Parish Membership by Family Card

25 JULY 2013

“Not to oppose error is to approve it, and not to defend the truth is to suppress it”- Pope Sr. Felix III

NOTE: In this report I may occasionally use bold print, italics, CAPS, or word underlining for emphasis. These will be my personal emphasis and not that of the source that I am quoting. Any footnote preceded by a number in (parenthesis) is my personal library numbering system.



Here, in India, Catholics are required to have a “Family Card”. It is a sort of proof that one is Catholic. If one does not possess a “Family Card”, one’s family members are refused the services of the Church, especially funerals, irrelevant of whether the person who expired was a daily mass-goer and faithful Catholic. One can possess a “Family Card”, be a nominal or lapsed Catholic, and yet be provided all the services of the Church. When a parishioner applies for this “Family Card”, it is mandatory for him/her to give a commitment of the amount he/she will contribute monthly to the Church. It is basically used as an instrument to extract money. The “Family Card” keeps a record of the payments made by the parishioner. The unwritten understanding is no money, no card. So, one may obtain the card, then discontinue payments, and still be refused a Church burial despite owning a Family Card.

What does the Church have to say about parish membership and about the conditions for Church services to a parishioner? Michael Prabhu, India


“§1. Domicile is acquired by residence within the territory of a certain parish or at least of a diocese, which either is joined with the intention of remaining there permanently unless (nisi) called away, or has been protracted for five complete years. §2. Quasi-domicile is acquired by residence within the territory of a certain parish or at least of a diocese which either is joined with the intention of remaining there at least three months, unless (nisi) called away, or has in fact been protracted for three months. §3. A domicile or quasi-domicile within the territory of a parish is called parochial; in the territory of a diocese, even though not in a particular parish, it is called diocesan.”

“Domicile: the place of residence of an individual or a family.”

“The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor.”

The fifth precept (You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church) means that THE FAITHFUL ARE OBLIGED TO ASSIST WITH THE MATERIAL NEEDS OF THE CHURCH, EACH ACCORDING TO HIS OWN ABILITY.”


Helping support your parish is a PRECEPT OF THE CHURCH, in other words – a “law” that we must obey AS WE ARE ABLE TO OBEY IT! God (and His Church) does not expect us to do something that is impossible. For instance, if we have normally given $10.00 in the collection basket each week for over ten years and then lost our jobs and now have no income, common sense dictates that we do not have to give the Church any money until such time as we are again in a position of receiving income. If during these times of no income a family member dies, the Church must afford him or her a Catholic Mass and burial!

On the other hand if your income becomes so little that all that you can donate to the church is 5¢ each week, then that is the amount that the Precept of the Church expects you to give! “And Jesus sitting over against the treasury beheld how the people cast money into the treasury, and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. And calling his disciples together, He said to them: Amen I say to you, this poor widow hath cast in more than all they who have cast into the treasury.”

“And He said: Verily I say to you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast into the offering of God: but she of her want hath cast in all the living that she had.”

“Mite: a small coin or sum of money.”

“Farthing: something of small value.”

If you refuse to give to the Church your agreed upon amount or refuse to give anything at all, you have committed a sin and need to reconcile with God in the Sacrament of Confession. Even at this point the Church cannot refuse you (generally speaking) the sacraments.

I have personally seen out-of-work-no-income people donate their time in place of money to their Church. They have used their labor to mow the grass, shovel snow, paint, etc. This is generally done by making arrangements with the pastor.

“The CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL HAVE THE RIGHT to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, ESPECIALLY THE WORD OF GOD AND THE SACRAMENTS.”


“Simony: The selling or purchasing of spiritual things, which is forbidden both by natural law and ecclesiastical law.”

“One who celebrates or receives a sacrament through simony is to be punished with an interdict or a suspension.”
“Simony: A deliberate intention of buying or selling for a temporal price such things as are spiritual or are annexed unto spirituals. While this definition only speaks of purchase and sale, any exchange of spiritual for temporal things is simonical. Nor is the giving of the temporal as the price of the spiritual required for the existence of simony; according to the proposition condemned by Innocent XI it suffices that the determining motive of the action of one party be the obtaining of compensation from the other.”

“It pertains to the diocesan bishop in the church entrusted to him (in this case, the Church in India), within the limits of his competence, to issue liturgical norms by which all are bound.”

During my research for this report I requested information regarding “Family Cards” twice from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India. The Conference did not respond to my inquiries.

I might add here that “Norms” issued by any Conference of Bishops must be reasonable and in conformity with other Church law such as Canon Law.

The minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authorities, ALWAYS BEING CAREFUL THAT THE NEEDY ARE NOT DEPRIVED OF THE HELP OF THE SACRAMENTS BECAUSE OF THEIR POVERTY.”

“Any baptized person who is not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion.”

“The Christian faithful may take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and receive Communion in any Catholic rite, with due regard for the prescription of can. 844.”

“Unless a grave reason prevents it, the church in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved should be open to the faithful for at least some hours each day so that they are able to spend time in prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

If the confessor has no doubt about the disposition of a penitent who asks for absolution, absolution is not to be refused or delayed.

“§1. All to whom the care of souls is committed by reason of an office are obliged to provide that the confessions of the faithful entrusted to their care be heard when they reasonably ask to be heard and that the opportunity be given to them to come to individual confession on days and hours set for their convenience. §2. In urgent necessity any confessor is obliged to hear the confessions of the Christian faithful, and in danger of death any priest is so obliged.”

“§1. In order that one be capable of gaining indulgences one must be baptized and not excommunicated and in the state of grace at least at the completion of the prescribed works. §2. In order that one be a capable subject for gaining indulgences one must have at least the intention of receiving them and fulfill the enjoined works at the stated time in due fashion, according to the tenor of the grant.”

“Pastors of souls and persons who are close to the sick are to see to it that they are supported by this sacrament at an appropriate time.”

“All priests to whom the care of souls has been committed have the duty and the right to administer the anointing of the sick to all the faithful committed to their pastoral office; for a reasonable cause any other priest can administer this sacrament with at least the presumed consent of the aforementioned priest.”

“Whatever authority is exercised in the Church is exercised in virtue of the commission of Christ. He is the one prophet, who has given to the world the revelation of truth and by His spirit preserves in the Church the faith once delivered to the saints. He is the one King – the chief Shepherd – who rules and guides through His providence, His Church’s course. Yet He wills to exercise His power through earthly representatives. The authority established in the Church holds its commission from above, not from below. The pope and the bishops exercise their power as the successors of the men who were chosen by Christ in person. Their warrant is received from the Shepherd, not from the sheep.”

“Unless (nisi) they have given some signs of repentance before their death, the following are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites: (1) notorious apostates, heretics and schematics; (2) persons who had chosen the cremation of their own bodies for reasons opposed to the Christian faith; (3) other manifest sinners for whom ecclesiastical funeral rites cannot be granted without public scandal to the faithful. §2. If some doubt should arise, the local ordinary is to be consulted; and his judgment is to be followed.”
This canon does not preclude a Catholic funeral (with or without a Mass) for someone who has failed to support their Church with a monetary donation!

The Order of Christian Funerals says a great deal in the introduction regarding services for the dead. It does not say a word about denying funeral services for those who do not have a Family Card or those who have failed to make payments to their Church. “At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist.”
“Though separated from the living, the dead are still one with the community of believers on earth and benefit from their prayers and intercession.”

“The celebration of the Christian funeral brings hope and consolation to the living.”
The Church calls each member of Christ’s Body priest, deacon, layperson TO PARTICIPATE IN THE MINISTRY OF CONSOLATION: to care for the dying, to pray for the dead, to comfort those who mourn.”

“As a minister of reconciliation, the priest should be especially sensitive to the possible needs of reconciliation felt by the family and others.”

As I said earlier, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India has not responded to my questions regarding “Family Cards”. If any readers in India can direct me to a source that reveals the norms for Church support and/or “Family” Cards in India it would be greatly appreciated.

This report prepared on June 24, 2012 by Ronald Smith, 11701 Maplewood Road, Chardon, Ohio 44024-8482, E-mail: <>. Readers may copy and distribute this report as desired to anyone as long as the content is not altered and it is copied in its entirety. In this little ministry I do free Catholic and occult related research and answer your questions. Questions are answered in this format with detailed footnotes on all quotes. If you have a question(s), please submit it to this land mail or e-mail address. Answers are usually forthcoming within one week. PLEASE NOTIFY ME OF ANY ERRORS THAT YOU MAY OBSERVE!

† Let us recover by penance what we have lost by sin †

The Ten Most Common Liturgical Abuses
and Why They’re Wrong

By Kevin Orlin Johnson

[…] As a postscript, I mention something that might be categorized as an abuse by the laity: parish-hopping*.

The Code of Canon Law provides that “The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day” (1248, para. 1). Consequently, you can fulfill your Sunday obligation by going to a Mass anywhere. *More on page 20

While your legal membership still remains in your local parish, the only times you are required to check in there are when you want to receive a special sacrament (e.g., marriage, confirmation) for which the priest needs the jurisdiction to administer.

Nevertheless, if you flee your home parish when things get ugly, you are in a sense not living up to your responsibility as a lay person. It is your duty to point out that liturgy is not entertainment. The liturgy is reality, the primary reality of this world. Christ is God, the reality on whom the secondary reality of creation depends (“through him all things were made,” remember?). And the liturgy is the sacrament by which he comes personally and physically among us. The Mass is indisputably the single most important thing that human beings can do.

You have your part to fill in this great work. In fact, that’s what the liturgy is: the word is from the Greek meaning “the laity’s job.” We are the Church itself, we are not the Church’s customers. Still less are we the Church’s audience. And we have a right to authentic liturgy (Inaestimabile Donum), liturgy exactly in line with all applicable rules and celebrated with a suitable sense of reverence (CIC 528).

So if your priest offers sloppy, illicit, or even inappropriate liturgies, guess whose job it should be to pitch in and fix the problem?

Kevin Orlin Johnson, PhD, is the author of many books about the Catholic Church, including Why Do Catholics Do That? and Apparitions: Mystic Phenomena and What They Mean.

“The Ten Most Common Liturgical Abuses,” article by Kevin Orlin Johnson in the January 1999 issue of This Rock magazine, pages 14-19.

Also at:,

Frequently Asked Questions regarding PARISH MEMBERSHIP

Can a Catholic be a member of 2 Parishes?
A very good question. Prior to Vatican II, such a question would never be asked, nor considered.
As a general rule, the location of your residence determines what Church and Parish you should be associated with. This practice facilitates the Bishop’s administration of the Diocese in determining the need of new Churches and schools within the diocesan boundaries. If a large number of Catholics from a certain district decided to go to whatever Church they want to or send their children to the school of their choice instead of supporting their local Church and school, such a decision may lead to the closing of Churches and schools that have little membership and support.
Since Vatican II, because of the many strange practices and liturgical abuses that are taking place in some Catholic Churches, many Catholics have abandoned the Church that they should be supporting based on their residence. They have chosen to join a Church that respects the Catholic liturgy in accordance with the directive received from the Vatican. They become members of a distant Church instead of supporting their local Church that they have rejected. In such cases, they only belong to one Parish, the Church of their choice, not the one that is determined by the Diocese based on their residence.
There are situations when individuals may become members of 2 or 3 Churches/Parishes. Let me explain. Many Canadians, while they are registered members of their local Church, they are also registered as members of another Church in Florida, USA. The reason for this is that they spend anywhere from 2 to 6 months of the cold winter in the South where they own another home. So they are members of one Church (in their country) in the summer and they are members of another Church (in another country) in the winter.
To complicate the matter, there are those who spend their weekends, from May to October, at their distant summer cottage. That means in the summer, they attend a different Church that is located in the district of their cottage.
So while family members may register at a local Church, they may rarely attend that Church. If they spend 6 months in Florida at their second home during the cold months and 6 months at their summer cottage during the warm weekends, then they are never available to attend their local Church on any Sunday or Holy Days.
These Catholics may decide to become members of 1 Parish, 2 Parishes or even 3 Parishes. With a Church membership comes the responsibility of supporting the Church financially. By becoming members of more than one Church, it means a greatly financial responsibility to support a number of Churches. Therefore, to answer the question, “Can a Catholic be a member of two Parishes?” Yes, it can happen in certain situations as explained above.

Parish registration

Catholic Answers Forum, February 2, 2011


I recently relocated. I attend Eucharistic adoration at one church, daily mass at another, Sunday service and a men’s group at a third. I am within the parish boundary of a fourth Charismatic Catholic type of church. All of the churches promote registration and have a monthly meeting to welcome new members with coffee and doughnuts. I like both coffee and doughnuts. Other than receiving a pack of pre-dated donation envelopes, what are the advantages to registering? Why is it important to a parish? How does one choose?


One doesn’t choose a parish. Parishes are geographical locations. Every Catholic is automatically a member of whatever parish boundaries he has a residence, and likewise not a member of any other parish.
Personal parishes are different. These are parishes that are determined by some characteristic that people share in common–usually ethnic background; and they (almost) always overlap with geographic parishes.
The bottom line though is that you don’t choose a parish any more than you “choose” what state you live in–if you live within the boundaries, you’re a member of that parish, and the only way to choose a different one is to move (just like a state). –Father David


Registration usually is for donation tracking. They know you and therefore can send you tax receipts. Also, you being an active Catholic can be tracked by the priest. This will be important for receiving Sacraments. Some priests are strict that they will not allow those who do not attend Mass every Sunday to get Confirmed or Married in the Church.
Also access to Sacraments. While it’s not a full restriction, the parish you belong to would be the parish where you will seek the one-time Sacraments, such as marriage, confirmation, and even baptism for your children. Of course most other parishes will accommodate you if you wish to receive those Sacraments there but for many reasons, it’s preferred it’s done at a parish where you are a regular, and it follows that you are registered. But again, it’s not a restriction.


It is not currently required by canon law to be registered in your geographic parish. Generally speaking, people register in their Sunday parish, not their daily Mass parish or the one that happens to have Eucharistic adoration, because that is where they make their regular donations. Certainly you want to be registered at the church that you would want to be married in, since it is generally easier for everyone involved to arrange a wedding in that church. (Presumably, that’s the church where the most other parishioners know you, where your funeral Mass would be held, and so on, as well.)


Parish registration and parish membership are not the same thing; although there’s a common misunderstanding out there that they are.
You can only be a member of the parish in which territory you reside. So, the only parish (and the only pastor) which applies to you is your own parish.
Parish registration does nothing to make someone a member of the parish. Nothing at all.
Registration is nothing more than an administrative tool for the parish staff, but it has no bearing on your actual membership. You might be able to “register” in another parish (in theory, you could even register with some parish 1,000 miles away that you’ve never even visited), but that doesn’t make you a member.

