Week of November 8, 1999
Are there set fees for funerals?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
Just recently, my mother-in-law died in the town where she lived all her life. She was a very devout Christian with a strong faith in God. The priest visited her regularly in the hospital and gave her the last sacraments before she died.
When my husband was asked for a set fee before either the prayers or the funeral Mass were said, I was shocked. I thought a donation was given to the church after the funeral, not before anything was done.
I can understand that a funeral takes a lot of the priest's time but when a grieving family arrives for the prayer service and is approached for money, they have no option but to pay. The incident was upsetting and it still is bothering me today.
My question if this: Does the Catholic Church have set rates for services performed by the priest? What would have happened if we did not have the money requested? Would the priest not have performed the ceremony for my mother-in-law?
It appears there are no specific fees for funerals set by the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Some parishes have their own guidelines. However, as a general rule, people make the decision as to what they want to give.
Although there are extra expenses associated with funerals, it puts the priest in an uncomfortable position to ask for money. Sometimes the funeral home either includes the stipend for the church in its costs and turns it over to the priests or suggests that people give the church a fee.
One priest to whom I spoke says he never asks for the fee and people usually give something but sometimes they don't give anything. He indicated that he preferred the stipend not coming from the funeral home.
The timing of payment varies, sometimes people pay before but more usually after everything is completed.
I know of one diocese in Alberta which has a specific fee for funerals and the amount is indicated up front when funeral arrangements are being discussed. Both parties sign an agreement at that time.
Handling it this way removes the problem for the priest. However, the amount would be altered for someone who could pay very little or not at all.
I can understand your stressed reaction in your grief. I would assume that normally such a request isn't made at that particular time. I can't begin to guess at the reasons behind the priest's request but it may have had to do with some bad experiences he had in the past.
I'm afraid that as human beings and as Christians, we all have a long way to go in being sensitive to people with whom we come into contact, especially those in vulnerable situations and suffering.
We need to look back more often at the example Jesus gave us in reaching out and being helpful, especially to the suffering and rejected.