Bataan bishop scraps fees for funeral Masses

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Bataan bishop scraps fees for funeral Masses
This is the latest in a growing trend in the Philippine Catholic Church to scrap the arancel system, or the practice of imposing taxes on 'free' church services

MANILA, Philippines – Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos ordered the scrapping of fees for funeral Masses in his diocese, which covers Bataan province, to ease the burden of families and friends of the deceased.

In a circular letter dated Monday, March 11, Santos said that “after careful consideration through prayers and pastoral discernment, we are removing the arancel system in funeral Masses and blessings.” 

“This is necessary because the grieving persons, relatives, friends, and loved ones of the faithful departed must be consoled. Financial obligations from the perspective of the Church are not of prime importance and must not be a burden to them. We want to portray the Local Church as a caring Mother with compassion to the bereaved,” Santos said in his circular letter.

The bishop said that “this statute must be fully implemented this coming Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019.”

This is the latest in a growing trend in the Philippine Catholic Church to scrap the arancel system, or the practice of imposing taxes on “free” church services, such as baptisms, weddings, and Masses.

The Catholic Church stresses that sacraments such as Masses remain free, because selling sacraments is a sin called simony. 

Still, there is a widespread perception that the Catholic Church is charging fees in exchange for sacraments. Bishops have been trying to battle this view or even to end the arancel system, while finding ways to sustain their parishes. 

One of the bishops who led the way was Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who in 2011 ordered “the full phase-out of the arancel system” in his archdiocese. In 2013, Villegas added that neither should parishes require “fixed donations” in place of the arancel.

“The so called ‘fixed donations’ violate the spirit with which we slowly abolished the arancel system of Church sustenance. It smacks of bad taste and intellectual dishonesty to say that we have no fixed rates for the sacraments and church services on one hand and yet insinuate softly later a certain amount to be ‘offered,'” Villegas said in 2013

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, a landmark gathering of Filipino bishops in 1991, had envisioned the gradual abolition of the arancel system,” but the practice continues to this day. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email