You can attend Mass, confession, etc. at ANY Catholic church of your choice. You can donate to any of them. You can eat anyone’s donuts and drink anyone’s coffee. If you make regular donations, they will likely “register” you so they can keep track and give you an annual statement in January.
There are certain times when going to your own proper parish is either essential, or very important. In matters of marriage and baptism, it can be essential (it can even mean the difference between a valid marriage and an invalid attempt at one, because witnessing a marriage requires that the priest have jurisdiction.) It can also be important for other things as well. Funerals are an example. A pastor has an obligation to provide a funeral for his own parishioners (those who live in the parish) but it’s only a courtesy for one who did not live in the parish.
The point is what I said at the beginning: a Catholic is only a member of the parish in which he has a residence (personal parishes aside here). Registration does nothing to make someone a parishioner, and absence of registration does not mean that you-are-not a parishioner.
–Father David


If registration does not make one a member and there are essential or very important times to go to your geographical parish, but you like another parish or its priests better, you’re just stuck with a parish and priest you don’t like…


In my diocese, you can be officially registered at only one Parish. Registering at a second parish automatically removes your registration from all other parishes in the diocese (the diocese uses a synchronized computer network).
That said, at least in my diocese, the parish that you register in does not have to be the parish that is assigned to your particular geographical region.

Also in my diocese, they use the registration system for more than just tracking donations. The diocese keeps a census of all Catholics within its borders, and you need to be registered in one of the diocesan parishes to appear on this. You also receive discounted tuition at any diocesan schools if you are registered in a diocesan parish (even if you technically live outside the geographical boundaries of the diocese). Similarly, if you are within the geographical boundaries, but are not registered in a diocesan parish, then you pay a higher rate (and it’s a difference of several thousand dollars).
In my parish in particular, you need to be registered there in order for your kids to participate in the religious education program. If you ever get asked to be a Confirmation sponsor and you need a letter of recommendation from the parish that affirms that you are a practicing Catholic and you attend Mass, you better be registered there. If not, then go to the parish where you are registered, and depending on the circumstances, they may look at your donation records.
The parish and the diocese also use the registration records for mailings. My diocese has a free Catholic newspaper that it sends weekly to all registered Catholics within the diocese. The parish sends letters periodically to all its registered members about different things going on in the church, or new groups or events that may be of interest to particular members.
Registration also helps if you ever need to go back and get confirmation that you received a Sacrament, like a Baptismal certificate. If you are registered at a parish within my diocese, they can look you up on the diocesan database and print you out a certificate within a matter of minutes. If you’re not registered, the parish of your Baptism will still have your record.


Just be sure you don’t live in a diocese that will give you grief for not registering in your official geographic parish. This appears to vary by diocese.


Fr. David, I can understand why others and I misunderstand. We usually think of registration as a precursor to membership. Thanks for clarifying.
Since registration is an administrative tool mainly used to track donations, registration at multiple parishes is acceptable?


That depends on how you mean it. Please let me explain.
If one thinks of registration as meaning “I am a member here / I am a parishioner here” then it is a problem.
On the other hand, if one thinks of registration as being things like: being on the parish mailing list, having donations recorded, being involved in social activities, and things like those, then it’s fine.
The best way I can explain it is like this:
According to your profile, you live in Maryland.
What state considers you a citizen of that state? Seriously, which one? Can you live in Maryland but consider yourself a citizen of, let’s say, Virginia or Pennsylvania? What if you live closer to Harrisburg than you do to Annapolis? Does that mean that even though you live in Maryland, but the other capitol is closer you’re actually a citizen of that other state? Maybe you do, and there’s nothing wrong with that…until it comes time to get a driver’s license or pay your taxes. On a day-by-day basis, it doesn’t matter what you call yourself. Maybe you spend more time in Virginia than you do in Maryland–that’s perfectly fine, but it doesn’t make you a citizen there.
When it comes to state citizenship, all that matters is “where do you live?” Your state depends upon which side of the state line you actually reside, regardless of anything else. It’s the same with parish membership. Parishes have geographic boundaries and one’s “proper parish” (that is, one’s parish of membership) is the one in whose boundaries you live. Nothing else matters.
You can go to Mass in another parish, and you’re most welcome to do so; just as you can go shopping or spend your leisure time in a neighboring state as much as you like.

Here’s a good example of parish boundaries. And I mean this ONLY by way of example
That’s the Archdiocese of Philadelphia webpage. Click on a few parishes at random, and you’ll see very specific parish boundaries. In recent years, the Archdiocese has found it necessary to enforce parish boundaries very closely. This has to do with parish closings/consolidating and the diocese history where so many people were in previous ethnic parishes (personal parishes) and were scattered all over the territory.
For years people said “it doesn’t matter” or “I’ll do as I please” (often the advice given here on these forums, mind you). The Archdiocese realized that this had become a problem, and had to fix it. Those people who said “I’ll just do as I please” are now very surprised when they need to go to their proper parish, they go to the wrong parish and make “demands” of the pastor, only to be told that they have to go to their own parish. They say things like “I’ve been registered here for years” or “I’ve been going to Mass here for years” but that doesn’t change things because they’re not approaching their own proper parish.
Could something similar happen in another diocese? Very likely. It is happening right now in other places, especially those places that in the past enjoyed a large number of local parishes, where people used to have “options” to go to one of several.
The simple fact is that parish membership depends upon where you live. People on these forums will quickly advise you “it doesn’t matter, just do as you please” But consider this:

when the time comes that you have some problem or difficulty because you decided to heed their advice and just “do as you please” where will those people be?

Can these posters guarantee you that registering yourself or considering yourself a member of a parish other-than-your-own will not be a problem in the future? Will they be there to make things right when you do encounter a problem? Can you appeal a bishop’s decision to the posters on Catholic Answers Forum? Something to think about. –Father David


This varies from one diocese to another. When my husband and I moved to our present address, I call the chancery office and asked what parish our home was in. The person at the chancery office (who I think I could have knocked off her chair with a feather at that point) told me that I could belong to whatever parish I chose. (We chose our geographic parish.) At present, our archbishop does want everyone to specifically register at exactly one parish, though, and to notify their previous parish if they change, but for the purposes of marriage and so on considers the chosen parish as the parish in which the person has “domicile”….that is, if you’re active in a parish outside your geographic boundaries, you may marry there without the permission of the pastor of your geographic domicile, etc. It is undoubtedly very important to a bishop who has to consolidate parishes to know which parish has how many people who consider it “home”.
Maybe a call to the local chancery office would answer the Ops* question. I’m fairly sure, though, that his bishop will want him to register somewhere! *OP=original post

Seriously, though, choose the parish that you want to bury you (should that be necessary before you move), register there, be active there, and make certain you contribute to the support of that church. Be counted. A lot of people don’t, but it is the right thing to do.


It doesn’t vary by diocese. All parishes (non-personal ones) are territorial by canon law.
This is what I mean by my earlier post. A Catholic is only a member of the parish in which he has a residence. Telling people that they can consider themselves members of a different parish really does not help them, because that’s essentially telling someone to disregard canon law.
Can you guarantee the OP that if he registers as a member of a parish other than his own proper parish, that this will not cause problems in the future? Can you assure him of that? Can you say with certainty that some future bishop will never begin strict enforcement of parish boundaries, regardless of what it might be like now? There are people right now in places like Philadelphia and Cleveland (just to mention two noteworthy examples) who are experiencing a lot of heartache because people told them that it was just fine to consider themselves parishioners of parishes where they are not in-fact parishioners. Right now, those people are hurting because others gave them some bad advice and told them to just ignore canon law and register wherever they please (not in so many words, but to the same effect)–and yes, some of those advice givers were priests.
Again, can you guarantee the OP that disregarding canon law as to parish membership right now will not cause problems in the future? –Father David


Do I know what the policies are in our archdiocese right now? Yes. I literally called the chancery office, and was told to choose a parish. If I register in a parish and am active as a parishioner, by the direction of the archbishop I will be treated as if I have domicile there. The permission required exists, and is clearly stated in the marriage and funeral policies. A pastor who doesn’t like it will have to take it up with the archbishop, not the other way around.
Does this apply to someone who wants to register at a parish in the Diocese of Baker when he lives in the Archdiocese of Portland, or vice versa? I have no idea. Can I guarantee that things are not going to change when Archbishop Vlazny retires? No. Is that relatively soon? Yes. Do I expect his successor to change this? No. Does his policy in our archdiocese have a thing to do with anywhere else? No. Does this even have anything to do with me? No, because I chose to attend my true geographic parish.
Yes, by canon law the faithful have certain rights within their territorial parish that they do not have everywhere. I can say with certainty that there will be no need for permission from anyone to have me buried in my own parish. You are right: it is important for the faithful to realize that if they are granted permission to have access to the sacraments in other places that this is by the permission of their bishop, and that this may change. This does not mean that telling people that the bishop currently grants that permission freely is paramount to telling people to “disregard canon law.” It would be so if the permission were not being granted, it would be so if it were implied that what people have in parishes outside their geographic parish is theirs by right. In our archdiocese, though, it is not.
You ask, “When the time comes that you have some problem or difficulty because you decided to heed their advice and just “do as you please” where will those people be?” What is that problem going to be? That the OP is required to go to a parish he doesn’t want to go to? How is going to a parish he doesn’t want to go to right now going to change that? That he might go to some huge popular parish and find that it is closing because no one on the rolls live in its boundaries, so that the census is low? How is going to his geographic parish going to change that?
It’s a problem if people take a sense of entitlement when they register in a parish outside their geographic boundaries. You are wise to warn people that a diocese that currently grants the privileges of domicile to those who regularly attend a parish at which they do not legally have true domicile may change that policy at any time. Otherwise, I don’t see how the problems you envision are going to be addressed by asking the OP to register in his geographic parish… not if his bishop, like mine, is currently tolerant of the practice. This does not rise to the level of flaunting canon law. -EasterJoy


Ok so this is confusing.

Had you not registered at your geographical parish but at another within your diocese, would you then be considered a member or parishioner of the parish you registered?
And it was said earlier only the geographical parish is obligated in the case of a funeral for instance. In your diocese, there would be no problem having a funeral wherever the person was registered?
And this all varies by diocese?

Fr David said only the geographical parish is obligated in the case of a funeral for instance. But are you saying if you register at another, are active and donate, then there will be no problem being served by the parish one is registered at even if not the geographical? -CMatt


I have the same question. Also, parishes in my region vary hugely, and I mean hugely. The geographical parish which I believe is closest to me:
(1) has very few Mass times, and almost no confession times. (And I’m sorry but I need both, rather frequently) What is posted as confession times does not take place.
(2) of the Masses that are said there, most are not in English. Ditto for similar nearby parishes. (I live in a heavily ethnically diverse region.) I don’t happen to speak those languages, and there are no Latin Masses at “my” geographical parish.
(3) the church is almost always locked, except for liturgy. One can’t go and make a visit; also there is never adoration. The building is practically a fortress; it’s inaccessible most of the time. The opposite of welcoming and encouraging.
But only 8 minutes from my house is a beautifully traditional parish with N.O., E.F., and O.F. Masses, Confessions 7 days/week, and saintly priests. Adoration, all the devotions, etc. Congregation speaks English, and there are occasionally Europeans who go there, but I can understand the French and their accents. I go there several times a week.
Why, again, can’t I be a member? Because it is religiously and culturally appropriate for me? -Elizabeth


There is absolutely no guarantee that your geographical parish is the one closest to you. In fact, it may be fairly illogical from a distance perspective. Ours divides based on roads, rivers and all sorts of things. You can be living in one town and be supposed to go the parish in another town, even if you never naturally go to that other town for any reason (except forced by parish bounds). Probably it is also balanced by things like population, since our boundaries were redone recently. If the boundary between two dioceses falls inside a town, you also might not guess your parish correctly.
In other words, don’t assume. You must check. Do not assume your parish knows its own boundaries. Until recently, my local parish sometimes seemed rather clueless on the issue. You need to ask your diocese to be sure.


I just wanted to point out that this is important as well, in combating the “cult of personality” that can sometimes grow up around a particularly well-liked priest. People become more focused on this priest and will “follow” him to his next parish, and the next, etc.
I know a few people who have done this, and it always bothered me. We had a well-loved priest when I first joined the Parish, and when he retired and was replaced, there was griping about our new pastor: “He is not as nice as Fr. L! He isn’t good with the kids as Fr. L! He is boring, Fr. L was never boring!” and a few people even said they were going to change Parishes. I also know 2 families in a different diocese who have followed a particular priest to two new parish assignments. He is kind of radical and appeals to those who don’t like the rules, if you know what I mean.


Elizabeth, The reason why you can’t “be a member” is because a parish is a geographic location–not just a church building. It’s like I said earlier about state lines. Parish lines work the same way. If you don’t live there, you’re not a member–no matter what else. Registration doesn’t change this. In some parishes, people can be “registered non-parishioners” (that’s not an ecclesial term, but a simple description).
You can visit those other parish churches all you want–nothing, repeat nothing, wrong with that.

–Father David


We’re actually “registered members” at two parishes.
Our “home parish” is across the street from where we live… we go to Mass there, send our kids to school there, have sacraments there, and send the majority of our donations there.
Our “other parish” is one that DH goes to daily Mass to on his way to work (convenient location). He’s established a very good relationship with the priests there, and actually prefers them to our home parish priests. We do give a monthly donation to this parish as well. So we’re on their mailing list and we get donation envelopes to this parish as well. –Emily


CMatt, They’re not considered members of that other parish. The bishop’s current policy is to extend them courtesies as if they were members and that’s a key point–as if they were members. That’s his policy, and it’s his decision to make. He can do this because as long as they’re residents of his diocese, they are all his own parishioners, and he can extend faculties/delegation to any priest to witness marriages of his parishioners. The thing we have to keep in mind though is that the bishop is making an exception to canon law (a legitimate one that he has every right to make). He’s being generous in how the parish boundaries are applied with regard to marriages. He can withdraw that privilege at any moment. Some future bishop can likewise withdraw it.
It might not be the same way in the future. There is no guarantee that it will be, and considering the overall pattern we’re seeing in the US, and the acute shortage of priests, the most likely scenario is that in the future these boundaries will be enforced more strictly rather than less.

Similar policies existed in many dioceses in the US, especially those that had a large number of ethnic parishes. Even when these parishes ceased to be ethnic parishes canonically (even though the cultural aspects were still preserved) people were still allowed to register and be considered members. With so many churches closing, combining, etc. in the past couple of decades, many of those dioceses have had to enact policies strictly enforcing canon law with regard to boundaries. And that’s exactly where people have encountered problems. Most of those people just assumed that they would be able to have baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc. at what they considered to be their parish; then when the time came, they learned the hard way that they had to go through their own proper parish. It’s happening right now in many places in the US.

