church doesn’t seem odd to me. After all, anything not sinful can be and should be done for the greater glory of God, and music, if I may say so, especially.

    As for the poor… there are two things to consider.
    1. If we face reality, the kind of music which would be played in a concert within the Church is of the kind rather disproportionally favored by the well-to-do.
    2. If the parish organises the event, I’m pretty sure the pastor would say “of course if someone approached me and says he has not got the money, and I (knowing my flock) believe him, I would let him in for free. I can’t help, though, if they are too ashamed to ask – if I, for not shaming him, didn’t charge anyone, I should have to blow off the whole concert. Sorry.”

    I personally find the practice to charge tourists for entering the Church – which, at least, is unknown in Germany, though known at some places outside of it if I’m rightly informed – rather more reprehensible.

  7. M. K. says:

    I’m not usually one to side with the German bishops, but doesn’t “potrà” indicate that the bishop “may” impose certain conditions, giving him latitude to decide whether or not fees may be charged for the concert? I can also think of cases I’ve seen where parishes put on concerts and charged a fee as a way of raising money for a worthy project, e.g. to help pay for restoration of the church building or to support the sacred music program the parish. That’s not to say that well-heeled churches should be charging admission for concerts simply to further line their pockets, but I’d make a distinction between those sorts of situations and the situation of parishes with lean resources for whom a concert of sacred or classical music can help to raise money to serve the concrete needs of the parish.

  8. Benedict Joseph says:

    “…interpreting it imaginatively…,” that dependable old substitute for obedience, prayerful discernment, et al. Does it work for both sides of a dispute, or only for those wascles on the heterodox side of everything? Surely not applicable here, Matthew 25:21 – “…well done my good and faithful servant; since thou hast been faithful over little things…”
    They can be trusted in nothing.

  9. APX says:


    I think it depends on the concert (Ie: Sacred music or an organ recital). How many places have a pipe organ in a concert hall somewhere? We do, but smaller cities and towns may not. Also, sacred music should be performed where the acoustics were designed for it, ie: traditionally designed churches sans carpeting.

    I think common sense should be exercised and the Blessed Sacrament removed during such concerts.

  10. MarkJ says:

    I had to pay to enter the Cathedral of Antwerp, Belgium, in December of last year… no concert, just an entry fee. Is that allowed? It is true that one could for free enter a side door for Mass, but the rest of the Cathedral was blocked off for non-paying guests.

  11. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Doesn’t “potrà” mean “may”?

    I have attended at least one concert in a cathedral which if I remember correctly had an entrance fee which was used to raise funds for the church fabric as well as pay the professional musicians. The programme was fitting – a concert performance of sacred works – and, also if I remember correctly (it was a few years ago; I might be conflating two separate events but I don’t think so), the soloists, although not catholic, stayed to sing at missa cantata the following day, and did so sublimely. I think it was a very Good Thing, and have no objection to paying for entrance in such a situation.

  12. FranzJosf says:

    I was conductor of a concert series for 25 years at a provincial cathedral in the days before Summorum Pontificum; so, the only way to hear Mozart’s Requiem or Haydn’s Mass in Time of War was in a concert. From a missionary perspective, it is far better to hear it in a church than in a concert hall. We generally did three concerts with an annual budget of $25.000 for orchestra, soloists, programs, etc. Every year the Archbishop gave us $1000.00, blessed our endeavors, and reminded us that we could not charge admission. So a group of society ladies raised the rest. He did allow us to have a reserved section for the donors and allowed us to have a small(!) sign that noted a “suggested donation”, but anyone who wanted could attend for free. We made it with a small surplus every year, and a old traditionalist gentleman remembered us in his will. So it can be done. (Even today, after SP, I think sacred concerts can be justified. Oratorios in oratories! And it would be an amazing place indeed that would sing Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus for two choirs and two orchestras performing antiphonally in the context of Vespers! What a glorious work with the closing eight-part fugue!)

  13. Cdn Catholic says:

    Would the CDW directive be just for concerts organized by Church-run groups or would it include concerts in the church of outside organizations 1.e. the local symphony orchestra.

