ASK FATHER: Hindu service in my parish church! ANGRY!

From a priest…


I’m a lowly parochial vicar at a parish whose pastor is people-pleaser.

As I type this, there is a Hindu funeral ceremony going on in the nave of the church, at the foot of the altar. I’m fairly certain that non-Christian rites are forbidden in Catholic churches. There is incense, chanting, but (as far as I can see) no idols present.

I’m angry because many of the priests have lost sight that our job is to get people into heaven, and we evangelise by “osmosis” even in saying “No” to non-Christian ceremonies, we are at least obliquely testifying to the unicity and universality of Jesus as the Saviour.

We are also implicitly signalling to our parishioners who come in and out of here that “one religion is as good as another”.

I’m irked.

Breathe… into a paper bag if necessary.

In situations like this, the prudent young priest asks himself, “What is the best outcome I can achieve in my position of having no power whatsoever?”

In the grand old tradition of Goofus and Gallant, let’s posit two priests, Fr. Prudent and Fr. Impetuous.   They are both faced with the scenario that you described.  They have different approaches.

Fr. Impetuous rushes into the church, screaming anathemas and waving a crucifix at the pagans worshipping in the space consecrated to the worship of the one true God, driving them out of the church with the point of a sword ripped from the statue of St. Paul in the sanctuary.

Fr. Prudent considers calling the bishop, but then recalls that the bishop and his pastor golf together every Tuesday and reasonably concludes that the bishop will likely take the pastor’s side in each and every argument. Fr. Prudent discretely collects any paperwork or photographs of the event and files them away for a rainy day. Fr. Prudent then spends four hours that night, under cover of darkness, prostrate before the altar praying in reparation before Our Sweet Eucharistic Lord.


A week later, Fr. Impetuous is driven by the Vicar for Clergy to a psychiatric hospital where he will spend the next six months attempting to defend his sanity to a board of atheistic and agnostic psychologists. Upon his release, he finds that his bishop has already begun the process for his laicization.

Some months later, Fr. Prudent finishes his time as assistant (parochial vicar) and is named pastor of a neighboring parish, where he implements a program of reverent liturgy, orthodox catechesis, and sound moral formation that soon attracts hundreds of generous new parishioners after the liberals flee to his old pastor’s parish.

Sapienti pauca.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Sonshine135 says:

    I’m sorry Father Anon, but I will pray for you, your Parish, and your Pastor. I also pray that you will be Father Prudent in this scenario, and Our Lord give you the strength to endure. God Bless you abundantly for loving Our Lord so much.

  2. Imrahil says:

    Is there a “re-blessing (light)” that does not require a bishop to do a proper reconsecration, and can be done quietly by a priest while noone is present?

  3. majuscule says:

    My parish has several small mission churches that are served by priests who live at the rectory at the main parish church. A few years ago a younger priest was appointed Parish Administrator. I happened to be in the office one day when a women from one of the missions came to speak to Father Administrator about some work that was being done at her church that would make it impossible to have Mass there (the two weekly Masses were Saturday Vigil and Sunday morning). It’s a small community and the people from the Protestant church in town had offered the use of their church for Mass.

    Father barely even thought about it. It said no. It was not appropriate. They would set up for Mass in the slightly decrepit parish hall by the church until the renovations were done.

    The woman was mystified. It had all been arranged! Wasn’t a church, any church, better than using the church hall?

    I was proud of Father!

  4. Father P says:

    I asked the ecumenical/interreligious officer of our Diocese for what we do in our Diocese. Here is his response (the caps are my emphasis):
    There seems to be a bit of confusion over the use of Catholic churches by non-Catholics.

    The Directory for ECUMENISM permits the use of a Catholic Church by other CHRISTIANS if there is a true need (size of congregation, local Methodist church burns down, etc).

    When it comes to INTERFAITH relations there are no direct instructions but the canons and norms for the use of churches would indicate that non-Christian worship should not take place in the a Catholic church. In the Diocese of X we have given permission for our parishes to provide a non-liturgical space in the church to others for religious rites such as a large narthex or gathering space or to use the parish social hall. Because of the availability to others of these spaces or other venues for their religious rites the use of any part of the church proper (sanctuary or nave) is not allowed.

  5. the little brother says:


  6. Michael_Thoma says:

    What bishop would allow this – sorry, WHY would any bishop allow this? Is there some far off land where funeral homes are unavailable, Hindu temples don’t exist, a public space such as a hotel conference room is not around, and outdoor weather is not permitting?

    Is the poster certain this was in fact a Hindu funeral, and not an Syro-Malankara, Syro-Malabar, or Indian/Syriac Orthodox funeral? I can see how these might seem Hindu to a non-Indian, I can’t see why a competent bishop would ever allow Hindu rites in a Church. Although stranger things have occurred.