–Father David


EasterJoy, what you apparently don’t know, and what you’re certainly not addressing here is what canon law has to say about parish membership.
When it comes down to it, you’re advising the OP to consider himself a member of a parish other than his own proper parish under canon law. Although you’re not using the words, and I think you’re not intending it this way, the end result is that you’re advising someone to disregard canon law. You’re citing your own anecdotal examples of a local policy of weddings, and using that to advise the OP to choose whatever parish he likes best and consider that to be his own parish. That’s not how parish territories work. –Father David


This is interesting to me, because the Catholic school our children attend is changing some tuition policies for next year. It had been that if you lived in surrounding parishes, were registered and had a letter from the Pastor, you were considered “In-parish” and got a modest discount.
Now, they are saying that unless you are a member of THAT parish (the next town over) and contribute at least $1000 a year to them, you get no discount at all. So I suspect many parents from surrounding towns will “transfer” to the school’s parish and give there instead of their home parish. No one ever mentioned that, after doing this, potentially for many years, you still are not entitled to services there. (Like your children’s weddings, etc). -StJude


Status for Catholic schools is a whole different ball of wax. With regard to tuition discounts, and eligibility to enroll, parishes can “consider” people as if they were proper parishioners (living within the boundaries). This all comes down to local parish and diocese policies. The point though is that they are treated as if they were parishioners, which is not the same thing as actual parish membership.
Keep in mind also, that it’s one thing to say “entitled” to have a wedding or funeral at a given parish (which canon law only stipulates is an outright right in one’s own parish) it’s another to say that these courtesies are extended to those who have been attending and donating for years. As you just said, these are questions you’ll have to address to your own pastor (or the pastor of the school). –Father David


Thank you, Fr. David for this warning, and for your earlier response to me. I appreciate the practical (personnel) problems you enumerate. However, it might be well to understand that it can work the other way around, too. Parishes already characterized by sparse administration/service are in danger of being completely abandoned by Catholics like me who actually want to live their faith sacramentally and are tired of encountering locked, empty buildings. Difficult to “force” Catholics to attend a parish which is not servicing them. As for ceremonies like weddings and funerals, people may just seek an alternate venue — for example, a memorial service in an alternate location.
(As an aside — in response to an earlier poster who criticized the ‘cult of personality’ — this is not about personality. The priests at the parish I attend will not win any personality contests, nor do they seek to. In fact, you’re not going to find a lot of priests like this, of any age, in modern America. One of them is quite the introvert, hardly a glad-hander. The other member of the duo is a total work-house, dawn to dusk, 7 days a week. I think these guys don’t take days off.)
The other aspect of this is the aspect of a vibrant community — whether that community is heterogeneous or homogeneous. The fidelity and donations of Catholics are also linked to a sense of relating to a community in which they are personally invested and to which they can relate. So perhaps dioceses around the country might want to take a look at a more sophisticated way of closing and combining parishes than “strictly” geographical indicators. For example, clusters of nearby ethnic parishes would make sense (in my area), in a number of instances. Of course, populations are not always static, particularly nowadays. But I’m just suggesting some elasticity on the part of diocesan administrations is important to parish survival. -Elizabeth


Then please understand that what you need to do is make that suggestion to the Holy See and propose that canon law be changed. But advising a stranger to set aside what’s in canon law based on one’s own experience of the fact that one bishop (at this moment) has relaxed the laws somewhat with regard to marriages doesn’t help the situation. When someone says “you can be a member of whatever parish you choose” even though that’s contrary to how canon law defines parish membership, it opens the door to a wealth of problems and misunderstandings. (not that you said it, but it has been said)
Seriously here, I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s entirely possible that someone will say to a priest “Father, don’t tell me that I’m only a parishioner of the parish where I live because someone on the internet told me that I can be a parishioner anyplace I choose…”

Believe me, that sort of thing happens quite often. Not necessarily with regard to membership, but with regard to other aspects of parish life. It does make for problems for priests because we are very often confronted by people who read things on the internet and think that they can trust internet posts more than they can trust their own pastor’s expertise on these things. And quite frankly, people often start with the conclusion and then search the internet until they find just the answer they’re looking for; disregarding anything to the contrary of course.
That’s why the best thing we can do is to direct people who have questions about something that’s addressed in canon law to the canons themselves and what they actually say, rather than personal experiences that will almost certainly be different from someone else’s situation. –Father David


Father, I’m not suggesting that a ‘stranger’ write to the Holy See and urge canon law changes. (OTOH, I guess I don’t consider myself a “stranger” to the Church.)
I’m suggesting that Church administration converse with the Holy See about this, if Canon Law is the controller here. I’m suggesting that domestic dioceses might want to take a look at experiences such as Pug’s parish, and parishioners of many other parishes in this country, report. Not for the sake of personal preferences, but for the sake of the Church — its continuity, its financial health, etc.
Canon law is one thing. But worship and ongoing community is something else; it is personal, not legalistic or (primarily) geographical, particularly in the 21st century. -Elizabeth


The point remains though, that if you’re suggesting that parishes be operated in some way other than geographical boundaries, that’s something you’ll have to address to the Holy See because canon law does say that parishes are geographic. What people just don’t seem to understand (even though I keep repeating it) is that a parish IS a geographical location (a territory). Just like our states are geographical locations. It’s the same thing. Parishes are not church buildings–they are territories (more precisely, they are the people living within a given territory). Any attempts to change that would require a change in canon law, and only the pope can do that.

Please let me pose a few questions:
Let’s say that someone lives in Hoboken, New Jersey (a suburb of New York City).
When it comes time to vote for governor, which candidate does the resident of Hoboken NJ get to vote for, the governor of New Jersey or the governor of New York?
When a resident of Hoboken NJ gets a drivers license, which state issues the license, NY or NJ?
When a resident of Hoboken NJ wants to buy a life insurance policy, which state’s laws apply — those of NY or NJ?

–Father David


Father, I think you misunderstand me.
I’m telling the OP to contact his local chancery office, and ask them what his bishops’ policies are, realizing that if the policy is more permissive than canon law gives him the right to expect, the policy could change. Do you contend that the bishop does not have the prerogative to grant this kind of permission? I am not talking about permission to be a member of a parish outside one’s own geographic boundaries, but rather the permission to enjoy the privileges of parish membership in a parish outside of one’s geographic boundaries: that is, to expect to be able to have full access to the sacraments within that parish without getting special permission, and so on. (I’m not saying the bishop has the right to take bodies out of the census for a particular geographic parish, to the detriment of that parish.) If not, I fail to see how I am advising someone to disregard canon law. I tell you honestly, that is the farthest thing from my intention.
But yes: The OP should be very clear that he wants to know what his bishop’s actual policies are, and not an account of “what everyone does.” As you have pointed out, “what everyone does” can land people in a pot of soup they had not prepared themselves to be in. Only the local bishop has the prerogative to give permission to members of the faithful in his diocese that are above the rights of the faithful as they are described in canon law. If it is not the bishop’s permission, it is not real permission. In the end, too, only the rights spelled out in canon law can be depended upon to remain set in stone. On that point, I cannot disagree with you. Is that correct?

Did the OP say he wanted to attend a parish outside his own diocese, and I missed that? This analogy sounds far more fitting for that situation.-EasterJoy


Apparently we’re having a communication problem, because I never suggested that I didn’t understand that a parish is a territory. (For example, “parish” has sometimes been, sometimes still is applied to a civil territory.) I apologize if I wasn’t clear.
I know they’re not church buildings. That was the point of my earlier post. But given many demographic changes today, and the level of diverse needs within communities (reflected in how a particular parish church celebrates its liturgies — or doesn’t), I, a lay parishioner, believe based on my conversations with others, that most practicing Catholics commit to worshipping communities, not to territories. I know that this was not always true, as several of us have noted — such as for our own parents & grandparents. In my own childhood we walked to our parish church. Perhaps these canon laws were created with a different era in mine, or have not been updated to reflect migration (particularly extreme in certain areas).
If my (actual) parish wasn’t a locked empty fortress that doesn’t allow me to worship in English or Latin, and whose priest is almost never available, I would attend.


I understand it’s Rome’s choice to leave things the way they are. Personally, in my area, what I see is that this traditional way of defining “membership” seems, seems, to be jeopardizing the existence of many parish churches, because people are choosing to go elsewhere than where there is only one or two Masses per week. In many cases (such as my neighborhood parish), there aren’t even many Catholics left in that parish, period. The parish population consists largely of Baptists and of evangelical Protestants. (Many of these used to be Catholics.) That raises a whole different problem that clusters cannot address, because when there’s no critical number of parishioners to support basic costs, what you have is a parish church on the chopping block.

I agree with Easter Joy’s recent post. I don’t see the analogy to NJ and NY, when people are worshipping within the same diocese (and in my case, the church I’m attending is equidistant to my “parish” church.) -Elizabeth


EasterJoy, just as a diocese has its boundaries, a parish has its boundaries and a state has its boundaries.
They all work exactly the same way with regard to territory.
If a person lives in New York, that person is a resident of New York.
If a person lives in New Jersey, that person is a resident of New Jersey.
Why? Because there’s an imaginary line on the ground that says “this side is NY and this side is NJ.”
If a Catholic lives in St. Peter parish, that Catholic is a parishioner of St. Peter parish.
If a Catholic lives in St. Paul parish, that Catholic is a parishioner of St. Paul parish.
Why? Because there’s an imaginary line on the ground that says “This side is St. Peter parish and this side is St. Paul parish”

if you still don’t see it, it’s because you still don’t get what I keep trying to say. Canon law says that a parish is a territory. I’m not making this up.
Can. 515 §1 A parish is a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor (parochus) as its proper pastor (pastor) under the authority of the diocesan bishop.
Can. 518 As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory. When it is expedient, however, personal parishes are to be established determined by reason of the rite, language, or nationality of the Christian faithful of some territory, or even for some other reason.
Unless a parish is a “personal” one, it is territorial. –Father David


No, actually, I still do get it. BOTH a parish and a diocese are territorial descriptions, however. Easter Joy was pointing out that the analogy you were making was more like leaping a diocese than leaping a parish. (It seemed.)

So now we do have a personal category of parish. (My point earlier: i.e., what’s wrong with recognizing both? It seems that the second of the two Canons cited already recognizes this.
I’ll be even more controversial on the issue of territory.
When it came time for my children to be Confirmed, I had serious reservations about their completing that preparation in our own diocese. I hate all late-adolescent Confirmation programs, but I won’t derail the thread in that direction. I was very firm that my children were going to be Confirmed before beginning high school. A neighboring diocese had a very different policy than our own diocese: it was way better, not just because of the age considerations, but the content of the preparation was light years away from that of our own diocese. So I simply inquired at the particular parishes which were conducting the centralized Confirmation prep programs in that neighboring diocese. That was approved, and they were both Confirmed in that diocese. I will note that I did present to the diocese my reasons for this unusual request. My children were the only non-local children in both cases.
I will also note that prior to this, I inquired at every single parish in our own diocese as to the content, and age, of their prep programs. It was not my first wish to make us a “difficult” family by hopping boundaries or making special exceptions for ourselves, but what my inquiries uncovered was what I had expected: those “programs” were 90% social (i.e., parties, not “social action”), 10% religious. They were very sparsely attended, by the admission of the various program coordinators, and some of them took as long as late senior year in high school to complete the program and administer the sacrament. -Elizabeth


I think I understand. It’s up to the policy of the individual diocese. And someone like Elizabeth can fully participate at another parish for the reasons she gave. But under current Canon Law she is a member of the parish she no longer prefers. And no one should expect a guarantee of being served in the future for marriage, funerals, what have you, by other than by the geographical parish. -CMatt


CMatt, Almost there.
It isn’t “up to the policy of the individual diocese” What ONE person quoted was ONE exception made by ONE bishop with regard to which pastor can witness a wedding–an exception to canon law that the bishop can make (it isn’t technically a “dispensation” though, it’s a matter of delegating faculties for weddings).
This is a lot like someone saying “my bishop dispensed this diocese from the Lenten obligation of abstaining from meat on Friday March 20 in Lent, therefore all Catholics reading these posts should make up their own minds as to the Lenten fast, and just ignore what canon law says.”


It is also much more than just being worried about weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. It’s about the integrity of the parish institution as the Church defines it. –Father David


I know what a parish is. A parish, though, is more like a county than like a state.
If the state constitution guarantees that a person has the right to access certain services in their own county and to discharge their duties as a citizen in their own county, that does not mean that the same constitution could not give the governor the prerogative to direct counties to practice reciprocity with regards to those services and to the rendering of those duties.
If the governor exercised that prerogative, then citizens of the state could be told “as long as this directive exists, you can get these services in any county you want, provided you are a citizen of the state.” If the governor withdrew that permission, then the citizens who were accustomed to accessing services in the convenient county or the one they liked would have no grounds to sue the state. As long as their county provided the services, those citizens could be denied access to the services in other counties. If you get used to having a library card in one county and are told that you can’t check out books in that county, but only in your own county, that could be a rude awakening.
In that case, though, to tell someone that they were allowed to access services outside their own county when there was legitimately an official policy of reciprocity in place would not be telling them to break the law. It might be getting them used to something that they had no right to and might lose at some time in the future, but it would not be breaking the law if they did have that permission.
So unless you are saying that a bishop has no right to direct pastors in his diocese to exercise reciprocity with regards to funerals, the sacraments, and where the faithful discharge their duties with regards to the Church, I don’t see where I’m telling anyone to break canon law by saying that bishops can allow the faithful to register and be active in parishes where they are not residents.
What am I missing in this analogy? -EasterJoy


What you’re missing in this analogy is that you’re operating on the assumption that parish boundaries just don’t exist. That’s what you’ve been saying all along, suggesting that others should simply ignore parish boundaries and consider themselves parishioners wherever they feel like. That’s exactly what you said in your own post that I’ve quoted at the end here.
It’s one thing to say that a bishop may do this–the problem is that you’re making a broad suggestion that every bishop does do it.
You are assuming that such exceptions exist universally, based on one single example, that has to do with weddings NOT parish membership, and you’re advising the OP based on that false assumption.
The question of this thread is “which is my parish?” NOT “where can I get married”
You’re taking the fact that your own bishop extends permission to local pastors within their own parish boundaries to witness the marriages of Catholics who live outside those boundaries, and trying to use that policy to suggest that Catholics should disregard parish boundaries with regard to membership. Again, you said this in your first post.
The policy you quoted says specifically “for the purpose of celebrating weddings” but you’re trying to apply that to mean “for the purpose of parish membership.” That’s problematic to say the least.

And technically, the permission given by the bishop isn’t always needed. The bishop is doing this as a courtesy, for the sake of making things easier on parishioners and pastors alike. I have never said that the bishop doesn’t have the right to do this–on the contrary, I’ve consistently said that he can.
What you cannot do though is extend your own anecdotal example of the bishop’s generosity in marriage jurisdiction to apply to Catholics universally with regard to parish membership. And that’s exactly what you’ve been doing from the very start. –Father David


When I called the chancery office of our archdiocese, I was told to register wherever I regularly attended. I didn’t draw conclusions from the marriage policies. I called up and asked. That was what I was told to do by a member of the archbishop’s staff.
So while it is special permission that cannot be counted on to be durable and which might be limited (which I have agreed that you are wise to point out), in some dioceses, the permission to register where you like is currently being given. So how is it a violation of canon law to register in a parish that isn’t your territorial parish, when the archbishop is giving blanket permission to do it?
PS I cannot believe I’m even in this discussion. I called our chancery office all those years back not to ask for permission to register where we liked, but to find out what territorial parish our new house was in. Having been told to register where we liked, we decided it was best to register in our territorial parish simply because it was our territorial parish, even though we didn’t particularly like it that much at first. We couldn’t be happier. -EasterJoy


Because you advised the OP to do likewise. That’s the problem. You as much as told the OP to just pick a parish and consider himself a member there–without any regard for what is actually written in canon law (in fact, you implied that canon law says it doesn’t matter), and without any knowledge of the OP’s own situation. You based your answer on your own anecdotal experience of registration, rather than on what the universal canon law of the Church says with regard to parish membership.

