TORONTO (RNS) Roman Catholics in Ottawa are no longer permitted to deliver eulogies during funeral Masses, the local archbishop has decreed.

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Ontario, speaks during an interview in Turin, Italy, in this April 27, 2010, file photo. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Ontario, speaks during an interview in Turin, Italy, in this April 27, 2010 file photo. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service


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The Feb. 2 decree from Archbishop Terrence Prendergast reminds the faithful that Catholics gather at funerals “not to praise the deceased, but to pray for them.”

Contrary to popular belief, eulogies “are not part of the Catholic funeral rites, particularly in the context of a funeral liturgy within Mass,” the decree stated. Many Catholics, it pointed out, do not know this.

Priests are “strongly” urged to encourage Catholics to speak publicly about loved ones outside the Mass — at funeral homes, receptions, or in a parish hall.

In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Prendergast conceded that eulogies at Catholic funerals “had crept in” but that “technically, the books that guide us don’t allow them.”

Eulogies are “words of praise without reference to God,” he stated, while a Mass “is an act of faith.”

However, Prendergast said the church was facing increasing pressure from families to have more, and even multiple, eulogies at funerals.

To that end, a compromise was reached: The decree permits “words of remembrance” to be delivered, but with three conditions: They must be spoken at the beginning of the liturgy; must be one page of text taking three to four minutes to read, with mention of the deceased’s “life of faith”; and they should be read from a place other than where Scriptures are recited.

Prendergast said Catholics have lost the “sense of the importance of the funeral Mass, that we pray for the person. Most people when they go, they canonize the person. I hope they won’t say that about me because I know I’m only going to get into heaven with the prayers of the faithful.”

Elsewhere in Canada, a similar situation arose in 2003, when the bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry, issued a pastoral letter banning eulogies at Catholic funeral Masses.

YS/AMB END CSILLAG

34 Comments

    • Still, one person, bishop, priest, or “lay” person, should not be so presumptuous as to determine how others should bid farewell or pay final respects to anyone in the ways they wish. When a bishop acts this way, he is autocratic, and that is exactly what is wrong with the Catholic Church. Especially in its hierarchy, it is the last absolute monarchy in the western world.

      Sadly, church growth is creeping south among illiterate people of Africa and Central and South America. There is something to be said about religion and a church that has its greatest growth among illiterate people. Such growth is no different than the acceptance of fairy tales by little kids as if they are fact. That is why we see so many such people turning to the equivalent of store-front churches or these megachurches dominated by a single personality. Immaturity is a very large and potent part of illiteracy.

    • Well, Andre, you display a mentality that is chuck full of nice thoughts about other people, especially those about whom you know absolutely nothing. In addition to plain rash judgement, our writing is an example of the whimsy and negativity that urges church “managers” try to prevent domination by such foolish behavior.

      I guess group management, as in a true democracy and a true church, would do as well. Of course, one could just do as so many Catholics have done as a reaction to the outrageous non-response of the bishops worldwide to the clerical sex scandal and just walk out the door and never return. That way they will not be subjected to sermonizing by preachers like you.

  1. Give some people a little authority and they become total dillholes.

    What better way to give a person unearned authority with no responsibility to answer for your behavior than to become a member of the clergy.

    Is it me or is the Catholic Church of Canada really diving into the crazy pool these days?

  2. Seriously!? With all that’s going on in the world … and especially in the Church, what with it still being up to its eyeballs in a worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal, more than a decade after it became public knowledge … this hierarch decides to go on a tear, over eulogies?

    Eulogies?

    Does this idiot realize he’s raising a fallacious false dilemma? One need not refrain from praying for the deceased in order also to offer a eulogy. The two don’t obviate or eliminate each other. At the last Catholic funeral I attended, people BOTH prayed for the deceased AND eulogized him. Yes, they actually managed to do BOTH in the same service.

    Surely Prendergast has much better ways to use his time, and more things to worry about in his archdiocese, than the horrible effects (whatever he seems to think they might be) of Catholics insolently “praising” the deceased during funerals. He might, for instance, consider getting his own Church to finally pay the bills it had agreed to pay, many years ago, but which to date it has refused to take care of, as the CBC reported: http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/catholic-church-withholding-millions-from-victims-alleges-government-1.2542363

  3. What cruelty!!! Grief stricken people can’t share a few memories of the departed?

    When are people going to wake up?
    Religion is cruel, primitive, authoritarian, totalitarian, dictatorial, condescending, inhuman nonsense. Baseless claims from head to toe.

    The most beautiful, compassionate, loving ceremonies I have ever been to were Atheist funerals. Poems, songs of love, celebration of life and always a reflection of the life that was lived! No dictators telling us how to conduct our expressions of love!