    More troubling, I once went to a concert of sacred music by the symphony and a choir held at a cathedral and when I arrived, I noticed that the light was on, meaning that the Blessed Sacrament was still in the tabernacle. Obviously, I genuflected, a first for me at any concert I’ve attended, but before the concert and at intermission I saw all sorts of people walking back and forth in front of the tabernacle without a care in the world. The next day I emailed the cathedral office to express my concerns. The answer was basically, “If it was secular music, we’d remove the Blessed Sacrament, but because it’s sacred music we think people might get some good out of Jesus being there.” That wasn’t the point.

  14. padredana says:

    In our diocese there are concerts/programs in the Cathedral all the time, and they charge a great deal. This is how much of the restoration of our Cathedral was payed for. So, just to be clear the CDW says they cannot charge? Is this document available in English? An english translation would be very helpful for many of us.

  15. Imrahil says:

    Interesting points made by the dear APX and the dear Cdn Catholic about the Blessed Sacrament.

    I won’t give an opinion, other than in the case of unpaid sacred music in front of a congregation largely of Catholics knowing how to behave in Its presence, It should stay there.

    That being said, ignoring the Tabernacle is, sadly, something not confined to concerts in Churches.

  16. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I see from William Fanning’s 1908 “Church Maintenance” article in the Catholic Encyclopedia there used in some places in a general way to be “pew-rent” and “seat money”. Do such things still exist, and, if so, could they be specifically varied in connection with a suggested voluntary contribution, which would give a clear idea, probably be generally persuasive, yet not strictly exclude anyone from a concert (fire regulations, or whatever permitting)?

  17. Cdn Catholic says:

    Imrahill, the concert I attended was part of a paid concert series by a local choir, with the symphony. It wasn’t exclusively a Catholic concert performance. it is reasonable to believe many non-Catholics were in attendance.

  18. Matt Robare says:

    But, Father, the German press doesn’t care about the poor right now. The headline ought to be “German bishops preventing refugees from attending concerts”.

  19. Andreas says:

    Here in the Austrian Tirol, we also have concerts throughout the year in many of our Churches, Basilicas and Cathedrals. In some cases there is a modest entrance fee but in others those attending are asked to give voluntarily. Concerts of enduring truly sacred music are not only part of our Catholic life here, but are best served when performed in those holy places for which they were intended; that is, amidst the lovely works of sacred art and glorious acoustics of so many of our beautiful Churches and, I believe, in the presence of our Lord. In a concert hall, a Mass by Haydn is a lovely work, but when performed in a Church or sung as part of The Mass, it becomes part of the overall transcendent experience that defines, in part, the foundation of our faith. Indeed, such concerts may in the end also prove to be the catalyst for bringing many closer to, back to or even into The Church.

  20. KateD says:


    Concert in the actual church???? [A concert of sacred music?]

    And people think that’s okay? And someone wants to charge people to listen to music in the church?

    Double ack!

    I know it’s done, but I also see why people do other “performances” in the sanctuary. What’s appropriate to some….

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph were poor. If they couldn’t afford (or appreciate) the concert, then…..

  21. Phil_NL says:

    Write this down as a hilltop I won’t want to die on.

    This happens all over the place, especially in Europe. Better said, free concerts in the Church probably outnumber paid ones at least 20 to 1. (I include those concerts where a collection is held. Strictly speaking you could decline, but only in a legal sense. In a moral sense, some help in covering the costs of the concert is required. If you count only a strict entrance fee, probably still 4 to 1 or thereabouts)
    And in many settings there are enough factors to muddle the waters substantially: in some countries the building may belong to the government (especially if it’s a listed monument, which in some areas goes for the vast majority of churches); in rural settings it might be the only place in which you can hold a concert, period; the church choir might be involved and need the practice or funding; sacred music or even the use of a Church can be helpful for evangelisation; etcetera, etcetera.