It’s not a violation of canon law to register at a parish other than the parish where you actually live because there is no such thing as parish registration in canon law–there is parish membership, not parish registration.

Can. 102 §1. Domicile is acquired by that residence within the territory of a certain parish or at least of a diocese*, which either is joined with the intention of remaining there permanently unless called away or has been protracted for five complete years.

The phrase “at least a diocese” refers to people who live within a diocese, but not within the boundaries of a parish, or to matters where it’s an issue of the jurisdiction of the bishop, or to those who change their residence from one parish to another (people who move frequently).

Can. 107 §1. Through both domicile and quasi-domicile, each person acquires his or her pastor and ordinary.

Catholics do not acquire a parish/pastor through registration; they acquire a parish and a pastor by virtue of residence (domicile).
So, it’s no surprise that the staff told you that you can register wherever you want–because registration means nothing in the end anyway–registering does not make one a parishioner of a parish, nor does registration in a different parish mean that a Catholic is no longer a member of the parish of residence. –Father David


Now you have me totally bewildered. The OP never asked what parish he’s a member of. He asked what the advantages were to registering anywhere at all. Now you say registration means nothing in the end, anyway, which in some dioceses isn’t true when it comes to marriage or burial outside your territorial parish, sending your kids to school at a parish outside your territorial parish, and, let’s face it, pretty much anything else you ever actually do at a parish, other than your territorial parish.
You know this, I don’t: With regards to canon law and the day-to-day issues of running a parish and a diocese, what difference does it make what parish the OP registers in and does it matter to anybody if he never gets around to registering anywhere at all? Since he has expressed no interest in darkening the door of his territorial parish unless a canon lawyer forces him to do it with the business end of a lit candle lighter, which seems to be what he wants to know. Is there a single reason a Catholic ought to ever register anywhere, particularly in his territorial parish where canon law grants him rights regardless of whether one gets around to registering? -EasterJoy


If parish boundaries are strictly enforced, then some services may be limited if you go to another parish. One thing I can think of is a parish helping financially with catholic school education – they may limit it to those who live in the parish boundaries. Otherwise, I don’t see any advantage to registering. Fr. David may not understand this, but some archdioceses don’t enforce the territorial thing. As Easter Joy tried to state, the Archdiocese of Portland really doesn’t seem to care about this. It doesn’t matter what is officially in canon law. I have 2 parishes within 2 miles of me going opposite directions and when I tried to find out which one’s territory I am officially in, they didn’t even know. I am registered in neither, since I choose to attend and am registered in an ethnic parish. -SunBreak


OP here.

I attended my territorial parish for Sunday service. It seemed nice.
Here is what I have gotten from this thread:
I am a member of the parish in which I am located – registered or not
I am free and welcome to attend mass and confession at any church – registered or not
If I desire other services, such as a wedding or a funeral, the parish of which I am a member will provide – registered or not.
Another parish may provide the services – if registered and/or allowed by the diocese.
School is not an issue for me, but in my case there is only one school between the four parishes in town. All of them use the same school.
Canon law does not address registration. -OP


OP, Right.

SunBreak, that second paragraph is the problem. All dioceses DO enforce parish territories–this isn’t something where bishops just have the option to follow canon law or not follow it (which is what has been implied).
When it comes down to some very particular policies, we have ONE example of ONE bishop who is enforcing parish boundaries (if one reads the policy carefully, you’ll see that), but he is saying that as long as a pastor is doing the ceremony within his own territory, he can witness the marriages of those who live outside his territory.
It’s not at all accurate to say “the archdiocese doesn’t care about this.” That’s concluding entirely too much from this little bit of information, and this rather minor relaxing of the law. I’m sure if one were to ask the bishop himself a direct question “do you not care what canon law says about parish territory” the bishop’s response would be “I do care.”
The other important point is that the response was based on ONE diocese’s policy, and that very likely is not the diocese where the OP lives. On the other hand, all Catholics (of the Latin Church) are governed by universal canon law–and that’s why I bring up the universal law. –Father David


Yet when OP included in a recent post, “Another parish may provide the services if registered and/or allowed by the diocese”, you responded “right” to OP’s post.

I contacted the diocese where I live. In it there is no written policy. I was told some pastors adhere to canon regarding territorial parishes when it comes to whether or not they allow registration as a parishioner. And other priests in the diocese do not. But as has been discussed here of course one can attend anywhere. And I was told canon specifies Sacraments are the responsibility of the proper territorial parish, but it does not mean one would be refused from being served by another parish. So in this diocese it appears it is left to the priests. -CMatt


Since registration is not required by canon law why is it required for me to receive these sacraments from my parish? I do believe in supporting my parish, I just believe that my donations should be anonymous. I get all the information I need about parish events from the weekly announcements and bulletin at mass. The fact that I can get my baptismal record and have proof of my residence should be enough to prove that I’m Catholic and live within the parish. –Ungern


I know you were referring to anonymous donations to one’s territorial parish. But I recently learned of a case in the territorial parish for Catholics in my neighborhood where the priest refused to baptize the child of parents who attend there because they do not use envelopes. It is not their territorial but they are registered there.
Fortunately another priest 7 mi south in the same diocese agreed to perform the Baptism. It is not their territorial either but neither are they registered at this 2nd parish. And this 2nd parish is too far from their home for them to begin attending there. But at least the priest there baptized their child. -CMatt


Firstly, everyone I ask says I don’t HAVE to register with the parish closest to me geographically.
Also, how do I “unregister” with a parish? What is the correct way to do this? -Atara


I’m not sure how you would go about unregistering. I suppose just inform the parish that you no longer want to be on their registration rolls. Or perhaps following a period of no donations or participation, they will simply remove you on their own. In my original home parish, I eventually no longer appeared on their member roster.
But my understanding from this thread is everyone is telling you correctly. You do not have to register at your territorial parish. You are automatically considered a member there and your territorial parish is responsible for administering the Sacraments to you whether you are registered or not. I suppose though in the case of for instance parents who are not practicing or attending, even the territorial parish priest in that case might still place some stipulations on them prior to baptizing their child. Or a non practicing couple planning a wedding in their territorial parish might have some additional requirements placed on them. In larger parishes even if you attend Mass in your territorial parish regularly, the priests might not know this. So in that case I’m guessing registration and use of envelopes will aid in them knowing you are a regular participant. Anointing of the Sick and funerals for non practicing Catholics in their territorial parishes I think are more or less simply a given though.
One other thing to note is I believe it was said here when I was following the thread earlier, that the closest parish might not necessarily be your territorial parish though. Chances are it probably is. But to know for certain, your diocese can tell you by your address. -CMatt


I live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul diocese and a deacon there told me Catholics were welcome to choose any parish within the diocese; that they didn’t have to belong to the closest one to their homes. Is he right? –Lisa


My guess would be you can register anywhere then as one would hope the deacon was aware of the policy. But if you question whether he is, you could make a call or shoot an email to the diocese. Where I live (not in MN) I emailed the diocese and received a response that there was no official diocesan policy here. That it’s up to individual priests if they allow folks who live outside of their parish to register in them. I then called a couple of parishes and both do.
That being said, I suppose if there is a change in bishops, diocesan policy could someday change. And if you read further back in the thread I think there was discussion about how registering at a parish not in your territory makes you registered there for means of keeping track of your donations. But that there seems to be a difference between being registered and technically being a member of a parish outside your territory. I just went back early in the thread and Fr David96 posted, “You can only be a member of the parish in which territory you reside.” But you might be able to register elsewhere. Where I live parishes seem to use the term, “registered parishioners”.
It does seem if you register elsewhere and you want more of a guarantee of being served all the Sacraments, you might be best to use your envelopes. So the parish knows you attend there if it’s not your territorial parish. That’s what happened to the person I referred to. They were registered at and attended a parish outside their territory but did not use envelopes. And when it came time to baptize their infant child, the priest refused. YMMV though. As I said the same couple had their child baptized at another Catholic Church 7 mi down the road in the same diocese. And are neither registered there nor do they attend there.



So if I understand the aspect of the canon law being discussed,
1) my territorial parish is responsible for all sacraments for me–even if I am not registered there.
2) Certain sacraments like marriage, baptism, confirmation should not be refused by one’s territorial parish simply because a person doesn’t register. This is not withstanding other requirements and stipulations to receive the sacrament. –Ungern


I just learned further that the proper parish for Catholics in my neighborhood will not even baptize a child of members unless the parents are registered and use envelopes for 6 mos.
This leads me to wonder whether when John the Baptist performed Baptisms, or Paul and Silas for instance when they baptized the jailer and all his family, placed the same restrictions onto them before they would baptize?
So are territorial parishes obligated to provide a funeral for those who lived in the parish boundaries without added restrictions but not Baptisms? –CMatt

Parish (Catholic Church)

In the Roman Catholic Church, a parish (Latin: parochus) is a stable community of the faithful within a Particular Church, whose pastoral care has been entrusted to a parish priest (Latin: pastor), under the authority of the diocesan bishop. It is the lowest ecclesiastical subdivision in the Catholic episcopal polity, and the primary constituent unit of a diocese. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, parishes are constituted under cc. 515–552, entitled “Parishes, Pastors, and Parochial Vicars.”

Most parishes are territorial parishes, which comprise all Catholics living within a defined geographic area. A parish may be joined with others in a deanery or vicariate forane and overseen by a vicar forane, also known as a dean or archpriest.

Per canon 518, a bishop may also erect non-territorial parishes, or personal parishes, within his see. Personal parishes are created to better serve Catholics of a particular rite, language, nationality, or other commonality which make them a distinct community. Such parishes include the following:

National parishes, established to serve the faithful of a certain ethnic group or national origin, offering services and activities in their native language.[2]

Parishes established to serve university students.

Parishes established by the 7 July 2007 motu proprio Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum for those attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (i.e. the traditional Latin Mass).

Anglican Use parishes established by the Pastoral Provision or other dispensations for former members of the Episcopal Church in the United States. By nature, communities belonging to the personal Ordinariates for Anglicans as established by Anglicanorum Coetibus of 4 November 2009 are also personal parishes.

All Catholics who reside in a territorial parish are considered members of that territorial parish, and all members of a community for which a personal parish has been erected are similarly members of that personal parish. Membership should not be confused with registration or worship, however. Catholics are not obliged to worship only in the parish church to which they belong, but may for convenience or taste attend services in any Catholic church.

Does registering in a parish mean anything?

Posted on
5 June 2013
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf


What does canon law say about becoming a member of a parish outside of the geographical jurisdiction of the parish closest to you? For example: Joining another parish farther away from you, but in your diocese, because the Mass is more reverent/you receive spiritual direction from that pastor/you fit in culturally with the people at that parish, etc.?


Canon law says nothing about “joining” a parish. “Joining a parish” is a concept foreign to the canonical system.

You become a member of a parish by virtue of where you live.

If you belong to an ethnic or national group, there may also be a personal parish to which you belong.

Recently, bishops have erected “personal parishes” based on factors other than ethnicity.  For example, they may establish parishes for the deaf, for those devoted to the Extraordinary Form, for members of the charismatic movement, etc.  It is therefore possible for one person to “belong” to several parishes as in the case of a hearing-impaired traditionalist-charismatic Wendish-Laotian.

In North America parishes about 80 years ago began developing this concept of “registering”. As a “registered” member, you get envelopes and other mailings from the parish office, you are listed on the books for easy reference (handy in parishes of 1000 families or more where it’s unlikely that the pastor personally gets to know everyone … especially when the pastor is transferred every six years… but that’s another vat of borscht).

Registering does not in itself allow one to acquire any canonical rights at the parish where one registers. Registering at one parish does not cause one to lose any rights they have at their proper parish.

Remember: there are rights and duties, too.

Catholics are no longer obliged to attend Mass regularly at their proper parish’s church. They may freely choose to attend a parish across town, in another village, even a parish of another ritual Church (e.g., you are a Latin Church Catholic but you like to attend the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic Church). You may attend a different church every Sunday if you wish.

That said, in North America there are good reasons for registering at a parish.  For example, you might have a pastor at your proper parish who doesn’t understand canon law and who refuses to offer sacramental or liturgical service to those folks who are not registered. He, of course, would be entirely in the wrong, but trying to argue over the matter as grandma is dying in the hospital is inconvenient at best.

Canon law doesn’t have anything to say about registering in a parish that is not one’s proper parish. Therefore there is nothing wrong with doing so and it may be of advantage.

51 responses

Father Z: Now onto the reverse of your answer – while you technically can’t be denied certain rights at your territorial parish under canon law, can (should?) you be denied rights at your registered parish (baptism, marriage, etc.) if the registered parish is not your territorial parish (or a personal one)? –Young Catholic

A few years ago, I contacted the chancery to find out which parish bounds I lived in. Everyone there (not including the bishop, whom I didn’t talk to) said I’m in whatever parish I’m registered at. I could not find a single person who even knew parishes had geographical boundaries. –Miss Anita Moore, O.P.

What about ‘discounts’ for the sacraments to registered parishioners? For example, the closest TLM community is 100 miles away. For the Marriage Rite, it is $1500 for non-registered Catholics, but only $700 for those who are registered for two years. The price is the same with or without a mass, low, sung, or Solemn. Considering that my local parish is free, it seems a little steep at $1500, and I’m sure that does not include choir costs (though they do have more than one fantastic choir). What are the regulations regarding such amounts as ‘required donations’? It’s making it difficult to plan frugally with a TLM wedding! –Ozark Catholic

“That said, in North America there are good reasons for registering at a parish. For example, you might have a pastor at your proper parish who doesn’t understand canon law and who refuses to offer sacramental or liturgical service to those folks who are not registered.”

True Father. My old Novus Ordo parish that I left in my area for reasons of spiritual deficiency and a Lonergan Theology youth minister, is of the 6 surrounding Catholic parishes the one that looks the most “Traditional” in architecture. All the others are modern architecture outside and in. Many people were dying to have their wedding there for the sole purpose of aesthetics, so the pastor had to clamp down and issue that at least one side of the wedding party has to be registered there and attend a weekly Mass (at least for a time prior to the wedding) and that’s before the whole year long “process” (another kettle of beans I don’t want to rant about though it’s more than just that parish). –Julian Barkin

If any parish is going to be strict about registration, they’d better have a good handle on their database. About a year and a half ago, a misspelling of my name in parish records got me a letter along the lines of: “Thank you for filling out [xyz form], but we have no record of your membership at this parish.”

