QUAERITUR: Catholic funeral for a Lutheran?

From a reader:

My grandmother recently died. She was a Lutheran, but we, her descendents, are Catholic. Who, then, should do the burial? A Lutheran minister, or our Catholic priest? Thank you, and please pray for her soul.

Canon 1183.3 states,

“In the prudent judgment of the local ordinary, ecclesiastical funerals can be granted to baptized persons who are enrolled in a non-Catholic Church or ecclesial community unless their intention is evidently to the contrary and provided that their own minister is not available.”

In this situation, it seems the grandmother’s minister is available.

Since grandma did not convert prior to her death, it seems imprudent to go against her wishes and deny her a funeral in the ecclesiastical community of which she was a member.

Turning the sock inside out for a moment, we often hear of tragic cases in which a good Catholic person dies, but because the children are no longer practicing, she is denied the benefits of a funeral.  Yes, funerals benefit the dead!  The poor dead person might be given a prayer service at the funeral home or buried without ceremony.

In former ages, respecting the last wishes of the deceased was something that was sacrosanct.

So, unless the Lutheran minister is not available, inquire of the pastor about having the funeral at grandmother’s church. Go, pray for her (do not receive communion at the Lutheran funeral, even if invited), bury her.

Masses can be offered for the deceased, even those who are not Catholic.  You can later have a Mass or Masses offered for her, even a Requiem Mass if your pastor is available and amenable.

Everyone, pray for the dead.  Do not forget to pray for the dead.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Supertradmum says:

    I made years ago the offering of merit for the souls in purgatory. Today ,the Sunday Latin Mass, dark rose vestments, was offered for my uncle who passed away, a month ago and two men from China who died a while ago.
    The latter included a non-Catholic.

  2. Ed the Roman says:

    I had masses said for my wife when she was ill, and since her death as well; she was Methodist.

  3. RosaMystica says:

    What about my atheist father? He isn’t deceased, and I pray he will convert before he dies, but I am executor of his will. He says we can bury him however we want, and it’s ok for us to have “something Catholic” since 2 of his 3 kids have become Catholic. He has no pastor, so is it ok for us to have a Catholic funeral for him?

  4. bernadette says:

    My DH died suddenly and unexpectedly at Christmas. He never expressed any wishes for his funeral. He had been baptized and confirmed as a Catholic but became an atheist in college and never returned to the faith. I called my priest as I had no idea what would be the right thing to do about a funeral. He was willing to do a Catholic Mass of the Resurrection or just a liturgy of the word. I thought that the implied canonization of the deceased in the Mass would be totally inappropriate so we had a liturgy of the word, more of a memorial service. I hope I did the right thing but when you are in shock your decision making skills go out the window.

  5. Anabela says:

    I try to make a point of offering Holy Mass for the Souls in Purgatory every day as well as other intentions. We are told by various Saints that the suffering in Purgatory is greater than any on earth, so that is a major suffering. We can bring I am sure as many intentions in our hearts to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as possible..

  6. lh says:

    My sister is dying of cancer and is rejecting everything Catholic. She has made arrangements for her funeral. No Mass, no prayers, nothing. I keep praying for her hoping she will come around. She refuses to speak to me because she says I will talk to her about God. If these are her wishes should I still have Masses offered for her after her death? My thoughts are that I should. I have had Masses offered for her conversion.

  7. eulogos says:

    My parents both had themselves cremated; they had a prearrangement with the funeral home which did it.
    When my sister, who lived nearer, didn’t collect the remains from the funeral home, I did. I still have them. My mother had a Unitarian memorial service. My father has had nothing. My father told us to throw his “ashes” in a trout stream. My mother suggested planting a rose bush over hers in my garden. Most people in my family think we should follow their wishes. On the other hand, several serious Catholics have told me this would be wrong.
    My mother was a lapsed Catholic, lapsed since her college years. My father was never baptized and was a “red diaper” baby, brought up on “Religion is the opium of the people.”
    I know I can have mass said for my mother. Can I have mass said for my father? What about the “In baptism he died with Christ/ May he also share Christ’s resurrection.”? That wouldn’t apply to my father.
    Is it wrong for a Catholic to follow the pagan wishes of her pagan parents?
    I am rather confused about this.
    Susan Peterson

  8. Roderick Alvernaz says:

    A dear, long-time, family friend passed away last year. We knew Shirley in Castro Valley, and later here in Brentwood -where my parents have also retired nearly 13 years ago.
    Shirley was a practicing Catholic, going to Sunday Mass regularly, and weekday Mass occasionally. Shirley’s children were lapsed Catholics, though one daughter was a born-again Christian of a small non-denominational church.
    Shirley’s final illness came upon her quickly and took her suddenly. Her funeral was not held here, but where her daughter lives -several towns away. It was not a Catholic funeral, but held in her daughter’s church. Only a few of her friends were able to make it to the service (we could not). After the service Shirley’s daughter commented to another dear friend “Do you think my mother would have approved of this?”. Our friend, who shared the service was more of a “Bible-thumping, come-to-Jesus” than a funeral service, could only shrug her shoulders to the question.
    I, and several friends, have had Masses said for Shirley. I also had one said on the first anniversary of her passing. But it still haunts me that not only would her daughter withhold a funeral Mass for her mother, but that the other siblings not step in?
    You’re right, Fr. Z, “In former ages, respecting the last wishes of the deceased was something that was sacrosanct.” And while I don’t know exactly what Shirley’s last wishes were, I do know how she lived her life up to the end -including requesting our parish priests bring her communion regularly to the assisted-care facility where she was in her final illness -and where she passed away.