  7. Benedict Joseph says:

    I am spoiled to have a flawed pastor. Not a theologian. Not brilliant. Not a great homilist. But so prayerful, reverent, respectful, kind, devout and unassuming.
    He lets the Gospel speak in place of him. He lets the sacraments speak in place of him. He has been away for a well-deserved vacation – even in this circumstance he made his vacation a pilgrimage with a few others. We have been left without him, and I was forced to attend another parish this weekend where there are applause (four times), multiple greetings for visitors, birthdays, departures. I could not grasp what I was enduring. The only things missing were reverence, prayerfulness, and adult comportment – I thought. But I could have been treated to a Hindu funeral…
    Persevere good Father! Where would we be without conscientious priests like you, Father Anonymous?
    We would be left in the hands of…
    We are in collapse. May each life boat have a least one caring conscientious priest like Father Anonymous.

  8. APX says:

    What bishop would allow this – sorry, WHY would any bishop allow this? Is there some far off land where funeral homes are unavailable, Hindu temples don’t exist, a public space such as a hotel conference room is not around, and outdoor weather is not permitting?

    Actually, yes, but they aren’t all far off places. There are many places in Canada that do not have such amenities, many that don’t even have a priest to offer Mass an the sacraments. Many Catholics die in the winter and can’t have a requiem Mass because no priest is available or able to access the place.

  9. ejcmartin says:

    Michael_Thoma we recently had in our little diocese beyond the overpass a funeral for a well known local son, who was nominally Catholic. (He had an Irish sounding last name, but that might be the most of it.) During the “funeral” Buddhist chant was included along with dancing in front of the sanctuary to the deceased’s music. And yes, the bishop is aware and all involved are still smiling for the TV cameras. (MSM thought is was all just grande!)

  10. Father P, that’s a wise observation. I think it’s good to point out this goes both ways.

    I used to work in a certain state that has only a single Catholic Youth Camp despite well over 1,000,000 Catholics. This lead to often using a Protestant camp for youth ministry weekend activities. Like Methodists using a Catholic Church, the bishop had no issue with using the Protestant chapel and even reserving the Eucharist in a portable tabernacle on condition no there was no non-Catholic use of the chapel while the Eucharist was reserved.

    However, when on one occasion we were forced to rent a secular camp due to booking complications, the bishop gave permission for Mass in a room but forbid reserving the Eucharist.

  11. acardnal says:

    Excellent advice given by Fr Z and his parables once again.

    I just hope there was not a funeral pyre in the nave, too!

  12. JamesM says:

    The Spirit of Vatican II is very clear that the laity are to be involved as much as possible.

    I think it is a strange type of clericalism (boo hiss) that thinks only an “ordained minister” can write to the Bishop in cases like this. Surely, writing to the Bishop, is a task that could be performed by a layperson?


  13. acricketchirps says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t think even Fr. Prudent gets off that lightly. He has raised suspicions by his failure to offer full throated support for the Hindu ceremony (much less taking part) and his appointment is not to the neighbouring parish but to Our Lady of Brackish Backwater on the edge of the diocese two hunert mile from nowhere, thus ensuring no new generous parishioners, albeit being of lasting benefit to that portion of current OLBB parishioners who aren’t dyed-in-the-wool libs.

  14. jbazchicago says:

    TRUE STORY: A newly ordained priest I know was assigned as a curate at a parish who had an older priest as pastor for his first assignment. Thanksgiving comes around and he tries to encourage the pastor to go to the Wednesday Night Ecumenical (or interfaith) prayer service. He says words to the effect that, “please come, Monsignor, it’s a nice event for us to pray together, and there will be a nice social afterward…” The pastor responds, “we’re right, they’re wrong, and eating a donut isn’t going to change that!”

  15. Seamus says:

    I wonder if Fr. Anon’s pastor would make his church available for an SSPX funeral.

  16. GypsyMom says:

    While we’re at it, this message could go out to Mr. and Mrs. Impetuous Layman, too. Besides being ineffective, this approach is what our enemies use against us traditionally-minded orthodox Catholics.

  17. The Cobbler says:

    Fight fire with fire: Quietly alert the local mainstream media outlets that an act of cultural appropriation has been perpetrated, and let the “progressives” take on each other!

  18. arga says:

    A fortiori, lay folk should never complain, never protest either, but that is not what Fr. Z teaches. Why should priests be passive but laymen protest?

  19. Augustine says:

    Poor Fr. Impetuous, doesn’t he know that the raving mad run dioceses galore?

  20. leftycbd says:

    Perhaps the lowly parochial vicar could be sure to remove the Eucharist and extinguish the sanctuary candle when these episodes occur. That would be a good way for him to show his respect for our Lord at these times. The pastor would be hard pressed to object to this.

  21. rmichaelj says:

    While I agree we should not go crazy (swords should only be used as a last resort!) and we should pick our battles, the laity are not under a vow of obedience to the bishop and we can certainly make a fuss at an act of obvious injustice.
    Our Lord discussed this tactic with the parable of the widow and the corrupt judge.
    Just be careful that your actions can’t be used as an excuse for retaliation against a third party (eg do not mention the name of any pastor or group who may agree with you.
    It is trickier when the unjust action involves the punishment of a good priest. Hard to get involved without possibly making the situation worse for the priest.