I’ve been an active and committed member of the parish for years, so I had to wait to cool down a bit before addressing the misunderstanding! They “found” me in their system, corrected their mistake, and my parish believes in my existence again. –No Tambourine

No Tambourine, there is the additional problem that there may be separate databases for registration, for the parish directory, and for the business office. I have encountered here the problem (after moving) with letters and envelopes arriving, but the diocesan bulletin not arriving. –W Meyer

There was a brouhaha a couple of years ago because Abp. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the (US) Military issued this letter which specified that military retirees had to join a civilian parish and get permission from that pastor for the military chaplain to celebrate the sacraments of baptism, matrimony or confirmation. I’m not sure how that works as of now, but it caused a lot of heartburn at the nearby military bases for a while. –Will D

I have a pet theory that geographic parishes started losing significance (if not canonical status) when the automobile became affordable for average families (Around 80 years ago?). Cars made the world smaller, allowing people to travel much farther in the same amount of time, with respect to walking or travelling by horse and carriage. Once people weren’t “stuck” with their local parishes, they could roam. This is both good and bad. The good is that we can escape bad liturgy or heterodox catechesis. The bad is that we can more easily seek out preachers who “tickle our ears”. –Eric Williams

What happens when one complicates this situation by registering in a parish in a different rite? I have been registered in on or the other of two Ruthenian parishes served by the same priest for something like six years now. My territorial parish (in the diocese of Rochester NY) still sends me the diocesan newspaper. I think they finally stopped sending me envelopes. I haven’t been there for several years. If I do attend a Latin rite parish it is usually the one which has the EF, or one close to my work which has a fairly traditionally celebrated Novus Ordo. (Although it still has the bad music on Sunday.)

At nearly 63 I am not likely to need to be married, or to have a child baptized. But what about when I die? When my mother in law died recently and there was no funeral-nothing at all, I told one of my children that when I die I want a funeral at my Byzantine parish, but if that is not possible, then I want a funeral in the old Latin mass, with black vestments and the Dies Irae. Either way, I told her, it will be a whole lot of Church!

So when I ask for a Byzantine funeral, will they say no, you are canonically Latin? If so, I had better make my attendance at the EF more regular so the Fathers will be willing to have my funeral there. (Should I join that parish also? I do put money in the collection when I am there, usually a $20, but that doesn’t identify me as having been there.) I know, I am lucky to have such an embarrassment of riches in a nearby city that I can choose between the EF and the Liturgy of St. John C.

I told my daughter that if I wind up having a funeral with Eagles Wings, I will come back from Purgatory and haunt them all! –Susan Peterson

“What about ‘discounts’ for the sacraments to registered parishioners? For example, the closest TLM community is 100 miles away. For the Marriage Rite, it is $1500 for non-registered Catholics, but only $700 for those who are registered for two years. The price is the same with or without a mass, low, sung, or Solemn. Considering that my local parish is free, it seems a little steep at $1500, and I’m sure that does not include choir costs (though they do have more than one fantastic choir). What are the regulations regarding such amounts as ‘required donations’? It’s making it difficult to plan frugally with a TLM wedding!”

Sounds ridiculous to me. I had to practically force the priest at my TLM wedding to take the stipend (which was much less that $700) on the condition that if he didn’t want it to just give it to the church. Required donations, to me, smack of simony and we should fly even the appearance after all the Reformation hoopla and all.

I understand the need to pay the bills and free up schedules, but it’s an hour or so. I also understand the pain in the neck of having people want to get married in a pretty church that they have no connection to or real respect for and I also get it that its an even bigger pain to get a Solemn High Mass together (which is one reason I opted for something farther down the solemnity scale, sacred ministers and a gaggle of servers do not grow on trees…). I think its totally acceptable to expect a couple wanting to get married at a particular parish to be registered or geographically part of the parish so as to weed out the ones who just want a pretty photo back drop. However, “charging” for a sacrament doesn’t seem like a smart way to do it… –Dominic

We are currently “registered” at two parishes.

The first is our geographic parish, the second the parish where our children’s parochial school is located. We joined the first parish because it’s our geographic parish (and is awesome). We joined the second because if we register and donate a minimum amount, our parochial school offers a discount on multiple child tuition.

We feel duty bound to continue to support our geographic parish, so we remain active there and continue to donate at the same amount as before. (Plus, as I said, it’s awesome!) –Ralph

I would just like to add that some dioceses do have the parish boundaries available on-line. The one that I work for, for example, is right on the front page! Just put your address in, click, and you get a map with the local schools and parishes. We have mapped the entire diocese that way!

Don’t know if the link will work, but go to and click on “view map of diocese” in the center column.

I would add that the person(s) in the know about boundaries would be the Canon Law or Tribunal office personnel, as they deal with these issues for marriages on a very regular basis. –Fr Robert

Parish membership is an issue I’ve been praying about for over 2 years now. I had hoped to remain a member of our geographic parish which is dying from aging parishioners and changing neighborhood demographics. Our priest was to be retiring soon and the rumor was that the bishop would likely close the parish and have the 80 some members attend our “sister” parish across the street. My family tried to hang on and even increase membership in the parish, but the parish secretary was causing scandal and discord, so we had to quit the parish completely. The problem arose because we attend the TLM community which is in the sister parish, so is technically served by the same parish office. We have been unwilling/ unable to join the TLM community because of this. [You still live within a territorial parish and you are always free to attend the TLM in a parish wherever it is.]

A new priest will be coming in to parish ‘A’ this summer, but I’m not sure how to handle approaching him or even if I should. I’d love to be a member of the TLM community, but don’t see how we can as long as that secretary is still creating scandal. –Jenni

“Registering does not in itself allow one to acquire any canonical rights at the parish where one registers.”

Precisely because canon law says nothing about registering either way, I’d phrase this a bit more tentatively. It is a regular question among canonists, and we need to think it through carefully, else, some dangerous conclusions might be reached. I’m thinking, e.g. about weddings of couples whose connection to a parish is not territorial at all. Anyway, I’d go more slowly here. By the way, and for what its worth, I, too, have experienced living in a parish that, for the sake of soul and sanity, I had absolutely nothing to do with after a first or second Mass there, and I never thought again about them. Certainly, territory is a default membership criterion, but less and less is it one in reality, and the law is, I think, behind the times here. I readily grant that we don’t want parishes based on income levels, or jobs, or sports teams, but, really, that is not what’s happening; instead parishes are falling out along liturgical and orthodoxy-of-preaching lines, and attendance shows it. Dr. Edward Peters, Canonist

Dr. Peters: The whole thing needs rethinking and revision, doesn’t it.Fr John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z. Yes, I think it does, too.Dr. Edward Peters

The parish church I was attending up until very recently had in each Sunday bulletin a notice encouraging registration & stating quite explicitly that Marriage and Baptism would be available ONLY after being registered for 6 months. So I am a little confused: is that an exercise of pastor’s discretion, actually illicit, or something else entirely? –skl

Dr. Edward Peters says:

. . . Parishes are falling out along liturgical and orthodoxy-of-preaching lines, and attendance shows it.

And that can vary with the pastor. –Rob Brown

Perhaps Dr. Peters could answer this question: I thought one had to get permission from one’s territorial parish in order to get married in another parish. Something about the proper form for the Sacrament of Matrimony… Is this true? –Nobis

This concept of jurisdiction probably is most important from the perspective of who can claim authority over an individual, and who gets responsibility for dealing with a problem. The idea that a person’s parish is where he happens to live is convenient and simple. As we know, however, it is most important when one needs infrequently needed sacraments or services. Other than that, it keeps multiple pastors from claiming the right to solicit the same people for money. It keeps a nutty pastor from unilaterally extending his parish to cover an entire diocese. It ensures that someone can be held responsible for the spiritual care of every soul in a diocese and that none are disclaimed completely. It prevents one pastor form excommunicating someone and another pastor in a neighboring parish from declaring the excommunication void. Generally, it works in favor of the good order of the church.

This is a good place to remind everyone that a Catholic should be registered in some parish, somewhere, and put every envelope in the collection, somehow, even if they go in bursts, even if only a dollar goes in the envelope. This is for practical reasons. For example, if one is asked to be a godparent, the only way anyone may have to verify a candidate’s good standing is to check envelope records. I don’t know if my pastor would know me from a hole in the ground, but if anyone wants to check, the paper trail is there, courtesy of my parents, who have put my envelopes in the local collection basket for me for the past 14 1/2 years. Now, people may gripe about this, saying “the Church is all about money,” but what other way is there? Surveillance cameras? An EZ-Pass worn over the head? Tattooed bar codes scanned by the ushers at the doors? –Andrew S

I have great sympathy for those who ‘travel around’ in search of better preaching or more reverent liturgy or more beautiful surroundings. I did it myself as a layman. Truth be told I went to a parish other than my ‘proper’ parish because I needed to find a church that was more handicapped accessible for my father. But it caused me no sadness that it was a more beautiful church with some fine preaching and an excellent choir.

But what is a parish? According to Canon 515, a parish is ‘a definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church [i.e. a diocese].’ The phrase that strikes me is a ‘definite community of the Christian faithful.’ The beauty of the territorial parish is that it designates a ‘definite community’ – all the People of God west of Broad Street and south of Grand Avenue, for example. THAT community, which is a community already at many different levels – they shop in the same stores, go to the same schools, walk the same streets, deal with the same neighborhood problems, maybe work at the same jobs – they also exist as a community of faith and worship within their territorial parish.

But the Church hopping mentality does not seem to create a ‘definite community.’ Rather, in the long run, it creates intentional communities, more along the lines of congregational (small ‘c’) churches, prone to fracture when the community no longer supplies the ‘need’ that brought it together in the first place. And trust me, Church-hopping knows neither north nor south, nor left nor right. I suspect the principal cause of Church-hopping is the time and/or length of the Mass, with aesthetic or doctrinal grounds falling a very distant second.

Whatever the continuing status of the ‘proper’ parish, I think I can say pretty squarely that in reality, it is observed mainly in the breach. Intentionality and mobility (and have made it so. Registration is simply a way for pastors to get SOME handle on their not very definite communities. But I think something important is being lost here.

An item from the Ministry of Silly Walks:

Father, The Holy Spirit just answered something I’ve asked myself for many months now. And he did it through you.

I will now be joining a second parish -the Tridentine Mass parish here in Milwaukee. I belong to the magnificent Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee where the friars do say a reverent Novus Ordo.

St. Stanislaus, where the TLM is said, is 5 blocks north. I attend both, learning all I can about the TLM. And, boy, do I feel the pull in my heart toward that.

St. Stan’s could use my support, I think. I’ve asked the Holy Spirit where He wants me to be.

I feel the pull to both places. You just confirmed and answered my heart. –lsclerkin

Dr. Edward Peters, I don’t think any solution will satisfy everyone, but the last thing we need is for people to be denied funerals, last rights, extreme unction, or baptisms because they don’t have the appropriate paper work or because the parish was sloppy about record keeping. Like it or not, territorial parishes are a good default. The only modifications that might be okay is if people can adjust their defaults, but if there is any confusion due to paper work, the default territorial parish must still be valid. If parishes are falling out along liturgical and orthodoxy-of-preaching lines, then this is the problem that needs fixing, not papering it over with. –Anil Wang

There are lots of hearing impaired traditionalist Catholics in Omaha. I say that with no intent of malice or humor. –Jacob

Registering means a lot. If, like me, you drive far (50 miles in my case in the City of Los Angeles now, a short time ago it took 75 miles) to get to the TLM once a month or more, you should definitely register in the TLM parish as well, get envelopes and contribute as much as you can afford. It is the best inducement for the diocesan priests to continue allowing the TLM. The pastor has complete control, as we learned the hard way when a Fr. Tom Elewaut expelled our EF from Mission San Juan Buenaventura in California after 15 years of every-Sunday masses. Give generously to your TLM parish, and you will naturally need receipts to deduce the contributions from income taxes. I do contribute to our OF parish as well. If you are sick you cannot drive 50 miles for extreme unction. Problem is I would really like a traditional funeral mass for myself, as a final contribution to the Church, but this is not allowed in OF parishes. –Gratias

I have a fairly different reason for registering in & attending a parish other than where I should be geographically: Neighborhood. My own neighborhood is decent, but that parish is over 4 miles away and is not in a safe neighborhood, given some gang activity and such in the vicinity. And I take the bus, which runs only once an house on Sundays, so, especially as a young woman, I’d be a sitting duck at the stop after Mass. I did try the parish out when I first moved to my place, but after being hit up for money by a pair of pushy drunks while I sat at the stop, I decided safety was a sufficient reason to go elsewhere. Aside from Sunday Mass, if I ever attended parish events at night, that would be worse, considering that the bus home would drop me off 2/3 of a mile from my home — and I don’t want to walk at night alone. –Cafea

Some dioceses have particular law on the effects of parochial registration. For instance, the diocese of Austin’s particular law apparently allows for persons living outside of the territory of the parish to nevertheless become parishioners by registration.

The particular law there also, thankfully, affirms that “formal registration may never be required as a prerequisite for the faithful to share in the sacramental life of the Church in their local [territorial] parish.” –Paul

I have never registered in a parish. –Rob Brown

“Catholics are no longer obliged to attend Mass regularly at their proper parish’s church.”

Was that once the case that we had to attend in our own local proper parish? I can imagine it being the norm when travel was difficult – currently we are non-explicitly required to attend Mass on this planet and not on a space ship, and as Fr Z’s recent post points out, Mass on sea ships and moving vehicles was limited at one time to cardinals and bishops. Was the limitation to the local parish for such practical reasons, or was there another reason for that limitation (probably also practical in some way)? –Rural V

Dominic, I know plenty of guys who will put a high fee schedule on for use of the parish church for weddings to discourage non-parishioners. As far as having a fee for the use of the church, sadly many are clueless about the fact it’s takes money to pay the electric bill, etc., and wouldn’t give the parish anything for a wedding. I don’t at this time believe in asking for any fees and my two parishes usually get $0 for weddings and funerals. One time I drove 6 hours to do a wedding for a parishioner, they gave that parish nothing and me nothing for my gasoline. As I said, clueless. Several of those, and you see why the pastor gets disgusted and fees for use of the building start appearing in print. Fr AJ

When I was a seminarian (12+ years ago) the seminary hosted a large public conference each year with the keynote speaker usually being a prominent theologian, prelate, etc. One year we were honored to host Cardinal Arinze and this very question was posed to him. His response… “If you don’t like your (territorial) parish, then find another one you do like!” Insightful coming from the soon thereafter Prefect of Divine Worship…

It probably also depends on the policies of your bishop or archbishop. In the Archdiocese of Portland, for instance, the published policy document on marriage say that “Couples may be required to register in their parish as part of their preparation for marriage; but they may not be refused the sacrament because of a prior failure to register in their parish” and “People who live within the physical boundaries of a parish have a right to marry in that church—even if they do not regularly attend that church or are not registered in that parish…For the purpose of celebrating marriage, couples who regularly attend Mass at a parish should be treated has having “domicile” in that parish even if they live outside the physical boundaries of that parish.”

With regards to funerals, the policy includes this: “Parish clergy should make a reasonable effort to respond to the request of any family requesting a funeral even if they are not members of the parish. He may inform the proper pastor when appropriate. When it is not possible to respond to a family’s request, the priest/deacon should assist them in contacting their proper parish or a priest able to assist the family.”

