ASK FATHER: Can we have Masses said for non-Catholics?

Mass purgatory indulgencesFrom a reader…


Is it appropriate to have Masses said for deceased non-Catholics? What about Gregorian Masses?

You are in our prayers! Thank you for your time and your ministry.

It is praiseworthy and a work of mercy to pray for the dead.  Consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church 958, 1032.

Can. 901 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law says: “A priest is free to apply the Mass for anyone, living or dead”  That means “anyone”, Catholic or non-Catholic.    Once upon a time there were restrictions on Masses for people who were excommunicated at the time of their death, but that no longer applies.  You can have Masses said for the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre if you wish and priests are free to accept the intention and stipend.  I’m sure he would appreciate the lift. And if you can have one Mass said for a non-Catholic, you can have more than one Mass said.  Yes, you can have Gregorian Masses said.  (For more on Gregorian Masses – HERE)

There is one restriction, however, the name of a non-Catholic is not to be spoken aloud during the Eucharistic Prayer of Mass.  See the Ecumenical Directory, 121.

So, the bottom line is, yes, Masses can be offered for the intention of any person, living or dead, Catholic or non-Catholic.

And, to be clear, having a Mass said for the intention of a person is not the same thing as having a Mass said for what that person intends or intended!   We pray “for the Pope’s intention(s)”.  That means that we pray for what the Pope intends for us to pray for.  However, when we have a Mass said for a person’s intention, that means that we are praying for that person’s well-being, in this life or in the life to come.  We use the word “intention” differently in different contexts.   Therefore, should someone want to have Masses said for a very wicked person who is still alive it might be better – depending on who that person is and where you are – to put in the parish bulletin “Special Intention”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. WmHesch says:

    Since Mass intentions for parochial priests are published in the bulletin, I think prudence intervenes… Might not publishing a Mass for the repose of +Lefebvre ruffle the wrong feathers in your garden-variety “Our Lady of Suburbia” parish?

    Although once upon a time one didn’t publish names of decedents in the bulletin… They were quietly remembered at the Memento for the dead and known only to the parties of the stipend contract.

  2. un-ionized says:

    Wmhsch, i think most big suburban parishes where I live would say, “Who?” We attach too much name recognition sometimes to our faves.

  3. LDP says:

    Thanks for answering this question Fr. I have wondered the exact same thing. As someone who has no Catholic relatives, either close or distant, alive or deceased (at least – I would think – since the 16th century), this information is good to know.

  4. Mariana2 says:

    My son and I are the only Catholics in our family since the Reformation. So all the Masses I have had said for my Father or other defunct family members have been for Lutherans. Our parish priest has certainly accepted the stipends without batting an eyelid.

  5. un-ionized says:

    My mom wasn’t Catholic and when she died the priests sent me a Mass card that said the pastor had said a Mass for her. Some other priests offered to do that too. I thought that was nice because you have to end up somewhere and they were trying to help. Sorry I had to use the word “nice,” which I realize is now a dirty word.

  6. PA mom says:

    When I had a Mass said for my husband’s grandfather, I was questioned about whether it was an intention for the living or the dead, but no one asked if he was Catholic. I did not know to mention that he was not and had never been, but will try to remember this in future efforts for others.

    What about those estranged from the Church? Once a Catholic, always?

  7. un-ionized says:

    PA mom, yes, there is no way to unCatholic yourself. You just become a bad Catholic! I know a guy who has a ceremony where he “unbaptizes” people with a hair dryer.

  8. JuliB says:

    This is good to know. I frequently have masses said for family members of acquaintances and also famous people who have died. I figured that many people who are famous need all the prayers they can get, and the more acts of mercy the better!

  9. Mojoron says:

    Several times a year I have my mother and my wife’s mother and father, who were Lutheran, honored with a Mass.


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