Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Correspondence Concerning Mass Offerings, 7 July 1993.


July 7, 1993

Your Eminence:

In virtue of the norm of canon 952, §1, the Bishops of the Province of ____________ in ____________ raised the customary Mass offering from five dollars ($5.00) to ten dollars ($10.00), effective 1 July 1990.

In March 1993, the Reverend ____________, a priest of the Diocese of ____________ passed to eternal life. In his Last Will and Testament he requested that $10,000.00 be used for Mass offerings for the repose of his soul. At the time he executed his Last Will and Testament (14 October 1988), the customary offering in this Province was five dollars ($5.00) for one Mass. Consequently, he did specify that $5.00 be apportioned for each Mass celebration. In effect, he requested the offering of 2000 Masses for the repose of his soul.

It does not seem that Father ____________ was aware of the Mass offering change ($5.00 to $10.00) enacted by the Province of ____________ after the execution of his will. He had been living for some years in a nursing home and remained there until his death in March, 1993. The religious nurse who took care of him for many years stated that she never told him of this Provincial change and, to her knowledge, he was never apprised otherwise. She believes that he would have amended his Last Will and Testament had he known of the new policy regarding Mass offerings. In other words, he most probably would have had a codicil added to his Will whereby he would have reduced the number of Masses to 1000 (seu, $10.00 per Mass offering).

The number of Mass offerings given by the faithful of this Diocese has decreased dramatically in recent years. Consequently, those priests who depend on such offerings for additional financial support do not always receive such offerings for additional financial assistance. Since I would like these priests to benefit from the current policy of ten dollars per

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Mass, could I presume that Father ____________ would have provided for his Mass intentions according to the current policy had he been aware of it prior to his death?

If a presumption of reductio numeri Missarum celebrandarum cannot be made in virtue of the circumstances narrated above, would it please Your Eminence to grant a commutation in virtue of your faculties from the Holy Father so that the number of Masses to be applied for the repose of Father’s soul will be according to the current norm of law in this Province of ______________.

Asking God’s blessings on your very important work with the clergy of the world, I am

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Bishop of Diocese

His Eminence

Jos. Cardinal Sanchez

Piazza Pio XII 3

00193 Rome, Italy




The following petition was sent from the Congregation for the Clergy to the Holy Father:




Most Holy Father,

The Bishop of ____________, in the United States of America, requests from Your Holiness a reduction of Mass intentions in the following case.

The Reverend ____________, a priest of the Diocese of ____________, passed to eternal life in March of 1993. In his Last Will and Testament he requested that $10,000.00 be used for Mass offerings for the repose of his soul.

At the time he executed his Last Will and Testament (14 October, 1988), the customary offering in the Province of ____________ was five

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dollars for one Mass. Consequently, he did specify that five dollars be apportioned for each Mass celebration. In effect, he requested the offering of 2000 Masses for the repose of his soul.

The Bishops of the Province of ____________ raised the customary offering from five dollars to ten dollars effective July 1, 1990. It does not seem that Father was aware of the Mass offering change enacted by the Province of after the execution of his will.

For the above named reasons the Bishop of ____________ is requesting the reduction of Masses to be celebrated for the repose of Father ____________ from two thousand to one thousand.




On August 12, 1993, this concession was granted, with the reduction of the obligation of the Masses to the current diocesan tax.

What follows now is a similar case from the same ecclesiastical province. As in the previous exchange of letters, the correspondence is between the diocesan bishop and the Congregation for the Clergy.




September 15, 1993

Your Eminence:

Prior to the establishment of the Diocese of ____________ in 1971, the Catholic Bishop (or his successor) of the Diocese of ____________ [Editor’s note: The Diocese prior to the new Diocese] was named a trustee in a Last Will and Testament for the purpose of establishing a trust for “Founded Masses.’’ However, before the death of the author of said Will, the parochial domicile to the testor was annexed to the new Diocese of ____________. Consequently, the successor diocesan bishop of the designated trust became the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of ____________.

The pertinent text of the Last Will and Testament stated:

“I give and bequeath to the Most Reverend Bishop, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of ____________, or his successor in trust, the sum of Five Hundred ($500.00) Dollars, for the purpose of having Founded

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Masses said for the repose of the souls of members of the ____________ family, as directed by said Bishop.’’

After giving mature consideration to this bequest, I have decided that I do not wish to assume this obligation for myself or my successors. I have never accepted Founded Masses and do not consider it wise to do so in this day and age.

I appears that I have two options regarding this matter. I could transfer this obligation to a juridic person whose representative would be willing to assume the role of trustee. However, I am not aware of anyone who wishes to undertake such a responsibility. My second option is to request a commutation of this obligation ad normam iuris and that is what I wish to do.

More concretely, my suggested solution is that a commutation of this obligation be made to the celebration of 50 Masses ad intentionem dantis. The sum of $10.00 is the customary offering in the Diocese of for an individual Mass intention.

Therefore, I request from your eminence a commutation of the obligation of Founded Masses to the celebration of a given number of Masses in accord with the customary offering currently given in this Diocese.

Asking God’s blessings on your very important work with the clergy of the world, I am

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Diocesan Bishop

His Eminence

Jos. Cardinal Sanchez

Piazza Pio XII 3

00193 Rome, Italy

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The following reply was received from Cardinal Sanchez:




November 15, 1993

Most Rev. Bishop

Diocese of ____________

U.S.A.

Your Excellency:

This is in response to your query concerning the Last Will and Testament of Father ____________, who had bequeathed to the then Bishop of ____________ the sum of five hundred dollars “for the purpose of having Founded Masses said.’’

Since in your letter mention is made of a possibility to transfer this obligation “to a juridic person whose representative should be willing to assume the role of trustee,’’ and since — as you know — we are dealing with such a delicate matter in which the changing of the will of the testator is contemplated, we would like to suggest that you try to find such a juridic person either in the States or abroad (perhaps in the Mission). Otherwise, we would have to present your request directly to the Holy Father who would eventually decide on the matter.

With sentiments of cordial esteem and every best wish I remain,

Faithfully in Christ,

Jos. T. Cardinal Sanchez

Prefect

C. Sepe

Secretary




An addendum to this correspondence notes that the diocesan bishop did obtain the name of a religious community in Europe that was willing to accept “founded Masses.’’ He subsequently transferred the $500.00 to said community.




RRAO (1996): 11-15.