    Shame on these religious posers.

    • “Only 3 or 4 minutes may be allotted” to talk about the departed’s “life AND FAITH”.

      What a transparent ploy, returning the funeral ceremony of grief back into its ancient responsibility of a sales pitch for Jesus.

      This is so disturbing. Just as churches had begun to reform into something more civilized, they can’t help but shove the Dark Ages in everyone’s faces.

      How I wish people would abandon this. It could fade away if people came to their senses.

    • Actually, why must all reactions to the death of someone be part of the funeral mass? True, bishops should not dictate, but there all kinds of times, situations, and ways of expressing oneself when someone dies.

    • Charles Mangerian

      With all due respect, and none is due in this case, Atheist Max has strayed off topic and, as often seems the case when a Catholic or evangelic story appears on the web, begins a rant on religious belief. You hatred of the Catholic faith is your business, however the Bishop is merely restating Church law. The Funeral Mass is to pray for the dead, and by that means alone comfort the survivors. The Eulogy is proper at the Rosary generally the evening before, or prior to or after the Funeral Mass. As a non-believer you add nothing to the discussion, except perhaps to illustrate the necessity for Catechesis among the lay faithful.

      • @Charles,
        A eulogy is usually the only accessible, honest statement uttered in a church. And many in the pews know it. Getting rid of it leaves only pretense.
        You are welcome to it – but know where that puts you, and the departed.

  4. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It is an archbishop’s job to see that Catholic Masses in his diocese are not used for purposes other than worship, faith, and prayer. Having been deacon of the Mass at many Masses over the past few years I have seen there is a problem with funeral Masses.
    There IS a place for what families and friends of a deceased person may want as far as eulogies go. It is called the “Vigil” (sometimes called “Wake” )service in the Church’s liturgical books and the time for talking of the deceased comes right after the Gospel reading at that service.
    It seems strange to read so much hatred directed at a man who is just doing one of the jobs he was hired to do–guarantee proper Catholic worship and prayer including that for deceased Catholics.

    • The guy is doing his job in a way that is deliberately and unnecessarily alienating to basic decency and custom. A funeral is not a place for clergy to get up on their high horse. Its an extremely emotional period and doing so is extremely rude and distressing to many. He is more concerned with dilatory exercises of power than meeting the basic needs of people paying for and attending the service.

      Where is the pressing need to implement such a policy?

    • Deacon John, eulogizing can well be a form of “worship, faith, and prayer,” even better than routine church ritual. After all, what are the “Stations of the Cross,” but an eulogy? You seem too willing to subject yourself to episcopal dictatorship. I think that is the greatest weakness and the greatest evil of the Catholic Church. It has lingered for almost 1,700 years, ever since the non-Christian Emperor Constantine forced all the bishops to meet in Nicaea in 325 and showed them how to turn their episcopacy into a monarchy like his.

      Constantine remained the civil monarch. The bishops became the religious monarchs–but they remained under Constantine’s political domination. The Nicene Creed should have begun, “We believe in One Emperor, Constantine, the Almighty…” Of course, Constantine’s religious politics were ended by those who attended his death twelve years later and went through the formality of pouring water on his dying head and calling it “Baptism.”

  5. ***It’s obvious that the people who have commented didn’t take time to carefully read the article. The archbishop explained that eulogies are NOT part of the Roman Catholic funeral mass tradition, and also that there is no provision for them in the funeral masses guidelines for priests.

    • I read carefully. I understand that eulogies are not part of the Catholic mass. I was a Catholic for 44 years.

      But in recent decades the church has allowed eulogies – it has been a humanizing and decent thing to do. Most people who attend funerals ARE NOT CATHOLICS! They are friends, loved ones, agnostics, divorced people, Christians and Jews of other sects and faiths etc. They go to support the family.

      By eliminating eulogies the church winds the clock back to the ancient way of pure worship of God and the Savior SPECIFICALLY in the Catholic way. It deprives the loved ones and the friends the opportunity to listen to a remembrance of the lost person in the one setting where they are sure to gather in a comfortable place.

      Vigils and wakes and other occasions do not always happen with funerals – and the weather sometimes does not permit graveside eulogies.

      The church is claiming on behalf of the deceased that his/her Catholicism of the deceased is much more important than the audience who has come for miles to grieve with the family.

      They won’t object to the Catholic plan verbally. But it is disgraceful to put everyone in that position – especially at that time in their lives.

      Okay, then, Catholics. Be divisive. You are good at that.
      Make your claims to the captive audience.
      Call attention to how superior the Catholic faith is to these people who will just roll their eyes.

