Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Re Osama Bin Laden's name in the parish bulletin

A request for Mass to be celebrated for the repose of Osama Bin Laden’s soul that was printed in a Florida parish bulletin has irritated a number of people. Let’s try to sort it out.

First, it is obvious to the point of palpable that Catholics are free to pray for anyone, living or dead, and that such prayers are exercises in charity. CCC 958, 1032. Therefore, it is wrong to discourage others from praying for any human being.*

Second, a priest is free to offer Mass for anyone, living or dead. Canon 901, CCC 1371. The Pio-Benedictine restrictions against offering public Masses for certain persons (e.g., excommunicates per c. 2262) no longer bind. The faithful may now offer stipends for such Masses and priests may accept such stipends. Canons 945-946. A non-Catholic’s (let alone a non-baptized person’s) name should not, however, be proclaimed during the Eucharistic prayer. Ecumenical Directory (1993) n. 121.

These things being understood, however, it is, I suggest, a bit facile to conclude that Osama Bin Laden’s (or Hitler’s, or Stalin’s, or some other mass murders’) name should be printed in the parish bulletin as the object of a Mass intention.

Publishing the name of the person(s) for whom Mass is being offered is not required for the liceity, validity, or efficacy of either the stipend or the Mass. A pastor is free, therefore, to decline such publication according to his prudent judgment, and a bishop is free to issue wider particular directives in such matters if he deems it useful. Canons 381, 392, and 519. If the parochial printing of certain names as the objects of Mass intentions becomes a distraction to the faith community, instead of its serving as teaching moment, diocesan bishops might have to step in.

* I think it would offend pious ears to pray for canonized Saints and for those proclaimed Blessed (excepting those merely named Servant of God or even Venerable), but that might just be me. +++

Updates: It happened in Ireland, too.