I don’t believe there are similar published policies in our archdiocese with regards to the sacraments of initiation, but it is very helpful when the local bishop has very clear guidelines about what is expected of both the parishes and the faithful.

Re–”I have never registered in a parish.“– It is thoughtful to give the parish staff our addresses and contact information. We all have duties to perform within our parishes, and it is easier for them if they can find us when duty calls. I don’t think “registration” means any more than that–that is, once you’ve done whatever is necessary to get onto the parish address list, that’s about all “registration” means.

Speaking of thoughtful, it is a good thing when you change parishes to contact the parish you are leaving, to let them know to take you off of their rolls. It helps with planning and it saves them not only the postage but the time it takes to get communications to you. The volunteers who would have been stuffing envelopes with letters you are never going to answer will thank you! –BLB

Perhaps people concurrently registered in two parishes–or even three, as I once was–are much needed to balance out those Catholics who are registered nowhere.

Of course, it might be even better if all registered Catholics were real Catholics (in belief and practice). Hmm, might one say that of parishes and pastors as well as of individual parishioners? –Henry Edwards

Fr. AJ, I get that, but then it seems that you guys need to do a better job of educating the people that the laborer is worthy of his hire and that one shall not muzzle the ox that treads the grain, the Levite eats from the Altar. I grew up with the concept of stipends for all church things as a given, and it should be pretty generous. If this custom has died, it needs to be preached again.

I can see where priests might want to start “charging” for the “venue”, especially amongst people who seem oblivious to the proper Catholic custom of stipends because a) the ignorant see charging for venues as something normal and b) the ignorant won’t make the connection for charging for the venue with simony like I am. Still, people do make that connection frequently and it would be a most unfortunate one. –Dominic

“Was that once the case that we had to attend in our own local proper parish?”

I recall my parents telling me that when they married and bought their first house in Stamford, CT in the mid-60s, they expected to attend a particular church that was closest to the house and a priest friend of theirs was pastor. They were surprised to find out that they were actually in the territory of a different parish – and the message they received was they were supposed to register/attend the territorial parish. –Charivari

I am going to be in the minority here, but I can understand registration as a necessity, but not to be totally exclusive. As someone involved in sacramental prep, I can say that sacramental prep is absolutely necessary for parents for baptism, reconciliation, Holy Communion, confirmation and marriage and all this should take longer than six months. The ignorance of most adults requires this teaching, and unless there is registration, one cannot teach properly, nor would people come.

Gone are the days when parents bring a baby in for baptism knowing their faith in most parishes.

Also, the Church in England is dirt poor because people do not tithe nor are they asked to tithe. Churches need to keep track of tithing for the benefit of the entire Catholic community. Registration helps with tithing as well.

PS as to fees for weddings, is that for the choir and the flowers? I am intrigued by those fees, as most parishes only charge for the organist, and choirs.

Sorry to stuff the combox, but some dioceses in America are considering a two-year program for RCIA, which I am all for, in order not to rush and to separate those who really want to be Catholics from those who are not serious. How does one teach the Creed in three weeks? Registration helps with all of these processes. –Supertradmum

A two year RCIA program could be good. Depends on whether they teach what the Church teaches, or that feel-good spirit of Vatican II nonsense. I spent two years in RCIA, a one year program, while waiting for the Tribunal to… Anyway, it was highly repetitive, and made no reference to the CCC. Instead, we got Catholic Update, and handouts written by Sr. Joan and by Fr. Richard Rohr. [Both of them dissidents –Michael]

As you may imagine, I am not impressed with that program. Not being new to Church teaching, and having had my own copy of the CCC, I was not damaged by it, just annoyed.

I know there are good materials available, and if a parish can’t afford more, even the Baltimore Catechism, downloaded for free, and printed as cheaply as possible would have been far superior to articles by Sr. Joan. –W Meyer

“PS as to fees for weddings, is that for the choir and the flowers? I am intrigued by those fees, as most parishes only charge for the organist, and choirs. I am intrigued by those fees, as most parishes only charge for the organist, and choirs.”

I would imagine those fees are not for the choir and the flowers… At our parish the choir and organist are paid separate from the church/father. When my husband and I were married we gave a stipend to the church, one to Father, one to the organist/choir director, and a small one to each of the servers. –Mary Jane

Eulogos, Catholic is Catholic. You don’t have to be Ruthenian to be a member of a Ruthenian parish. So long as your family and the priest know your intention you should be fine. I’m not an expert but Canon law is silent on parish according to a canon lawyer at our chancery.

Re: Weddings, my parish is the mother ship so a lot of people want to be married there because it’s beautiful or they want to say they were married in the Cathedral; however, they have no intention to raise their children at the parish. One of the two must be a registered Catholic at some parish (crazy thing, often non-Catholics want to get married there and are shocked that it isn’t an option). The fee is $2500 and the date must be chosen a year in advance. Unless you’re a parishioner, in which case the fee is reduced and the dates are more flexible. The church is huge and there’s a parish wedding planner involved to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Occasionally I hear stories of people who don’t follow Church teaching and are shocked to learn that living together isn’t an option if they’re getting married at the parish. One couple was astonished to learn that they couldn’t get a priest for their outdoor wedding on a local island. –Nan

Catholics are no longer obliged to attend Mass regularly at their proper parish’s church.

Any reference, especially in regard to Canon 518? –Ubiquitous

Can. 518 has nothing to do with Mass attendance. –Imrahil

Good point. Didn’t notice that. Is there a part of Canon law that does have to do with Mass attendance? –Ubiquitous

In 1970 while at KU, a friend and I were thinking about converting. I told him I would call to ask about what was then known as inquiry classes. I did, and the priest assured me that no one was obligated to convert–then he asked my name. I gave him my friend’s name.

Later, I told my friend that he was scheduled to attend the class the following Tuesday. When he asked me whether I was going, I told him that unfortunately, it conflicted with an intramural basketball game. He became Catholic some weeks later. Last month he celebrated the 30th anniversary of his priestly ordination. –Rob Brown

Several comments from the perspective of a priest pastor, and considering the reality of the priest shortage and an increasing “consumer goods” mentality among Catholics:

Schools: Unfortunately, many Catholics will ‘use’ a parish. Join a parish just long enough so they can send their children to the school (heavily subsidized by parish Sunday collection, mostly from parishioners who don’t have school-age children), then return to their previous parish which has the convenience of a shorter Mass, etc. the minute their child finishes 8th grade.

Weddings: Never ceases to amaze me how many people complain so frequently about ‘high fees’ (actually suggested donations) parishes charge for weddings. The average couples spends literally tens of thousands on wedding dresses, reception, photographs, party favors, etc. and then grouses about donating a few hundred to the Church, while saying nothing about the lavish spending on the peripheral stuff. One post-er mentioned that the wedding is “just an hour or so.” Wow! In most dioceses, the priest spends a great deal of time with couples, meeting several times personally with them to help prepare them spiritually for the wedding, spread out over multiple appointments, filling out detailed paperwork for the diocese (necessary in case there is a request for a declaration of nullity later), reviewing pre-marital inventories to help them spot potential trouble spots, and more. Additionally, there are often teams of people who set up the Church for the wedding, help the bridesmaids get settled, conduct practices, etc. Many wedding parties leave the place a complete mess afterward, leaving hours of work for the maintenance men. They often tie up the Church for hours on end on the wedding day itself with music practices, decorating etc. (often disregarding the desire for people to pray and ignoring the presence of the Blessed Sacrament). I have had many occasions where I told wedding parties several times they need to be completed with the post-wedding photographs by a certain time, to accommodate confessions and Vigil Masses, which was completely disregarded, because they wanted to use the Church primarily as a photo backdrop and get the perfect photo album. You get the idea. Hardly “an hour or so.” The very small amount parishes charge for weddings is an absolute token compared to the great deal of time spent by the priest and many other parties, all things considered.

Funerals: Many parishes, especially those that are aging, have multiple funerals per week. In my own parish, with not infrequent requests for funerals on the same day. We frequently get requests for funerals for people who have been living out of state for decades, perhaps having gone to school in the parish 50 years ago or more. We try to accommodate of course, but sometimes have to make difficult decisions about whether to give preference for that day to currently registered parishioners over someone with a much more tenuous connection to the parish.

Bottom line: In an age of parish-hopping & shopping / consumer mentality among parishioners, parish registration can be an ‘economic’ necessity. (Using ‘economic’ in the broadest sense – not dollars and cents, but best allocation of scarce resources, including the priest’s time in parishes where there used to be 3 priests but where one priest is now trying to do it all).

While the parish of course makes every effort to meet the sacramental needs of all its people, it is not at all unreasonable to give certain concessions and preferences to people who take the trouble to register and have a current and ongoing relationship with the parish, over those who just happen to show up out of the blue. Cincinnati priest

Continued from page 4, more on “Parish Hopping”, chronologically arranged:

Parish Hopping
~or~ Am I A Catholic Two-Timer?

December 12, 2005

I’m wondering if it’s OK to parish-hop. I really enjoy going to Mass at my neighborhood parish and I feel very at home there, however, it’s a quiet little parish…some others in SF seem to have very vibrant, more diversified activities, so I’m wondering, is it OK to be an official member of one parish but be involved with another? –Solange

The wonderful thing about being Catholic–well, goodness, there are so many things—according to this discussion, however, one thing stands out. We are ALL family, no matter what parish or country we belong to. Nothing wrong with church hopping, getting involved in groups offered by other parishes, etc. It makes our world more alive and vibrant.
I used to attend daily mass at several parishes throughout the week as well as prayer groups, etc. The experience brought me closer to Christ and His family stretched across miles and borders I wouldn’t have crossed had I not attended these other functions. If parish hopping brings you closer to Christ, go for it. Always support your home parish as much as possible, and take back ‘home’ what you can to enrich your fellow parishioners. -U

Reasons for

By Thomas Ng, The Catholic News, April 30, 2006

Parishioners who go to other churches might have reasons (other than the quality of the homily) for doing so. For example, the loud electronic band and drum-beating during Mass may attract some young parishioners but music lovers and older parishioners may prefer the solemnity of the organ, or a good choir singing in melodious harmony.

Parish shopping

By Dominico Bettinelli, October 31, 2006

Miss Kelly, a Catholic revert, has just started Mass-hopping, that is going from parish to parish to find one she likes. This is a relatively new phenomenon and something that would have been downright forbidden a few decades ago.

In the old days, you went to your geographic parish. Period. If the pastor of another parish caught you parish-hopping, he would send you packing back to your own parish. There was a valid point. Catholicism is not an individualistic faith. We come to worship God as a family, in a Body, and the basic unit of that family is the parish. The parish forms bonds of communion that go beyond Mass to caring for each other. It used to be common—and God willing, it still is in places—that everyone looked out for one another in a parish. If one man lost his job, there would be casseroles in the freezer the next day and outstanding bills would mysteriously find themselves taken care of. There was no going to welfare, no institutionalized Catholic charitable agency. The family took care of it.

But times changed. For one thing, we became a lot more mobile. Where before we walked to the parish that was close by, in the Boston archdiocese, we can now drive a half hour and find a half dozen or more parishes, even in the most rural outposts. And as younger folks who never knew those old parish loyalties begin to seek out more orthodox and traditional worship against the bizarre post-Vatican II practices that have taken hold, they have begun to Mass-hop.

I can hardly blame Miss Kelly as she describes the banality and lack of transcendence she finds at her local parishes. It’s not that her demands are all that onerous. In fact, they’re quite modest.

I’m not looking the Latin Mass, but I am looking for a Mass which transcends the normal, secular, day-to-day experience.  I’m looking for a worship service that is conducive to prayer and reflection. I’m looking for “bells and smells”, the traditions and sensory experiences that transport one to a contemplative, spiritual place.  I’m looking to be part of church community which respects the Mass.

Incidentally, I’m not so sure that Catholics have been dispensed from their obligation to support their local parish, but I’ll leave that to the canon lawyers to sort out.

Parish Hopping

Posted by Andrew, April 23, 2007

MM asks,
Among Rome’s parishes there is charismatic RC, political RC, family life RC, monastic RC, high church RC, low church RC, evangelical RC, Anglican Use RC, Eastern Rite RC, Jesuit RC, Dominican RC, Franciscan RC, etc. etc. etc. There are even those select parishes that cater to the needs of young, single, transient yuppies. How to choose?
And ought one to “choose?”

There is a certain stigma attached to going to a parish other than your territorial parish. But the question, I think, is very legitimate: if the parish that will best enhance my prayer life is but a slightly-longer drive away… why not?
The obvious answer is that parish hopping might contribute to the balkanization of Catholicism, which claims to be a universal communion. But things are how they are.

The parish-hopper in its natural habitat

By Fr. Mathibela Sebothoma, The Southern Cross, South Africa, September 28, 2008

Since the beginning of the year I had been wondering about her absence in parish life. My anxiety was relieved when I saw her coming up for Holy Communion at a neighbouring parish.

For some time I have casually agreed with some younger priests to exchange pulpits on Sundays. As a result I try to get visiting priests to celebrate Mass in our parish. I know for a fact that parishioners appreciate such encounters. These occasions have helped me to learn from other parishes.

I was disappointed that she was not coming for Sunday worship in our church. But I was elated that she was at least still attending Mass, albeit at a different parish. Officially she belongs to our parish. Paradoxically her husband is a regular at Mass in our church. It would seem husband and wife have different preferences in their choice of parishes.

One young woman was brutally honest in her response. She wanted to get married in her “home parish” because it was convenient. Her chosen parish was about 30km away. She said her home parish lacked Moya. Her use of the Sesotho word Moya implied either our parish lacked the presence of the Holy Spirit and/or that the priest and the parishioners were not “charismatic”.

This made me think about 600 people who attend Mass consistently, every week throughout the year. Two out of 600 is a drop in the ocean, but still worth thinking about.

Many people choose a parish because it is nearer to their home—convenience. A person with a remote control has power and freedom to choose which TV programme to watch or to ignore. In the same way, there must be personal reasons why people choose a particular parish community or go church-hopping.

According to canon law (para 518) a parish is territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory. In this sense parishioners share common things like language, culture, and so on. It would be ideal to belong to a community closest to one’s home. But if one has some difficulties with a particular parish due to whatever problems or preferences, however, one is free to attend Mass and participate at another parish.

But in my own parish, some parishioners travel long distances to come to church — and not only on Sundays. The parish has become a home for them. Physically they live in other places, but their parish of choice is their spiritual home. In this mobile culture people are sometimes forced by other circumstances to do parish hopping. For many young people, work opportunities determine which parish to belong to. For others the age and education of their kids is a priority. It is also true that a few individual Catholics follow “their priest” wherever he goes — the personality cult.

The length of the Mass or the homily is an important factor for some. I am told some people prefer a 30-minute Mass with no music and preferably a five-minute sermon or no homily at all. I know that other Catholics prefer a longer service with a longer sermon.