      Allowing eulogies does not take away from worshipping God in the church or at the service – eliminating the eulogy is just vacuous grandstanding.

      • Frankly, I’m glad someone like Predergast has the gumption to curtail families who gave themselves the right to enter a Church space they have been absent from for ten years and because it has a microphone for family members to get their moment in the sun. Some families pick the teariest grief-stricken member to offer a 12-step community-based endless wandering memory lane to cathartically exorcise silly memories like the dead person’s favorite pudding flavor, his special relationship to a cat, finished up with a long gruesome account of the deceased’s final hours. Funeral guests take precious time off from work, often at great costs to other employees to attend these liturgies. Offer the sacrifice of the Mass and let the ritual and sacrament speak when the suffering lack words to heal their pain. Share memories at the reception where you can have a good drink.

    • Re: “It’s obvious that the people who have commented didn’t take time to carefully read the article.”

      Oh, I read it. He did say that eulogies aren’t an official part of the Mass. However, he also clearly implied that giving eulogies was preventing people from praying for the deceased. I know for a fact, having attended Catholic funerals for myself, that this is absolutely not true.

      What’s more, his claim is predicated on a “false dilemma.” Contrary to what he said, it is possible, as I explained, for people to BOTH pray for the deceased AND eulogize them. The one doesn’t preclude the other.

      The false dilemma is a common fallacy that people fall prey to, and I understand it’s often hard for people to see. It tends to sneak up on people when they least expect it. However, among logicians it’s rather well-known, and goes by various names: The either/or fallacy, false choice fallacy, black-&-white fallacy, false dichotomy, and by other names.

      If you or Prendergast need help understanding what it is, I suggest any or all of the following references:

      http://www.philosophy-index.com/logic/fallacies/false-dilemma.php
      http://www.skepdic.com/falsedilemma.html
      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/eitheror.html
      http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/index.php/logical-fallacies/94-false-dilemma
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

      As for whether or not I “took the time to read the article,” I obviously read it thoroughly enough to detect the fallacy which constituted the premise of Prendergast’s remarks. And IIRC I was the first commenter to notice it. Is that not enough reading? Precisely how much more would you like me to have read it? Please provide some metric of “enough reading” on my part that would have made you happy.

    • Things do change. The Holy Communion (Eucharist) certainly is not in the form of the Jewish meal that Jesus celebrated with his Jewish disciples. Heck, it’s not even in its pre-Vatican II form. Most of us would never allow Latin again. Women could be ordained priests despite John Paul II’s misogyny. The pope no longer lives in the Apostolic Palace–thank God. And he doesn’t wear red silk slippers, either. As Bob Dylan wrote, “The times they are a-changin’ ” even for the church. They always have. Things now are not a bit like they were in the time of Jesus or the early communities that followed his precepts. Not even like they were for centuries after the non-Christian Emperor Constantine took over in 325. You do realize, priests could marry until celibacy became the unnatural rule in the 12th century. And consider all the sad and sick problems that has caused by contradicting nature. God’s nature!

  6. Why “pray” for them at the funeral? They are dead until the resurrection…their probation has closed and their record is sealed. Doesn’t anyone actually read the Bible anymore?

  7. Another cleric not in touch with the laity and even further away from reality than the two previous popes and their efforts with child abuse.
    It really doesn’t matter anyhow as the majority of catholics who have already left the church arrange their own appropriate funeral service at a crematorium or funeral parlour.
    How does the current pope put up with these defective people in charge of dioceses? Eventually they will die out.
    Hope they give him a good eulogy but then it is called a homily or a tribute or a sermon isn’t it?
    If it wasn’t so pathetic you could laugh!

  8. Leander Dosch

    Archbishop Prendergast is to be congratulated for explaining clearly why eulogies at a funeral Mass are inappropriate. The Mass is worship of God, not the deceased. The religious life of the deceased in some cases can hardly be held up as edifying. Whether edifying or not, every person needs the prayers of the living. If even Pope Francis can identify himself as a sinner, how much more every one of us. At my funeral pray for me; I don’t want a eulogy. And yes, I am a priest.

  9. It’s during the eulogy that I learn so much more about the person I thought I knew reasonably well. Sometimes I’ve only known them in their twilight years so it’s good to hear of their early life. But I DO think all eulogies should be edited by someone responsible. I’ve heard some stories during eulogies that weren’t suitable for mixed company – let alone in church.

  10. Daniel Medinger

    I couldn’t disagree with the archbishop more. Funerals, like weddings, are when people who haven’t been to church in some time are in the pews. Let them feel welcome. Let them feel appreciated. Restrictions will just drive them away again. I think the Holy Father has been expressing concerns about barriers in our church. At a time of family grief, and when communities may want to rally to say a prayerful thank you and good bye to a life well-lived (even if not fully saintly), the church should be encouraging; not creating a new bunch of rules.

