Liturgical Guidelines, Norms and Policies

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Non-liturgical Events In Churches, Oratories, and Chapels Diocese of Pittsburgh Policies

Background

The churches, oratories, and chapels of the Catholic community are set apart by a rite of blessing or a solemn dedication marking them out as places for divine worship, most specifically the celebration of the Church's liturgy. In addition, these places are to be houses of prayer that foster the intimate communion that human beings have with the living God. This "setting apart," therefore, has a positive purpose: the place is devoted to a special set of wonderful activities. As a corollary, this also means that the holy place is not used for other things, though they may be valuable in their own right.

Canon law establishes the general norms of the appropriate use of churches, oratories, and chapels. Further specification is left to the Diocesan Bishop. The following policies cover three items:

  • Non-liturgical "yet religious" events
  • Non-religious events
  • "Suggested Donations" for any such events

Official Notification

The following policy statements are based upon the canonical and liturgical law of the universal Church and have been reviewed by various consultative bodies and approved by the Diocesan Bishop.

They are applicable in all churches, oratories, and chapels in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. (The numbering system reflects the diocesan index for policies maintained by the Department for Worship.)

Definitions:

Church: A sacred building set aside for public worship to which all the faithful have a right of access (e.g., the cathedral and parish churches).

Oratory: (sometimes called "public chapel"): A place set aside by permission of an ordinary (e.g., the Diocesan Bishop, the vicar general, the episcopal vicar, or the major superior of a clerical religious institute) for divine worship for the benefit of some community or assembly of the faithful who gather there; other members of the faithful may also have access to it with the consent of the competent superior. All sacred celebrations may take place in an oratory unless otherwise excluded by the law, by particular provision of the local ordinary, or by liturgical norms.

Chapel: (sometimes called a "private chapel"): A place set aside by permission of the local ordinary (e.g., the Diocesan Bishop) for divine worship for the benefit of one or more persons. Special permission over and above that given to establish the chapel is required for the celebration of Mass or other sacraments in a chapel.

Non-Religious Event: An event that is neither a liturgical celebration nor in service of the exercise or promotion of worship, piety, or religion.

Religious Event Other than the Liturgy: A non-liturgical event (e.g., concerts, recitals, artistic presentations, talks) that serves the exercise or promotion of worship, piety, or religion and is consistent with the holiness of the sacred place.

Non-liturgical Religious Events in Churches, Oratories, and Chapels

IX.A. Non-liturgical events which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety, or religion and are consistent with the holiness of the sacred place are permitted in churches, oratories, or chapels.

IX.A.1. In all such events, care should be taken that the sacred nature of the altar is respected (e.g., that nothing is placed upon it, that it is not used for non-sacramental purposes, etc.)

IX.A.2. If, in the judgment of the pastor, rector, or competent superior, the occasion requires it (e.g., because of the placement of persons or equipment), the Blessed Sacrament may be removed from the tabernacle to a more appropriate and secure place in the church, oratory, or chapel or even removed altogether to a secure place in the sacristy.

IX.B. Permission for such religious or spiritual events is to be granted by the pastor, rector, or competent superior of the place in each case.

IX.C. Admission is not to be charged for such events in church, oratories, or chapels, though unspecified freewill offerings may be accepted.

IX.D. In accord with the norms of Policy XI, below, suggested donations may be set when circumstances indicate the appropriateness of such and with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop.

IX.D.1. When circumstances indicate the appropriateness of establishing a suggested donation (e.g., to cover expenses of a traveling professional choral group), requests for permission, addressed to the Diocesan Bishop, should indicate the date and nature of the event, and the reasons requiring the suggested donation.

IX.D.2. In such cases: (a) the words "suggested donation" are to be used on any printed tickets, and (b) no one will be refused entrance to the church, oratory, or chapel due to financial constraints.

Non Religious Events In Churches, Oratories, and Chapels

X.A. As a general rule, events of a non-religious nature are not to be held in churches, oratories, or chapels.

X.B. In individual cases and for good reason, the Diocesan Bishop may permit such a non-religious event to take place in a church, oratory, or chapel as long as the event is not contrary to the holiness of the place.

X.B.1. Requests for permission, addressed to the Diocesan Bishop, should indicate in detail the rationale for the event, the proposed date, time, major participants, and event content.