  9. Edprocoat says:

    Father I always pray for the dead, daily and several times a day. I am not trying to say how wonderful I am , truth be told in a way its almost a selfish thing. I feel as if I will be in purgatory and may benefit from the prayers of one soul who may have been released from purgatory due to my prayers. I also have lost many family and friends and its a habit I started years ago when losing two close friends as a young man. I pray for my mother and aunt, grandparents, the Holy souls in purgatory, I pray every time I hear of someone die whether its an accident or a tragedy such as the two mass murder incidents recently. I hope its a practise not soon forgotten, as I said earlier I know I will be needing the very same prayers some day.


  10. Legisperitus says:

    I occasionally hear a non-Catholic pooh-poohing the whole idea of funerals because they are “for the living.” I only wish everyone could understand the awe-inspiring depth of the mercy of God in enabling us to offer prayers and sacrifice for the deceased.

  11. Imrahil says:

    I guess this non-Catholic was a Protestant.

    For even the secularists normally at least hold a speech and a bit of brass music. It’s simply decent to have a funeral; and this decency is felt to be owed to the deceased person herself. Peoples for all times have felt this way; and though we are not to mourn like the others who have no hope (which is why there are no paid mourning-actresses in a Christian funeral, that, from the Heathen standpoint, so very logical institution present in old Rome), still all mankind cannot be so wrong.

    [Which, as an aside, is why the sacramentally-possible “burial by lay pastoral assistant” is so problematic. Catholics are not equal; but all Catholics ought to be equal enough as to deserve a priest fulfilling the last service to them. And who is to decide “Mrs A was a faithful member of our community, she gets the priest, but Mr B only had a confession on the deathbed, that’s the assistant’s job”? Odd.]

  12. robtbrown says:

    1. Masses can be said for anyone, living or dead. I have a priest friend who converted with me. His father was a highly respected surgeon–and an agnostic. After he converted, the friend heard from many people, incl religious sisters, that they thought he was already Catholic because there had been so many masses said for his father.

    2. NB: There is no dead letter office for prayers. If someone is praying for a soul already condemned, Divine Providence will see to it that grace is not wasted.

    3. Never presume that anyone has been condemned to hell. No man knows what happens secretly in the last few moments before death. The worst anti-Catholic might with an interior act plead for the Divine Mercy.

  13. PaterAugustinus says:

    Can a Requiem Mass really be celebrated in commemoration of the non-Roman Catholic dead? In the Orthodox Church, we believe that the dead commemorated at the Eucharist have a share in the Eucharist, even as they are in Hades. Therefore, we cannot (and do not) commemorate any non-Orthodox Christian at the Mass. When we received names of non-Orthodox persons, my monastery observed the custom of stepping away from the Proskomide (where the commemoration of the names of the deceased is made over the prosphora being prepared for Liturgy), and saying the names there… a sign that we prayed for the dead, but did not commemorate them with the Eucharist. It seems to me like I have even read Latin Fathers and authors from the early middle ages, mention that those outside the Church should not be commemorated at the altar for the unbloody Sacrifice.

  14. Alice says:

    Pater Augustinus,
    I was surprised that Father Z would suggest a Requiem Mass as well since I was raised in a Traditional Catholic homeschooling family and remember learning that a person who did not die in good standing with the Church could not have public Masses offered for them. It is my understanding that even under the more relaxed rules of today only those who have died in good standing with the Church may have their names mentioned in the Eucharistic prayer.

  15. eulogos says:

    One of the very orthodox Fathers of the Toronto Oratory told me he was serving mass for a priest who was also a university professor; the priest announced that the mass was being offered for “Rene Descartes.” This was indeed *the* Rene Descartes, he who only knew that he himself was because he after all, was thinking, who was being prayed for. Of course, he would have been baptized.

    An Orthodox priest told me he could pray at Divine Liturgy for those fallen away, including my fallen away Catholic mother, but not for someone who was not baptized. Like all things Orthodox, this probably varies from priest to priest and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

    I have had both my parents prayed for at the prayers for all the deceased mothers and fathers of the parish which my Ruthenian Catholic church does on mothers and father’s day. But not as the ones for whom the liturgy is offered. I also had one mass said at my local parish for my mother when she had just died; the priest never even asked if she was a Catholic in good standing.

    Perhaps priests can say their private masses for people who wouldn’t be announced at a public mass?
    I would like to know more about what the rules are about this.

Comments are closed.