Q. What is the policy of the Church when it comes to paying for a sacrament? Why should there be any mandated price associated with the reception of any particular sacrament? I know of one parish that has a $1,000 fee assessed for the privilege of being married in the church.
Emanuel, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Sacraments are not for sale. The person who sells or buys a sacrament commits the serious crime of simony and is to be punished with the canonical penalty of interdict or suspension. Canon 1380 states: “A person who through simony celebrates or receives a sacrament, is to be punished with an interdict or suspension.”
Nevertheless, the Code of Canon Law does anticipate that the faithful may wish to make offerings to the Church on the occasion of the celebration of a sacrament. It is up to the local bishops to determine the appropriate amount, and the offering is for the local parish, not the priest, unless the person wants the priest to benefit from it personally. In that case, it is simply a gift to the priest. If the person is unable to make an offering, the priest is still obligated to perform the sacrament for the faithful.
As for the $1,000 fee charged by a parish for a wedding, that seems rather high, but I do know from experience that Catholic parishes regularly charge from $100 to $500 for the use of the church for the wedding.
That fee covers the cost of heating, air conditioning, electricity, maintenance, etc., just like the fee that the couple will pay for the rental of the banquet hall where they will have their reception. But that fee ($1,000 or $100) is NOT for the sacrament. It’s for the use of the building. Sometimes that fee is waived for active and supporting parishioners. That fee goes to the church, not the priest.
Sacraments are free, but the use of the building is not. If I were the pastor of the parish, and a poor person wanted to get married but had no money to pay for the use of the Church, I would waive that fee. But I would also make sure that same couple was not spending $5,000 to $100,000 on their wedding reception. Fair is fair.