X.B.2. In all such events, care should be taken that the sacred nature of the altar is respected (e.g., that nothing is placed upon it, that it is not used for non-sacramental purposes, etc.).

X.B.3. If, in the judgment of the pastor or rector, the occasion requires it (e.g., because of the nature of the event or the placement of persons or equipment), the Blessed Sacrament may be removed from the tabernacle to a more appropriate and secure place in the church, oratory, or chapel or even removed altogether to a secure place in the sacristy.

X.C. Admission is not to be charged for such events in churches, oratories, or chapels, though unspecified freewill offerings may be accepted.

X.D. In accord with the norms of Policy XI, below, a suggested donation may be set when circumstances indicate the appropriateness of such and with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop.

X.D.1. When circumstances indicate the appropriateness of establishing a suggested donation (e.g., to cover expenses of a traveling professional choral group), requests for permission, addressed to the Diocesan Bishop, should indicate the date and nature of the event, and the reasons requiring the suggested donation.

X.D.2. The Diocesan Bishop may permit the setting of a suggested donation, stipulating that: (a) the words "suggested donation" are to be used on any printed tickets, and (b) no one will be refused entrance to the church, oratory, or chapel due to financial constraints.

Suggested Donations for Events in Churches, Oratories, and Chapels

XI.A. Under no circumstance is it permitted that any fee be charged for admission to a church, oratory, or chapel for the celebration of the sacred liturgy.

XI.B. When, with due permission (cf. Policies IX and X, above), a non-liturgical event takes place in a church, oratory, or chapel, no admission fee is to be charged. Unspecified freewill offerings may be accepted.

XI.C. When circumstances indicate the appropriateness of establishing a suggested donation (e.g., to cover expenses of a traveling professional choral group), the Diocesan Bishop may permit the setting of a suggested donation.

XI.C.1. Requests for permission to set a suggested donation are to be addressed to the Diocesan Bishop, indicating the date and nature of the event and the reasons requiring the suggested donation.

XI.C.2. The words "suggested donation" are to be used on any printed tickets.

XI.C.3. No one will be refused entrance to the church, oratory, or chapel due to financial constraints.

Catholic Funeral Rites and Cremation

Why does the Church prefer the burial of the actual body of the deceased, rather than cremated ruins?

Why do we have "funeral rites"?

"In the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life and that Jesus, by his death and resurrection has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanity." We "offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just." In our solidarity in the "communion of saints" we commend "the dead to Gods merciful love and plead for the forgiveness of their sins." (Order, n. 1, 5,6)

"The various prayers and actions of the Catholic funeral liturgy highlight important beliefs and values of the Church: We believe in the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of the individual person. Our central belief in the triumph of life over death is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ,… and of his faithful followers. The fact of death itself is an occasion to confront and embrace human mortality. At the same time we are reminded of the respect that is to be shown for the bodies of the dead, the importance of remembering the dead and offering prayers for them, and the need for the Church to provide a ministry of consolation to those who mourn." (Reflections, pp. 13, 14)

Why the emphasis on the human body?

"The Christian faithful are unequivocally confronted by the mystery of life and death when they are faced with the presence of the body of one who has died. Moreover, the body which lies in death naturally recalls the personal story of faith, the loving family bonds, the friendships, and the words and acts of kindness of the deceased person. Indeed, the human body is inextricably associated with the human person. … It is the body whose hands clothed the poor and embraced the sorrowing.

"The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life. Thus, the Church's reverence for the sacredness of the human body grows out of a reverence and concern both natural and supernatural for the human person. The body of the deceased brings forcefully to mind the Churchs conviction that the human body is in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit and is destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead. This conviction in faith finds its expression in a sustained and insistent prayer that commends the deceased person to Gods merciful care so that his or her place in the communion of the just may be assured. A further expression is the care traditionally taken to prepare the bodies of the deceased for a burial that befits their dignity, in expectation of their final resurrection in the Lord." (Order, pp. 411-412)

Is cremation approved by the Church?

Catholic Church has officially allowed cremation since 1963. This change in church norms was incorporated into canon law in 1983, with the expectation that the body would be brought to church for the funeral liturgy, followed by cremation. Permission is sought from the parish priest and is granted on a case by case basis to assure that the practice is not chosen for reasons that are not compatible with Catholic teaching.