Culture and race seem to be a determining factor in some parishes around Pretoria. With the de-racialisation of formerly white suburbs, some parishes are becoming multi-racial. This should be encouraged for the process of national reconciliation and healing. But this scenario can also be unsettling. Some people have a fear of sharing the same space with people of different races or languages. That is why some people are moving to parishes where race identity is primary.

We cannot force people to be part of our community. But more often people who are parish-hopping or their whereabouts are unknown create problems for communities. For example it is a hassle to organise a funeral for such a person. Or they come for a letter of recommendation or a testimonial for a job. What do you write if you don’t know the person?

We will have to come up with a revised definition of what it means to be a parish community. When choosing a parish should one go on geography or preference? Does one go by the priest and or parishioners? Does it really matter?


I am 67 years old.
I saw the church building go up. I served Mass as a boy at Pius X in Pretoria. All 7 of my children were baptized there. I teach Catechism to the grandchildren of parishioners that I knew as a boy. I cannot understand “parish hoppers”. The Mass is not entertainment. –James Henning

I am a church hopper.

First of all, I think there are different types of church hopping. It can be a sort of cafeteria Christianity. It can also be a way of attending Mass but not rooting yourself in a community. I’m not certain that the example given in the article above are good examples of church hopping. Church hopping is not just about being officially part of one parish and attending another regularly. It’s about attending multiple parishes regularly, possibly even on the same day.

Why do we do it?
For me it is not about entertainment. I understand how it could be.

I am not sure who it was who said this (originally in reference to types of prayer), regardless of whether it is white bread, brown bread, whole-wheat bread, a slice, a loaf, or roll, in whatever shape or size, leavened or unleavened, it is bread. That analogy can be used to explain church hopping. The hopper can get something that feeds them in one parish that they can’t get at another that feeds them in a different way.

I neither live nor work in the “territory” of my “home parish”. I attend Sunday Mass and most holy days at the home parish, but I often attend Masses at some other parishes. My wife and I are both involved in our home parish, we’ve both served on the PPC several times.

My parish doesn’t run Alpha, and I’ve attended several Alpha courses at 2 other parishes – one neighbours my home parish and the other is closer to home. The latter is not only well resourced, having lots of programs (including Alpha) it is also charismatic. While I’m much more of a contemplative (I’m a Type 3 on Corinne Ware’s Spirituality Wheel , I’ve got an appreciation for Charismatic spirituality, and my wife, well, she’s definitely charismatic, but one who is willing to live with the home parish’s non charismatic “personality” or “culture”. Also, working in the city centre, I sometimes attend weekday Mass at the local cathedral. And, I’m involved in the ecumenical movement, so I do attend services in other denominations as well.

James in his comment above, must look at me like I’m an alien…but the 30 years of age and probably the life experiences that separate us is a huge cultural and generational gulf. I am a product of post modernism. I am a convert to Catholicism, I am an immigrant. I was neither born, raised, nor educated in the home parish. I won’t ever “teach Catechism to the grandchildren of parishioners that I knew as a boy”. I don’t have that rootedness – and yet there is a longing for such rootedness. In essence, I am in exile (so maybe it is apt my home parish is District 6) and yet in through my faith, that exile is home. –Chris

Putting an end to ‘parish-hopping’

By Maria Wiering, October 31, 2009

Mass at St. Mark in St. Paul ended at noon, but Jeremy and Autumn Irlbeck didn’t get home until 1 p.m. — and they only live six blocks away.

The reason? They were chatting with fellow parishioners in the church, and they ran into a few more on the way home.

After several years of parish-hopping, they’re rooting themselves in their parish home. The experience has deepened their sense of Catholic community and the Eucharist as “communion”, they said.

Jeremy, 25, and Autumn, 23, are newlyweds. Before they dated, both attended several parishes throughout the course of a month, often for the sake of convenience.

Autumn bounced between several St. Paul parishes, she said. Sometimes she went to St. Peter Claver. Other times she went to the Cathedral of St. Paul. And the 9:30 p.m. Mass at St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas was always a fall-back, she added.

Jeremy worked as a youth minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings, and he spent many Sundays there. Otherwise, he would attend St. Joseph in West St. Paul or Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul.

When the couple started dating, they based their Mass attendance on what fit their schedules, they said. As their relationship grew, they got more serious about settling down in one parish.

St. Mark wasn’t a regular on their previous Mass circuit, but it was near St. Thomas, where Jeremy went to college. They liked the neighborhood, and they knew the pastor at the time.

They also thought St. Mark seemed “ripe for renewal,” Jeremy said. Many of the parishioners are elderly, but young people and families dot the Sunday morning pews. The Irlbecks joined the parish, and several months later it hosted their April 2009 wedding.

“We just really felt at home,” Jeremy said. “We knew whatever church we got married in, we wanted to be active in. We didn’t want it just to be our ‘wedding church,’ but to be our home.”

Now expecting a baby in February, the Irlbecks are glad they rooted their married life in a parish. They’ve volunteered with the parish’s ministry to homeless people. Jeremy hopes to become a lector, and Autumn wants to join the choir. They might send their child to the school someday, too, they added.

They also love living in the same neighborhood as their parish, they said. They see fellow parishioners in the grocery store and as they walk to Mass. They are slowly recognizing more families and getting to know other young people.

They stay for coffee and doughnuts after Mass, and stand in the aisle visiting with new friends long after the organ’s postlude. They’ve even invited St. Mark’s new pastor to their apartment for a future dinner.

It’s natural for young people to “be all over the place” when they’re figuring out their role in the world, Autumn said. However, being rooted in a parish could be a grounding force while one is in college or starting an adult life.

On the other hand, the ability to attend Mass at different parishes points to the universality of the church, Jeremy said. “As Catholics, we recognize that Jesus is present in every church.”

The parish “shop and hop”

By Eric Sammons, July 28, 2010

One hundred years ago in this country, there were two factors which determined what parish a Catholic would attend: his geographic location and his ethnicity. If you were a recent immigrant, you went to the closest parish that served your people; if not, you just went to the closest non-ethnic parish. But this is not the case today: many Catholics shop around for a parish that suits their needs and then hop to the one that they like the best. Is this allowed? What are we to make of all this?

It should first be noted that lay Catholics are free to go to whatever parish they desire; they are not bound under canon law to attend their territorial parish. However, canon law does stipulate that a pastor of a parish is responsible for all the souls in that parish’s geographic territory, regardless of whether they attend his parish or not (or even if they are Catholic or not). So, in a certain sense, the pastor of your territorial parish is your pastor no matter if you attend his parish or not.

But even if it is allowed, is it a good idea to do the parish “shop and hop”? Should Catholics just attend their territorial parish or should they search around for a “good” parish? Opinions abound. My in-laws, who grew up before Vatican II, would never have dreamed of attending any parish but their “proper” one; they felt that a Catholic was supposed to support their local parish, no matter their personal opinion of it. However, many Catholics feel that it is necessary for their spiritual well-being to attend the “best” parish they can find.

When I first became Catholic, I was in the group that felt that you should attend your territorial parish unless the pastor there was preaching outright heresy. Even if the liturgy was poorly celebrated, the music stunk, and the pastor preached a “be nice” Gospel, a Catholic should support his local parish.

Then I had kids.

As any parent will tell you, having kids changes your entire perspective; you now see everything through their eyes. And I saw a child being raised in a watered-down Catholic Faith and it scared me. After that point, I decided I would attend the best parish within a reasonable distance because I wanted my kids to experience Catholicism and the Mass in a reverent, enthusiastic environment if at all possible.

Of course, one can take the parish “shop and hop” too far and demand perfection from a parish. But a perfect parish does not exist, and frankly, that attitude is one step away from Protestantism. We cannot expect a parish to be EXACTLY what we want, and we must be understanding of the difficulties of being a pastor. Leaving a parish simply because the music isn’t Gregorian chant or the pastor’s homilies are dry isn’t a valid reason, in my opinion. And furthermore, we should actively work to improve our parishes; too often I hear people complain about their parishes, but they do nothing to help improve them. A parish doesn’t become faithful by magic, it is done by the hard work and prayers of its members. In the end, though, I see no problem with attending the most faithful parish one can in their general geographic area. It is not an ideal solution, but it is an acknowledgment of reality.

Before anyone says it in the comments, I do understand that many Catholics in this country live in a situation in which there are no parishes around them that are strongly faithful to the teachings and practices of the Church. I sympathize with them and know that this situation can be quite a cross. I pray that they unite their sufferings with our Lord for the renewal of the entire Church, including their own parish.

An interesting side note: when my family moved to Gaithersburg, we started attending the closest parish to us – St. John Neumann, which was only about 1.5 miles down the road. It is a great parish and we have happily attended it for years. But about two years ago, I discovered that we actually live in the boundaries of another parish! That parish, which is about 4-5 miles away, is also a great parish, but we decided to stay at St. John Neumann, as we had become active members and had found a spiritual home there. But technically, we unknowingly hopped parishes.


Good points, Eric – but if the catechesis of a parish is lacking, that is a good reason to consider speaking to the Director of Religious Education about your specific concerns (in a charitable manner, of course), joining the parish faith formation board (if there is one) or volunteering to be a catechist – to work to help improve the system. If that does not work, choosing another parish is an option, but I would let the pastor know why my family was going elsewhere. Personally, I would never leave before attempting to improve the situation by working with the parish in a positive way. People who leave without doing that enable parishes to continue to provide poor catechesis. –Joyce Donahue

Staying in a “troubled” parish and fighting the good fight is commendable, as Joyce states. But if you have children, is it wise to subject them to poor liturgies, music, catechesis, etc while you try to turn the tide? We have hopped to remove our kids from that battlefield. Yes, the formation of children is the primary duty of the parents, but if your parish life doesn’t support (or worse is in opposition to) what you are doing at home trouble will find you. Our saying is “We must follow orthodoxy”; for our sake and the sake of our kids. It is regrettable, but necessary in our mind.

I understand where you are coming from and being in a parish that doesn’t serve your needs despite working as hard as you can is disheartening. And years ago, I was tempted to search for somewhere else after enduring 14 years of a pastor who was just “serving out” his time until retirement and determined to maintain the status quo till then. But I remembered praying in front of the same tabernacle for almost 20 years and Jesus reminding me: “I’m still here, Barbara. And this is your place here, with Me.” And so I stayed… and PRAYED!!! I offered up whatever I could for my parish. Today, I have an amazing pastor who with his assistants is working double-time to create a wonderful, vibrant atmosphere. I need to keep praying for them and for the people here who are tend to be very, very uninvolved. If you can remain, pray for your parish. If you must go somewhere else for the sake of your children’s formation, keep praying for your old parish! –Barbara

Here is our story. My husband and I were adamantly opposed to parish shopping and took our children to our local parish through thick and thin. As the kids reached middle school we had an increasing desire to have them experience more reverent and meaningful services, especially for Good Friday and Easter. Our local services were just dreadful. We found what we were seeking at the local Cathedral and never left.

Here is my favorite part, my eighth-grade son who was a bit of a rebel, asked me to contact the parish and sign him up to serve mass at the local Cathedral. As a consequence, he served all the way through high school which he would not have done at our old parish.

Recently our son accepted the Lord’s call to become a priest after a rocky period where he left the church and went out on his own for a couple of years. We look back on the decision to leave our old parish and know now that God had a plan for us that we could never have imagined and our son’s experience at our new parish was part of that. His formation at the Cathedral was a huge blessing for him. God bless all of you who are faithful to your local parish, especially if that is God’s call for you. Don’t judge some of us who “bail” too harshly though, you never know what God might be doing, I certainly didn’t. –Colleen

My wife and I drive 30 miles to Church, one way, and back home another 30 miles. This was because we had a terrible time finding a Church which actually embraced Catholicism and tradition. We do not have any regrets, even during the harsh winter when we have to leave the house an hour and a half early.

It is worth the cross for us. What is better is that the local parish found out, and because they’re losing parishioners hand over fist, they are beginning to make changes. So, sticking around may have caused them to maintain the status quo for they still get their money. But by leaving, they were financially bled dry, and made changes as a result.

God loves the free market. –Bruce

I appreciate your comments, Eric. We’ve had to change parishes twice. The first time the whole focus of our parish was social justice. With the pastor a practicing homosexual, we felt we had no choice. The second time in another state, the parish was so gigantic, over 20,000 parishioners; there was no place for us and no need for us at all. I even volunteered in the office in person and am bilingual, but no one ever took us up on the offer. Our new parish is a little smaller and we can volunteer as well as participate. It’s not perfect, but I do believe we can pray for the new parish.
-Anne G

I agree on many points in your article, except you forgot that 100 years ago we did not have Vatican 2. In some of my past experiences in witnessing many liturgical abuses and absolute indifference of the parishioners,(and I could relate some horror stories to you here), there is one way to solve what should never be a problem in the first place: As soon as ALL parishes begin to offer the Traditional Latin Mass, a great deal of the problems will end. I believe in my heart of hearts this day is arriving. It just takes time. It had to happen.-Jerald Frankin Archer

I understand completely. When I decided to convert, I called the closest parish to where I lived which was about 5 miles away. A friend of mine who is a member of my parish attends Mass with her mom at a different parish. However, her mother is always complaining how boring the parish priest is that he just reads his homily, his sermons are dry, etc., etc. Me being new to Catholicism suggest she come to Mass with us just thought I had suggest the biggest sacrilegious sin of all time. She is pre Vatican II. But she keeps on saying how lucky I am because I live near a great parish community. Since I have never attended Mass out side of my parish I have nothing to base my perceptions on. I do know people from my parish that have attended different parishes around the area, so I was always under the impression that even though, I was confirmed in one parish I could be a member of any parish I chose. Not that I am unhappy with my community. However, I do like having the opportunity to attend wherever and whenever I so choose, rather than be “assigned” a parish just on geography.
-Samantha Luty

Unfortunately, in many of the parishes in my area, the reasons why things are the way they are because the same camp of volunteers/parishioners have “served” in the parish for decades. From my experience, stepping up to change the way things are often gets you alienated or some other undesired result. I’ve seen people blocked out of ministries or ignored because of “parish politics”. What is the best thing to do in this situation? –EC

I believe God invented cars, horses, mules, two feet – for a reason. Go to a Church where the priest speaks of God to you and where the priest speaks of you to God. Seek it and you will find it. I have no problem with going to a church with such a priest – no matter the distance and no matter how many churches you pass by.
-Stephen Lowe

15 years ago my wife and I hopped parishes, but only after many years of attending our territorial one and TRYING to participate in apostolate to help improve the teaching, etc. Finally after being told flat out that our services were not needed we hopped. The pastor of the new parish welcomed us with open arms and immediately asked us to run the catechetical program and be on the parish council. He was so happy to welcome an orthodox younger couple into parish life. Our biggest concern has been NEITHER parish-hopping nor parish-staying. The phenomenon in our urban archdiocese (with a parish every few miles) has been getting orthodox families to belong to ANY parish. By far the custom for many years has been “parish take-out” or “parish drive-thru”, i.e., taking from a parish whatever is needed for sacramental or spiritual life but never belonging or giving by participating. This has been most especially the case with the many homeschooling families in our region who find imperfection in even the better Catholic parishes and use that as a reason to not register.