    And all of this will probably fall through if you don’t charge, for the simple reason that – especially in areas where the government tends to fund part of the church – the average donation would be woefully insufficient. In fact, I’ve seen many a Mass (let alone concert) where the collection would be insufficient to defray the costs of that Mass itself.

  22. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    An extreme (and I hope rare) problem can arise when the content of a concert leads to the desecration of the Church.

    This happened in 2014 to the Church reported on here:

    That report noted “A closed church-building was bought by Fr. Winand Kotte, an Assumptionist priest, and his supporters who consequently began to hold their own services, including Masses in the Tridentine Rite.” But, due to a rather complicated situation of the ownership and administration of the Church, the Apostolate while reassigned as a non-territorial rectorate Church did not have full authority over the scheduling of concerts, and a desecration followed – and a situation in which there could be no guarantee that another would not, if the Church were reconsecrated, with the sad result that it is now only a sort of museum-with-concerts.

  23. RAve says:

    While on active duty we travelled all over Europe with our 7 children in tow. We would always locate the churches in whatever hamlet or city we visited and pay a visit to the tabernacle and kneel down together and recite the St. Michal prayer (a wonderful pious practice we brought with us from the U.S. parish we left, acknowledging the Lord’s presence and begging down his help – after all, the devil always tries to mess up family outings so the prayers helped in that regard, I am sure). It is quite a fond memory for my wife and I. And I hope for the children. One trip saw the devil really doing his best to mess with us, including our attempt to visit the tabernacle inside the Milano Duomo, which was rebuffed because we were not willing to pay the extra 2 euro per person (18 euro) to pray inside the cathedral. We had already shelled out 40 euro to go to the magnificent rooftop with its forest of carved figures. Up to that point I had always felt quite glad that the Catholic churches were always free to enter, unlike the Church of England buildings that always charged admission. Obviously it still rubs me the wrong way a decade later.

  24. KateD says:

    The church may be the only place large enough to hold the county fair, or a traveling army,…..but wouldn’t it still be an inappropriate use for the sanctuary?

    What makes music sacred? If a musician has no faith, is an atheist or hates God and is only playing for the money, is that pleasing to God? Isn’t that just a hollow clanging? My guess is that, to God it would be less appealing than a heartfelt rendition of Ubi Caritas set to Suicidal Tendencies’, ” I Hate Pop Songs”…..The music and the intention must both be rightly ordered. Requiring a fee indicates a lack…

    What faithful mucisian would not, once in a while, gladly volunteer to play for the praise of Him Who gave that talent?!? Sure there may be costs, airfare, etc. But in my experience there is always a local patron willing to foot those costs, use their miles, etc…

    If it’s okay to clap for worship music outside the Mass in a church, then it’s okay to clap at the end of Mass for that same music? Isn’t the objection to clapping at the end of Mass because it indicates that it is a performance and not the Holy Sacrifice and we want to stay well away from confusion?

    And then if it’s all good, why bag on the Philipino Segway singing priest?

    Have the concert in the church hall. Evangelize there. The sanctuary is for worship and NO ONE should ever, under any circumstances, be charged for entering a church. Free will Donation? Absolutely. Fee? NO WAY!

    Can you imagine being charged by a distant cousin to visit your Father in His own house?

    We had someone try to charge us to enter Mission Santa Ynez a couple of years back. When I explained we were traveling and just wanted to stop in to say prayers, the woman reiterated it’d cost us x amount…that’s when my children all ducked and hid behind whatever they could find that would provide sufficient cover…As we exited a parishioner followed us out and pointed us to the Adoration Chapel…..which happens to lead to the court yard….and the courtyard has a separate (no fee) entrance to the church…where we prayed until Mass began and then attended Mass. The entrance fee troll came in during Communion and shot me a look…but I didn’t judge Her for missing the Gospel and TAKING the Eucharist anyway.

    What is the purpose of a Catholic church? Is it just a building that may be relegated to other purposes when not “in use”, like any Protestant chapel? Or is it a holy place, a place set apart for the worship of embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven? I view it as the later. A small piece of land where we can take refuge from the secular world and meet Our Lord.