Catholic Church

Lagot! Archbishop Villegas calls out parishes charging minimum ‘donations’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Lagot! Archbishop Villegas calls out parishes charging minimum ‘donations’
Minimum ‘donations’ for sacraments like the Mass? In Pangasinan, an archbishop warns parish priests and secretaries that ‘this must stop’.

Like a raging thunderbolt, a letter from the archbishop struck parishes in Pangasinan. 

“THIS MUST STOP,” wrote Archbishop Socrates Villegas in all caps – a line he repeated six times in a three-page circular issued on Pentecost Sunday, May 19. 

Villegas, 63, admonished priests and parish staff of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan against the practice of charging minimum “donations” in exchange for sacraments. This is “a matter of grave concern,” he said in Circular 2024-13, and having to bring it up “brings me much sadness.”

He emphasized in all caps, “SADNESS INDEED!” 

The Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan had abolished fixed rates for sacraments as early as 2013, a consensus that was reaffirmed in 2017. Villegas, who has led the archdiocese since 2009, said God’s graces and the priesthood “are free and beyond payment.”

Villegas noted that in his archdiocese, majority of parishes already observe pananabangan, their system of church support based on voluntary offerings of money or services, not fixed rates. In a few parishes, however, old ways “are slowly creeping back.” He said they should nip them in the bud. 

Villegas made a litany of practices that he said “must stop”:

  • “If the parish secretary or catechist is asked about rates for baptism, confirmation, or wedding, they indicate or imply a minimum rate of ‘donation’ from each of the sponsors. THIS MUST STOP.”
  • “If the parish secretary or staff is asked about the ‘cost’ of a Mass intention, a minimum amount is said or insinuated. THIS MUST STOP.”
  • “If a couple preparing for matrimony asking about the ‘donation’ they must make for their wedding gets a reply from the parish staff about a minimum amount or makes the number of sponsors as the basis for the ‘donation,’ sometimes even in the thousands of pesos, this is grossly wrong. THIS MUST STOP.”
  • “Even worse, insinuating extra pay for the rolling out of the wedding carpet, the added wedding floral arrangements, or the wider opening of the church doors for the wedding entourage smacks of commercialism. THIS MUST STOP.”
  • “It is inconsiderate for the parish staff to collect from the bereaved families fixed offerings for the funeral Masses or votive Masses for the souls of the faithful departed. THIS MUST STOP.”
  • “Inasmuch as the Catholic faithful are free to choose the church venue to celebrate their wedding and baptism, it leaves an ugly taste to collect fines from couples or parents who will have their weddings or baptisms celebrated elsewhere. THIS MUST STOP.”
‘Fear of lacking money’

Parish priests, he added, should not only warn their secretaries and cashiers “against declaring or insinuating fixed rates for the sacraments and sacramentals.” It is also crucial for priests “to monitor them randomly and ask parishioners how the parish secretaries conduct their tasks.”

Villegas warned that “the fear of lacking money has destroyed many brother-priests.”

“The parish does not derive its stability from money,” he said, adding that money can even “numb us against the poverty in the barangays” or “make us feel that we have the right to the privileges of the wealthy.”

“If we give the people Christ, they will repay us with loving support abundantly materially, spiritually, and even emotionally,” said Villegas.

“The problem is not money. The problem is faith and faithfulness,” the archbishop added.

Villegas, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, is the shepherd of around 1.19 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, and his circular only applies to them.

His archdiocese covers the capital of Pangasinan as well as two cities and 15 municipalities in the central part of the province.

Other dioceses, such as the Archdiocese of Manila, the Diocese of Balanga, and the Diocese of Talibon, have also abolished fixed rates for sacraments.

That’s great news for the Philippines, a former Spanish colony where 300 years of abuses by Catholic friars have left an indelible mark. 

But then, a bishop’s order is one thing, a transaction at the parish office is another. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Avatar photo


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