More recently, the Holy See has authorized celebration of funeral liturgies in the United States with cremated remains present, as well as celebration of the funeral liturgy when cremation and committal take place before the liturgy.

For specific details, pastors should refer to the Revised Diocesan Policy Concerning Cremation and Catholic Funeral Rites, issued by the Office of Worship, Diocese of Pittsburgh, November 5, 1997. Copies of the policy are available by contacting the Department for Worship.

The Church still prefers the practice of the burial of the body of the deceased. However, if cremation is chosen, it is strongly preferred that it take place after the actual funeral liturgy with the body present. This presence is the clearest reminder of the life and death of the person and better expresses the values that the Church affirms in its rites. When this is not possible, the cremation may precede the celebration of the funeral liturgy.

The Church used to prohibit the practice of cremation. Why the change?

In the early days of the Church, persecutors burned bodies in mockery of Christian belief in the resurrection. Today, the Church believes these hostile factors are no longer prevalent. Thus, the Church will permit cremation as long as it is not chosen for reasons hostile to Catholic teaching and when there are other good reasons to justify the practice.

The revised policy also takes into account the changing patterns of society and the experience of faithful members of the Church who find that "economic, geographic, ecological, or family factors on occasion make the cremation of a body the only feasible choice." (Reflections, Appendix, p. 15).

Why be concerned about what happens to the ashes after cremation?

According to the Order of Christian Funerals, "The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires." (p. 417)

Norms for Preaching in the Diocese of Pittsburgh

During the Fall, 2001 meeting of the bishops of the United States, three pieces of complimentary legislation relating to preaching were approved. The norms have been reviewed by the Congregation of Bishops for the required recognition. The approval was granted on November 27, 2001.

In accordance with the decree issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the following norms are effective January 15, 2002 nationally and in the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

Preaching

Preaching in churches, oratories and sacred places within the diocese is a principal duty of ordained clergy.
  • Preaching the homily at Mass is always the duty of the ordained clergy: bishops, priests and deacons. Only ordained clergy can preach during the time reserved for the homily in the Celebration of the Eucharist;
  • The diocesan bishop may never dispense from the norm that reserves the homily to the ordained clergy;
  • Under certain circumstances, the bishop can admit laity to offer spiritual conferences, instruction, and talks within churches, oratories and sacred places in the diocese. Those circumstances might involve the shortage of clergy, language requirements, or a specific expertise possessed by the layperson involved. It is reserved to the diocesan bishop to determine when the circumstances are appropriate.
  • In order to preach in churches, oratories and sacred places, lay faithful must receive specific authorization individually from the bishop for each occasion.
  • In addition to their specific expertise, the lay faithful must be orthodox in faith and qualified in the witness of their lives as Christians. This must be verified by their appropriate pastor before authorization can be considered by the diocesan bishop.

Catechesis on Radio and Television

For Catholics who give regular instruction in Christian doctrine locally on radio and television, the following conditions must be met:

  • Catholics giving such instruction must obtain the permission of the diocesan bishop.
  • If the program originates outside the Diocese of Pittsburgh, permission must be obtained either from the diocesan bishop, or the diocesan bishop of the place where the radio or television program is originally broadcast.
  • In order to give such public instruction in doctrine, these Catholics should be qualified by education, adherence to the teaching of the Magisterium, and by the Catholic witness of their lives. This must be verified by their appropriate pastor before authorization can be considered by the diocesan bishop.
  • For members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life permission is also required of their superiors.

Radio and Television Involvement

Assuming that their involvement in general radio and television programs would not harm the Church, ordained clergy and members of religious institutes can participate in radio and television programs involving issues of Catholic doctrine and morals under the following conditions:

  • For regular and frequent participation in such programs locally, the permission of the diocesan bishop must be obtained.
  • If the program originates outside the Diocese of Pittsburgh, permission must be obtained either from the diocesan bishop, or the diocesan bishop of the place where the radio or television program is originally broadcast.
  • Ordained clergy or religious who take part regularly in such programs should be qualified by education, adherence to the teaching of the Magisterium and by the witness of their lives. For members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life, permission is also required of their superiors.