    • I seem to recall a certain renowned first century Rabbi imposing restrictions and requiring that a young man sell everything he had and becoming his disciple in order to inherit eternal life. That young man went away sad and did neither of those things, but the Rabbi did not relax the restrictions. Why should his followers be afraid of emulating that example?

  11. @Atheist Max
    You are entitled to your opinion and to express it in a public forum if you so wish. However, for what it’s worth, I would like to point out the following:
    “By eliminating eulogies the church winds the clock back to the ancient way of pure worship of God and the Savior SPECIFICALLY in the Catholic way.”
    I fail to see why you are offended that Catholics are being directed to be ‘SPECIFICALLY’ Catholic while farewelling a loved one by the local leader of the Catholic Church, or requiring that non-Catholics present respect Catholic customs on this matter.
    Would you keep your shoes on while attending a funeral at a mosque? Do you find that requirement equally offensive?
    “Allowing eulogies does not take away from worshipping God in the church or at the service.”
    How do you, as a professed atheist, feel qualified to make a statement about what does and does not take away from worshipping God in the Church? Surely those charged with a) leading liturgical worship daily and b) leadership in the Church are more qualified to make this call.

    • @Frank,
      As I pointed out clearly, I was a Catholic for 44 years I KNOW all about this stuff.

      I object to the cruelty of USING the draw of a dead Catholic parishioner to push your strict code of Catholic preaching on everyone in the church – most of whom don’t give a darn for the ‘catholic’ position on anything.

      “The Holy Things for the Holy” is another Catholic step the priest could take!
      He could just keep out everyone from the mass who is not Catholic!

      Why doesn’t he do that, too?
      Why not be selective and keep out the friends of the deceased
      who are Jewish, or divorced or homosexual, or MUSLIM, or excommunicated?

      Because it would be cruel!
      And unlike you, I object to using the unique, sensitive, sad situation of a funeral to bully people and force the Catholic dogma into everyone’s face!

      The priest can do a fine job of respecting the deceased Catholic and his/her family by allowing and including everyone into the funeral.

      Of course the priest is free to do all these things – burn some witches and goats while you are at it! Just because these practices have gone out of style doesn’t mean they can’t be ‘resurrected’ :-P

      • Ok, again, you are just as entitled to your opinion as the next man (or woman) Respectfully, though, I do feel that you are missing the point.
        Catholic liturgies include a dialogue between the presider and the congregation which presumes that all present are Catholic. Now, if others wish to attend, that is fine, good and in many cases appropriate. However, the Catholic view is that the liturgy (and its associated rules) do not change simply because non-Catholics are present. They are extended a welcomed as observers, for example, but are not (with a few technical exceptions relating to Orthodox Christians) invited to receive Communion. In your opinion, is reserving communion to those who believe that it is the true body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ also “using the unique, sensitive, sad situation of a funeral to bully people and force the Catholic dogma into everyone’s face”? Do you feel that this needs to change too?
        I fail to see how Catholics observing rules designed to maintain the integrity of the liturgy (and therefore, give utmost respect to God) could possibly be considered tantamount to insulting any non-Catholics present. I also don’t see why the participation of non-Catholics means that the Church forfeits the right to make particular determinations on the content of the liturgy.
        Finally, for the record (and I think you may have been trolling a little bit towards the end of your comment) the burning of witches and sacrifice of goats has never been part of the liturgy of the Mass. How exactly would that have gone? Set someone on fire in the middle of a Church and then have people walk past the pyre on the way to communion? [Incidentally, if you are indeed a troll, well done sir. You have elicited two responses from me]

        • @Frank,
          Catholics are free to conduct their mass any way they want. But don’t priests care about people?

          Unlike Sundays, or Easter or Christmas…..funerals and weddings are times when many people of other faiths will be present in church. These people are NOT THERE for the religious reasons but for the support of the family in question.

          As America and Canada have grown more diverse, more intermarried, more divorced there are more varieties of people showing up at funerals and weddings – and priests are wise to not get pushy with the sectarian stuff (Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Methodist).

          They are free to be sectarian if they want. At a wedding the people in the pews will roll their eyes as the priest goes off in a Latin Trance.
          At a funeral it will just feel cold. “A eulogy for Joseph? Absolutely not – we don’t do that here! Get on your knees and suffer like Jesus.”

          Why take risks to be mean and strict when you don’t have to?
          A eulogy is a celebration of a person’s life – is it really so obscene to work it into the Mass? Christianity is just spin zone anyway. It always was.

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