ASK FATHER: Irreverent priest at a funeral Mass.

From an upset reader…


I went to a funeral Mass and the priest was not reverent of the person who passed. He rapped his knuckles on the coffin numerous times. He paraphrased the readings and the consecration. He reprimanded a lady who knelt for receiving Communion. and afterwards brushed his hands instead of washing his hands. These are a few of the things I caught.

Does this Mass count? I couldn’t follow the Mass and it felt more like an entertainment show than a Mass. And yes, the tabernacle was on the side in its own little room so it wouldn’t compete with the star of the show…the priest. Does this Mass count? Should I write a letter to the priest? I can’t write to the Cardinal since its ___. I doubt he will do anything.

First, how terrible.   This should never happen.

Does this Mass “count”?  I’m not sure what you are asking.  It could be that you mean was it “valid”.  If there were so many abuses that it wasn’t a Mass (unlikely) then, no it didn’t “count”.  If there was an invalid consecration for some reason (unlikely) them no, it didn’t “count”.

However, even if that Mass was valid, what you describe is inexcusable.

And, yes, you can still write to your bishop (whom you say is a Cardinal).   It is often better to work up the chain, as it were: first, priest, then bishop, then the Vatican.  However, it may be that, for some reason, you can’t write to that priest.

Should write to anyone, keep copies of correspondence.  If you write to the bishop/Cardinal, send a copy of the letter also to the Apostolic Nuncio and to the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Of course it is hard to prove what you observed and a single letter can’t be decisive.  However, it may be that this is not an isolated incident and that that priest has a file filled with this sort of thing.

Before writing, see my

The above link, by the way, is always on the blog.  You can find it quickly at the very bottom in a list of links or do a CTRL+F with the search word “tips”.

Finally, pray for that priest.  Determine some act of reparation for his irreverence and offense and then carry it out, asking God to forgive him and to help him amend his ways.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Wow. That’s unbelievable.

  2. bombcar says:

    The pray part is perhaps the most important! Even if nothing else is done, say some prayers, ask for some masses to be said (I hear someone may even have lists of priests available for Gregorian Masses, which can most certainly be said for the living).

    The worse the problem is, the more prayers are needed – here is a son of Christ, a priest, in need of help. Will we cross over like the Samaritan and “pay whatever more” is needed, or do we walk on by, unwilling to associate with the unclean?

  3. jaykay says:

    Oh dear, that sort of thing is distressing at any time but at a funeral…

    I think, in the absence of further information from the querist, the paraphrased consecration may have been valid, assuming the Priest had the proper intention (and one must assume that) but not licit? I’m open to correction on that, certainly.

    I myself recently attended a funeral here in Ireland where the Priest decided to dispense with a chasuble. But most else seemed o.k., even use of “for many”, strangely enough, although other prayers were definitely the 1973 version e.g. the “Libera nos, quaesumus…” and “Ecce Agnus Dei”.

    Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama.

  4. Jim R says:

    Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. A few years back a co-worker’s Mom passed away. The deceased was a practicing Catholic as was her widower and daughter. Most of those at the funeral were not Catholic. The priest skipped over parts of the Mass, told everyone to sit for the Eucharistic Prayer, said the usual Protestant version of the Our Father and invited everyone to communion.

    Now, it’s my experience that non-Catholics expect a Catholic service at a Catholic Church especially for a practicing Catholic’s funeral. They may not like all parts of it, but I’ve never really known anyone who was not Catholic to expect anything but a Catholic liturgy under those circumstances. In his effort to be “inclusive” the priest did nothing for the non-Catholics, and confused and disturbed the Catholics. I didn’t get it then; I don’t get it now.

  5. majuscule says:

    An elderly relative who died recently requested no funeral Mass, simply a graveside service. It was prayerful and what had been requested. (I’m having some Masses said for her at my church.)

    The evening before, they had a “rosary” at the funeral home. The deceased attended Sunday Mass as long as she was able but most of the family is non-practicing. The service consisted of several readings, a short reflection by the priest (all quite reverent and appropriate). And then we prayed. One Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be. That was the rosary.

    Is that what’s done these days?

    It doesn’t have to be irreverent to feel like it was somehow not quite complete.

  6. Hugh9 says:

    I truly wish that the practice of “Words of Remembrance” at the end of a funeral Mass was suppressed!! The directives indicate BRIEF remarks and should reflect on the spiritual life of the deceased. It has lately become more of a personalized life history with humorous anecdotes and other stories which make no mention of a Catholic life. A funeral at my parish in early 2017 featured a non-Catholic giving a 25-minute speech. When she mentioned she really had a lot more to say, I audibly groaned. (Maybe she heard it as she seemed to wrap things up quickly!!) Our deanery is reluctant to do anything about it though my pastor quietly removed the option from the funeral planning guide.

  7. HeatherPA says:

    I have a question for the priests here. Are priests allowed to do “funeral services” for Protestants? This is something that is going on with a priest (not my parish priest but a neighboring parish) and I am at a loss as to what is going on there. The priest is doing some kind of funeral service at the funeral home for deceased non Catholic people. It is not a Mass of Christian Burial and it is not at a church.. Is it ever allowed? I have never heard of any priest doing this before.


  9. dcntodd says:

    I’ll bet I can guess which Cardinal the reader is concerned about. He was our bishop back in the first decade of this century. I won’t mention his name but I’m sure he was made a cardinal by Pope Francis shortly after he was made an archbishop.

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