Selling items in church; Maria Goretti’s remains

| Father Kenneth Doyle | December 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Q. I am wondering about Church law (and your own feelings) on people coming to Mass and being confronted every week with different parish clubs and organizations trying to sell something. I’ve always thought that we go to Mass to show our reverence for the Lord and not to walk into a flea market.

A. From time to time, I have heard people decry the practice of selling anything on church property with the claim that it violates the direct teaching of Jesus who is seen (in all four Gospels) evicting moneychangers from the temple.

A careful reading of those Gospel accounts, though, shows a more nuanced lesson: What troubled Jesus was not the practice itself but the fact that the merchants were defrauding people — selling sacrificial animals at considerable personal profit or exchanging money at an extortionate rate.

To your question, I am not aware of any Church “laws” that relate to this, and there is certainly no absolute prohibition against selling things at church. Rather it is, I believe, a matter of balance and discretion. From time to time in our parish, I have approved the sale of merchandise as people exit Mass — handmade goods crafted by poor people from around the world; coffee to support efforts to raise people out of poverty; even, on occasion, Girl Scout cookies to support a local troop or tickets to an upcoming Christmas dinner for parish seniors.

I do, however, have rules. It should only happen occasionally and there should never be multiple sales on the same day. Also, it should be done as people exit Mass, not as they arrive.

I have two other concerns. First, we often have visitors to the parish, including non-Catholics who have sometimes absorbed the myth that the Catholic Church cares most about raising money. I don’t want to foster that myth.

And I also have a philosophical concern: Rampant consumerism dominates America. Rather than promote it, I would prefer to create a space and a time on Sunday mornings for people to be free of the pressure to buy something.

Q. I understand that the Church does not want me to keep the cremated remains of my great-aunt on a shelf in my family room and that I should consign them instead to a grave or mausoleum niche. Why, then, are the skeletal remains of an acknowledged saint (in this case, Maria Goretti) being toted from diocese to diocese?

A. The Church’s guidelines on cremated remains are grounded in the Catholic belief in the resurrection of the dead and the dignity of the human body as created by God. Accordingly, the appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals (No. 417) provides that “the cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum.

Maria Goretti was an 11-year-old Italian girl who, in 1902, was attacked by a 19-year-old neighbor who made sexual advances on her. When she resisted, he stabbed her and she died the following day. On her deathbed she forgave her attacker and has since been heralded as the “patroness of mercy.” Her body was buried at a basilica in Nettuno, Italy.

In the fall of 2015 Maria Goretti’s skeletal remains have been on display in various churches throughout the United States. The Vatican gave permission for this tour in light of the Holy Year of Mercy that [began] Dec. 8.

Maria Goretti’s story highlights the forgiveness that is at the center of the Holy Year of Mercy and the veneration of her remains is part of the Vatican’s effort to assist the faithful in preparing for that celebration.

Questions may be sent to Father Doyle at and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, NY 12208.

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Category: Ask Father Mike