Can a memorial Mass be offered for someone who is not Catholic?

Can a memorial Mass be offered for someone who is not Catholic? November 5, 2019
Via Pixabay/Public Domain

A timely question for this month when we remember our beloved dead.

And here’s the answer, from the Rev. Kenneth Doyle via CNS: 

There is no canonical rule against having a Mass said for a deceased non-Catholic. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true; the church’s Code of Canon Law says, “A priest is free to apply the Mass for anyone, living or dead” (Canon 901).

This means that the Eucharist can be offered for anyone — dead or alive, Catholic or non-Catholic. And that brings up another question: If you attend the wake of a non-Catholic, is it OK to bring a Mass card? The answer is “Yes.”

One might think the opposite; most Protestants, for example, do not believe in the existence of purgatory; they feel that their deceased loved ones, if they lived a worthy life, are already experiencing eternal beatitude.

Since the Mass is an intercessory prayer (it re-presents the salvific acts of Christ in his death and resurrection and seeks to apply those merits to the deceased), one might suspect that Protestants would see this as unnecessary and could be offended if given a Mass card. But I have never found that to be so; instead I have found them consistently grateful.

Which brings up still a third question: Can you have a Catholic funeral Mass for a non-Catholic? Here again the answer is “Yes,” under certain circumstances. Canon 1183.3 provides that a Catholic church funeral may be offered for baptized non-Catholics “unless their intention is evidently to the contrary and provided that their own minister is not available.”

Read more. 

As a footnote: I’ve had Masses said for deceased relatives and friends who are non-Catholic — and I recently heard of people having Masses said for the souls of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!