The price of Catholic masses, weddings and funerals is taxed. Following the indications of the Episcopal Conference, the five Galician dioceses unified the rates six years ago and, formally, no faithful should pay more than what is established in the table of “offerings and parish fees”, in force since March 2014, for the celebration of a Mass in memory of a deceased (10 euros), a marriage or funeral (in both cases, a minimum of 110 euros with a single priest and a sacristan). These decrees, available to all parishioners and accessible on the websites of the archbishoprics, set the “ceilings” for Masses, weddings and funerals. But in practice, they are usually considered minimum rates, and are applied “from there and up,” acknowledges a parish priest consulted. Since the Church considers them “donations”, each parish priest is free to charge whatever he wants for these services, outside any fiscal control or the ecclesiastical authorities. And there are many who ask for surcharges for administering the sacraments at the time of marriage or burial, or simply to celebrate a homily for a deceased person. Burial fees are often high and outrageous.
Until last spring, on the Costa da Morte, the funeral honors cost from 180 to 500 euros, depending on the priest who played, according to funeral homes consulted by elDiario.es. In the A Coruña region of Barbanza, exceeded, on average, 200 euros, double the “maximum” rate set by the Galician Church. And they were payments “in hand”, without invoice. In Pontevedra, the funeral home Alianza y Barros denounced before the Archbishopric of Santiago up to six priests for their overpricing and demand to be paid in cash, outside any control. In the city of A Coruña it is common practice to show the family the official table of fees and tell them to pay whatever they want.
Everything changed in April, with the digital portal that the Galician dioceses set up for funeral homes, responsible for agreeing with the parish priests the celebration of the funerals, to pay for funerals via bank transfer, according to the rates set by the ecclesiastical authorities. For the removal of the corpse and its transportation to the church or to the cemetery, 20 euros; 40 euros for the attendance and application of the Mass; 25 euros for the sacristan and another 25 euros for the use of the church. A minimum of 110 euros, which is increased by 30 euros for each parish priest who attends the burial. A revolution that was not well received by most of the Galician priests. There was a lot of internal protest at having to give up charging in hand and stick to the official stipends. A group of parish priests of the Costa da Morte went so far as to threaten the Archbishopric with hanging up their habits if they were prevented from continuing, as up to now, to be paid by hand.or as they saw fit. In other parishes of A Coruña they asked in writing for meetings with Santiago to try to negotiate. But without success. The telematic and declared payment of the funerals has been generalized, as confirmed by the funeral parlors. Although there are still priests who go directly to the families of the deceased, especially if they lack a death policy that covers the always bulky bill for funerals, to ask them to pay them directly in cash and without a receipt.
“The system is positive, the table of rates is generally applied, it works very well,” says the head of communication of the Archbishopric of Santiago, Manuel Blanco. Parish priest in Ames (A Coruña), recognizes that before establishing the telematic payment, there were abuses and much overpricing. “It depends on the morality of each one, abuses happen as in any field, and as before there was a material vacuum to pay for services, it was easier to screw up,” he justifies. Blanco assures that “in the last season” ceased the overcharges for the celebration of burials. The telematic payment was established in order to order and make more transparent the accounts and income of the Church, he stresses. And he says that, three months later, the protests of the priests ceased. “It was a resistance due to the novelty and to adjust to the times, it is always difficult to do things by computer.
However, the director of the Archbishop’s Media Office stresses that priests are allowed to continue charging “in hand” and without fiscal control for Masses, weddings and funerals if “families who ask to round up” the stipulated fees so as to “make a donation to the Church” so wish. Baptisms are not formally among the religious services for which a priest can charge money. “It’s up to the family,” Blanco says. And in the case of weddings, the minimum fee is always increased for major expenses, such as cleaning or floral decorations for the church.
Funeral homes consulted by this newspaper confirmed that the surcharges for funerals have been reduced. “The tap was cut off a little, but with the Church you have to walk with lead feet, they can make our day-to-day life very difficult and, although they don’t have the power they had before, they still have it,” says the spokeswoman for a company in A Coruña that provides funeral services. There are priests who continue to accept the telematic payment and adjusted to the rates set by the dioceses only if the deceased had death policy. Otherwise, the families of these parishes are called to continue paying in cash and without invoice what the parish priest asks.
In any case, the Churcha Galician ignores what Pope Francis preaches, strongly opposed to charging the faithful “to receive the sacraments, marry them, baptize them or give them first communion” or for a Catholic funeral. “The Mass is not paid, it is the sacrifice of Christ, which is free, the redemption is free. If you want to make an offering, you do it, but you don’t pay for it.” The decree of the Galician dioceses that sets the “ceilings” for Masses, weddings and funerals contradicts the Vatican boss: it justifies that “the Church, in order to carry out its pastoral and evangelizing mission, needs economic means that have to come from the members of the community”.
There are very few Galician priests who, like the parish priest of Xestoso, in Monfero, in the region of Ferrol, refuse to collect money, as the Pope advocates, for Masses for the dead, weddings and baptisms. And he only charges for the funeral if it is paid for by the deceased’s insurance.