Quanta Cura: Forbidding Traffic in Alms

The Papal Encyclicals

The second encyclical is Quanta Cura: Forbidding traffic in alms, and was written on 30 June 1741.

The problem here seems to be this: Fr. X was getting paid to say Mass for someone in parish A, where the standard stipend for this was, say, $20. Fr. X would then say the Mass at parish B, where the stipend was, say $10. So, he would give parish B $10 and pocket the difference. At least, this is kind of what I’m thinking was going on – it wasn’t entirely clear to me. 🙂

What was wrong was a couple of different things, according to the Pope. First, the Mass being offered was not celebrated in a location necessarily known to the parishioner who commissioned it. Which could not only upset the parishioner, but also money would have been directed away from the parish that the parishioner intended to support by his alms. In addition, people might start to think that the priest was ripping them off, especially if they didn’t ever see him say a Mass when he had already been paid for doing so.

On top of all of that, was the real spiritual danger inherent in these practices; the priest would be tempted to avarice by behaving in this manner. It would be possible for him to get caught up in making a profit and not be saying Mass for the good of his flock or the Church.

So, the Pope censured these activities, asking that his fellow bishops post this letter in their diocese and warn people of the following repercussions for doing this. Laity would be immediately excommunicated. Priests would be automatically suspended, and could only be reinstated by the Pontiff himself. How’s that for deterrent?

Little wonder that today, if you would like to have a Mass said, the price is only $5 or $10, and Father can only receive one stipend a day, regardless of the number of intentions which are offered at the Mass. (At least, that’s my understanding of current practices. But don’t take my word for it…. Confirm with a canon lawyer! )

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