  22. TC says:


    Having lived in the farthest reaches of my diocese in a county where the cows outnumber the people the people of Our Lady of Brackish Backwater would be glad to have Fr Prudent even if he were sent there as a punishment. Perhaps a more pastoral setting would be not a punishment after all.

    My question is couldn’t Fr Prudent go over the Bishop’s head to the Papal Nuncio?

  23. Orphrey says:

    Fr. Z, you gave a wise answer. When will you be made a bishop? [Never, if I have any say about it.]

  24. kat says:


    It has been shown more than once the answer to your question: while there will be some occasions and churches where SSPX clergy are given permission to use a Catholic church for their Mass ( at Lourdes for a big example), there are many times when they are forbidden the use of the church. This is often the case during their pilgrimages to revered spots and churches, where they set up an outdoor Mass, sometimes on the steps of the church, because they are not permitted inside the sacred spot. If only they were Protestant or some pagan religion, well, then they would be accepted inside!

  25. Imrahil says:

    Dear Michael_Thoma,

    good point.

    I was once in a Melkite (i. e., Arab Eastern Catholic) Divine Liturgy and if I hadn’t known where I was, I’d have said the singing was Islamic :-)

  26. frjim4321 says:

    “I’m a lowly parochial vicar at a parish whose pastor is people-pleaser.”

    You seem to assume that your pastor’s style has not “gotten people into heaven,” [You assume that he made an assumption.] whereas a more authoritarian/autocratic style such as yours [? Cheap shot. You don’t know him.] is more effective in retaining church members.

    Frankly in my experience when people have a run-in with your type [?] they often leave and don’t come back; so I don’t see how helpful that is with respect to the goal you have set for yourself.

    [Not helpful.]

  27. frjim4321 says:

    [Not helpful.]

    I’ve had two very specific examples in the past two months of how going out of the way to be cheerful/pleasant while acquiescing to slightly off the wall requests reaped very good benefits.

    In one instance a person who was out of work was introduced to a person who needed her skill set exactly; in another a large financial contribution was made out of the blue to the parish.

    The requests were not contra legem just a little out of the ordinary and I am sure many other pastors would have said “no.” Particularly pastors who view pastoral priests as “pleasers.” There are “types,” and they can often be identified by the buzz words they use.

    The adage about attracting more with honey than the vinegar is quite true, even in pastoral ministry encounters.

    [You assume that he made an assumption.]

    Yes, but my assumptions are often spot-on. Seriously.

  28. acricketchirps says:

    Fr. Jim: You seem to assume that your pastor’s style has not “gotten people into heaven,”

    … or at least onto a higher plane of existence in the next incarnation, right?

    TC: the people of Our Lady of Brackish Backwater would be glad to have Fr Prudent even if he were sent there as a punishment.

    Agreed. I think I said it would be to their lasting benefit.

    Perhaps a more pastoral setting would be not a punishment after all.

    Heh! “pastoral”. I get it.

  29. Michael_Thoma says:

    Fr. Jim,

    Anyone ever convert or revert, and stick to it til the end due to ‘a run-in with your type’?

  30. Gail F says:

    FRJim4321: What a strange post. Would you allow a Hindu funeral in your church sanctuary, or would you not?
    Assuming this was really a Hindu ceremony (as opposed to Indian people singing Indian music — although one would hope the associate pastor knows the difference) it is inappropriate.

  31. robtbrown says:


    I wonder whether you have ever been asked to say mass in Latin and whether you granted the request..

  32. FXR2 says:

    Yes, but my assumptions are often spot-on. Seriously.

    My assumption that you would allow the hindu ritual in your Church is very likely spot-on as well.

    Would you allow the SSPX to use your Parish Church for a first mass of a newly ordained parishioner, or for a funeral of a parishioner?

    Would you allow their priest to hear confessions during your masses?

    Hmmmm, I wonder.


  33. eulogos says:

    Fr. Jim, we do not know what sort of requests you granted so we have no way of judging whether they were reasonable, although odd, or if they were like having a Hindu ceremony in a Catholic church.
    I do not see anything wrong with letting Hindus use some other part of church property for a ceremony. But the Church proper is consecrated for Christian worship. Do you not agree with that?
    Now if Catholics were playing Hindu and doing this, I would be inclined to say no. Catholics should not play Hindu.
    My daughter did go to a friend’s Diwali party and get dressed up in a Sari and eat Indian food. I thought that was OK.
    But not anything which could be construed as worship.
    Do you disagree?
    I think it would be better to talk specifics than to talk about style and use the word “authoritarian.”
    If you have the authority, which a pastor does, you try to use it appropriately according to the Church’s teaching and rules, and to your conscience if there is no definite rule. Right?
    So the interesting issue is the specifics or what you consider appropriate and why.
    My two cents.
    Susan Peterson

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