Parish Shop and Hop?

By Jason Gennaro, July 31, 2010

A few days ago, Eric Sammons at The Divine Life wrote a post about the parish “shop and hop”. (Read it all here:

I was struck by this:

When I first became Catholic, I was in the group that felt that you should attend your territorial parish unless the pastor there was preaching outright heresy. Even if the liturgy was poorly celebrated, the music stunk, and the pastor preached a “be nice” Gospel, a Catholic should support his local parish.

Then I had kids.

As any parent will tell you, having kids changes your entire perspective; you now see everything through their eyes. And I saw a child being raised in a watered-down Catholic Faith and it scared me. After that point, I decided I would attend the best parish within a reasonable distance because I wanted my kids to experience Catholicism and the Mass in a reverent, enthusiastic environment if at all possible.

I should note that few parishes in proximity to us have what I would deem “reverent liturgy”, including all the smells and bells. That said, we are blessed with a parish and a pastor who take the liturgy very seriously, in spite of a church design from the 1970s.

Notwithstanding my current situation, and even with kids, I lean towards “unless the pastor there was preaching outright heresy”, one should remain in their territorial parish.

What should be done, though? Stay and pray and fight for change… or leave for a more complete faith?


We are currently facing a situation such as that.
We are in an area that there AREN’T other Churches around. So moving would mean relocation to another State.
Because of my job situation, we are making a bigger overall decision based on what job offers I receive. If I don’t receive any within the time frame of my job, well then we have to make a hard decision, weighing all the pluses and minuses.
This comes into play big time. But do we weigh our poor Church situation as a NEGATIVE? I am a fighter, and I know that we have HELPED the situation and the people around us. Not in a prideful, “look how awesome I am” sort of way, we were just able to share our gifts and experiences with them, which have helped “reform” minds and hearts to a more authentic way of believing. That being said, we haven’t gotten very much “back.” Or have we? WE know God gives us what we need and those things that we want, which conform to his will.
So what if staying in a place or BEING in a place that is difficult is our cross? What if WE are helping others, while suffering? What if the way we pray, believe, dress, think, talk, act etc. rubs off on others in a parish that would otherwise not see such a thing? Should we leave bad parishes to themselves? And let them fade away? –Joe

In our archdiocese there are certain parishes with a reputation for liturgical and theological laxity and others that are more orthodox. Even when priests are moved, some are favored over others. It’s a shame. We were part of a small change at our territorial parish but the pressures on the other side were too strong. We have plenty of parishes here in suburbia so we are OK, but we drive about 15 miles to a parish now. About seven churches are closer.

Until recently, I had only lived in places that offered one Catholic parish (or only one with an English liturgy). The town where I live now and the town before that offered more churches. In the last town I went to my local parish and was relatively satisfied. When my family and I moved here, my daughter and I were going to the closest parish. One day, I decided to attend the Divine Liturgy at the local Melkite parish. I loved the liturgy, the pastor and the people in the parish. We go there now. I’m not sure if it parish hopping in the traditional sense. I wasn’t looking for a more reverent experience or better catechesis, but I am guilty of parish shopping. I actually have to drive past my old parish on my way to the Divine Liturgy. The fact is though, not all of us are fed by our local parish and a decision one way or the other should only be made after prayer and reflection. One size does not fit all, our Creator made each of us unique in our needs, desires, temperaments, and talents.

The Sin of
Parish Hopping

By Pastor Lovett, September 8, 2010 [This is Lutheran]

What if we taught our people, the people of God, that parish hopping is a sin. I know we preach against it, at least to other pastors and to the board of elders. But what if we said it was sinful from the pulpit? Of course, not every type of parish hopping is sinful. A military family that hops from one city to another, and so from one parish to another, is not sinning. But this isn’t really parish hopping. This is moving. Parish hopping is when a family or individual hops from parish to parish in the same general geographic location trying to find the one that best suits him or her or their family. What if we preached that this is sinful? After all, isn’t it?

Why do people parish hop? To go where their itching ears lead them. Their “ears” may be a desire for a better single’s group or a better youth group or a better choir or a more energetic preacher/service. How many Christians parish hop because they don’t think Christ is present among His people in their initial parish? How many leave for doctrinal reasons? Not many. People leave to suit their fancy. This is paramount to divorce. Let not man put asunder what God hath joined together. But our people have been led to believe that while parish hopping is not good, it certainly isn’t sinful. It’s in bad taste, but not sinful. But I argue that it is.

When a person leaves a parish for reasons other than moving or some other reason of necessity, then whatever the reason they leave is that which defines their relationship to the parish. If this reason is not Christ, then it is sinful. So if a person leaves because the baptismal font is moved, then his relationship to the parish, to the people of God gathered there, is either the position of the baptismal font or that nothing should change. If a family leaves the parish because the parish down the street has a better youth group, then it is the youth group that defines their relationship to the parish. This is sinful because it is not Christ. They are in essence confessing that it is not Christ that keeps them there, but other things.

Now the defense is that they’re not leaving Christ because they go elsewhere. They still believe, they still want the Sacrament, etc. But in fact, they are sinning against Christ. To say otherwise is like saying that the man who divorces his wife for another is not really sinning because he only divorced his wife because she was ugly or boring. But he still wants to be married, he still enjoys the benefits of marriage, he just wants to enjoy them with someone else. Is that so wrong? To want to be happy?

Is not the Body of Christ gathered to Christ at the parish where there is a small, inactive youth group or Sunday school? Or do these things make the Body of Christ more the Body of Christ? Are these the things of which our Lord says, “One thing is needful.” When a person leaves (again, not because they’ve moved or something akin to that, but because of personal preference) they have abandoned the place where God has placed them for selfish reasons. This is sinful.

But it is not only the parish hoppers who sin. It is also the pastor who lets them go and the one who receives them. Both should rebuke them. The one who lost them shouldn’t have transferred them out. He should have said “no”. He should ask them why they’re there and what their relationship is to the parish. He should point out their sin that they may be saved. If they do not listen and leave anyway, they will die for their sin (so to speak), but he will not be condemned. After all, we don’t need professional choirs or singles groups or whatever to be the Body of Christ. So the preaching has fallen far short in this regard. Moreover, the receiving pastor shouldn’t receive them. He should ask them, “Was Christ not proclaimed there? Was the preacher a heretic? Was the Sacrament neglected?” If not, then go back to where you came from; you have not the things of God in mind but the things of men.

Consider the family who left despite the pastor’s admonition not to, and then wouldn’t be received by the pastor they sought. Notwithstanding their traveling to yet a third parish, where would they go? From whom would they receive Christ? All things being equal, they would return to their original pastor and seek reconciliation. And he in turn would receive them back, reconciling them to Christ. What a picture of the Law and Gospel! What a picture of what it means to belong to Christ; to abide in Him! This is incarnational living.

And, no, just because they would go to a third, maybe a Methodist parish, does not free us from preaching the whole council of God. We’re not instructed to preach because they will hear, but because the word must be preached.

I know, this is drastic, even borderline psychotic, but I actually think it’s the truth. Parish hopping is sinful, and we pastors need to actively condemn it, not incidentally or occasionally call it a bad idea. I know, when you get a family of 5 from the parish down the road because you’re Bible Class is so good, it’s easy to receive them. But should you? Should you be one that causes division in the Body of Christ? After all, what is Paul, Apollos, or Cephas? Is not Christ everything?


Sorry, but I think this is overstated, especially the analogy to marriage. –Rev. Dr. Chris N. Hinkle

Catholic conundrum

By Msgr. Owen F. Campion, Our Sunday Visitor, December 26, 2010

A serious problem is developing in American Catholicism — namely, the decline in regular weekend attendance at worship services in a church.

With this decline inevitably comes a diminished sense of personal Catholic identity, and then, obviously, a slackened sense of commitment to Catholic beliefs and moral principles.

Contributing to this decline is the “shopping around” for parishes, greatly enabled by the easy mobility in our society, but also by the subjective view of the Mass that many Catholics have assumed. Added to the mix is the effect of fewer parochial schools, anchors that kept families close to their parish.

People choose their parishes no longer according to the neighborhood in which they live, but because they like, or dislike, the pastor, or the music, or the décor of the church, or the friendliness of the people, or the schedule of the liturgy. There may be an argument with the pastor, or the parish secretary, or the religious education director, or whomever.

This “shopping around” often is the first step toward dropping the habit of regular weekend attendance at Mass. Priests are transferred. Music directors come and go. The church may be redecorated.

With no alternative parish that meets all the personal requisites, many people simply stop going or go rarely. Then their ties to the Church weaken.

None of this likely will change for the better any time soon. The Catholic situation increasingly will be affected as churches are closed, and as Masses are celebrated less frequently because of the lack of priests. With fewer options to find preferred homilies or music or décor, Catholics accustomed to picking and choosing their place of worship will have fewer choices. Travelling longer distances to attend Mass will aggravate the problem. Under these conditions, will people be less likely to go far or to make concessions?

Not only is attendance regularly and weekly at Mass a concern, but very many Catholics — traditionalists as much as liberals — choose a “cafeteria model” for the Church and for their own views about religion and religious principles. They accept this, but they reject that.

This “cafeteria model” understandably corresponds with an attitude literally overtaking popular religious opinion in this country, absolutely within the mainline Protestant congregations, but also in the Catholic Church.

It is the attitude that religion is personal, subjective and individual. It has not hit the Catholic Church as strongly as Protestants — yet. However, this mindset definitely is affecting the Catholic Church in this country. The signs are not good.

On top of all this the general popular inclination that ignores, and indeed belittles, religion, and the popular media that, at best, never gives religion nor certainly Catholicism the slightest benefit, will have much negative impact.

I am reminded of an elderly Irish-American woman who attended Mass every day in her old parish church. As she aged and was widowed, she had to move far across town to be near her daughter. No longer able to drive, she insisted that her daughter had to pick her up every morning, rain or shine, and, of course, every Sunday, to take her to Mass in a new parish. The new church was different in almost every respect from the church in which she worshipped for a lifetime. She could not understand a word that the foreign-born pastor said. The music was — lively.

Why did she go? Her firm, short answer was, “The Mass is the Mass.”

Amen. The Mass is the Mass. Catholics must resolve that they will go to Mass and be with the Church.

Msgr. Owen F. Campion is the associate publisher of Our Sunday Visitor.


Yes, Msgr. Campion, the Mass is the Mass. But why should that truth require that good, faithful Catholics suffer through liturgies that do not live up to the Church’s high ideals? It’s one thing to have a priest or parish that strive for the ideal in continuity with our fine tradition, but it’s maddening (and near occasion of sin for some) to be witness to a priest or parish who ignore the Church’s ideals in lieu of following their own notions. By all means, criticize those who seek out the tambourine and acoustic guitar Mass, but if a parish 15 minutes away offers Gregorian chant and sung propers, can you excuse a Catholic for wanting to pursue those things? I mean, the Second Vatican Council and every Church document in the past 40 years dealing with liturgy has called us to put chant in pride of place! –Skeeton

So let me get this right: people who switch parishes may be more likely to stop going to Mass. So the way to make sure they keep going to Mass is to force them to stay in a parish they dislike?

I belonged to a parish for almost ten years-I was involved and enjoyed the parish community very much. The trouble began when I realized the priest would not discuss or even pray for prolife concerns because he didn’t want to “offend” those who had experienced abortion. Then he allowed the youth of the parish to support a diabetes walk, even though he was told that this organization finances and is solely about embryonic stem cell research. I prayed and prayed and I realized I needed to attend a nearby parish where Catholic doctrine was not put by the wayside.

This is kind of a crazy article. If you don’t like a priest or the congregation to the extent that you don’t want to go to the church, surely its better that you find a priest who you “click” with more. It’s got nothing to do with belief or dogma but with personalities. Even with the best will in the world you can’t make everyone get along, and if a priest’s personality is going to turn you away from the church then surely a better option would be to find another priest?

That’s correct; the Mass is not about us. We ‘church-hopped’ till we found a parish where our young children weren’t subjected to homilies that supported women priests, dissed “The Passion” movie, and was angry when Papa Ratzi was elected pope, etc. I do not feel guilty and we are very active in our ‘new’ parish. We want magisterial Truth taught, upheld, and lovingly encouraged from the pulpit, not personal opinion. My teenagers especially need this, as do I and my husband.

I agree that we should be resolved to belong to a community, but I also agree with Skeeton that sometimes church communities don’t live up to everything they could be… and if you have greater options to be part of a lively, vibrant, inclusive community, why would you choose otherwise? There are parishes out there that need to be inspired and moved by the Spirit to become more than they are… but sometimes the people hold them back. A Mass is a Mass, and a priest is a priest, but we are compatible with each other for good reason… we risk the chance of becoming complacent and stagnant if we don’t continue to seek the places and people that will help us grow.

I’m a convert and I dislike parish-hopping, since it feels too much like the church-shopping I did as a Protestant. That being said, I–to some extent–do it myself. I was lucky enough to come into the Church in a parish with a beautiful liturgy, energetic, holy, orthodox priests, a thriving NFP group, and a large pro-life presence. That is the experience I want to give my son and our future children–I do not want to undermine the authority of the priest by having them see abuses and disobedience week after week that contradicts what they learn at home. When a “home” parish routinely commits liturgical abuses and changes prayers, this puts parents in a difficult position. We do not want to set ourselves up as a rival authority that judges/”corrects” the priest, but we do not want our children hearing fuzzy or outright incorrect teaching and liturgical abuse. I do not want their home education in the faith undermined by the CCD teachers either. I want my children to grow up and learn the faith in a parish that supports Catholic doctrine and devotions–I want them to have Adoration, Benediction, and community Rosaries, not be somewhere where the priest and/or people deride these practices. So we drive 20 minutes to the Cathedral rather than 5 minutes to the parish nearer our house…

“Contributing to this decline is the “shopping around” for parishes, greatly enabled by the easy mobility in our society, but also by the subjective view of the Mass that many Catholics have assumed.”

And what about the “subjective view of the Mass” that many celebrants have assumed? How about pastors who have abdicated ultimate responsibility for the proper celebration of the liturgy and handed over the decisions to unorthodox music directors and “liturgy directors” or celebrants who, God forbid, make ad hoc changes to the liturgy by their own “authority”? How about homilies from the pulpit that have nothing to do with the Word of God proclaimed in that day’s Liturgy but rather focus on a personal experience of the celebrant or of an amusing anecdote that could be taken from one of the “Chicken Soup…” books. How about priests who deny the necessity of Confession and distribute the Body of Christ to every single person who presents themselves, regardless of age, faith, or known to be in manifestly grave sin.

Until the Liturgy and the Sacraments are taken seriously by every priest, and there is consistency from parish to parish, people are going to parish hop. –Greg

There are many in my parish, in positions of power, that actively do their best to bring in Un-Catholic ideals and philosophies that directly contradict Catholic principals. When confronted with these errors, they attack, gossip, and ostracize all those who do not share their ideals and vision (yes, I have witnessed these things happening). They pick and choose who will serve on any ministry, leaving those others, truly willing to serve, out in the cold. I suggested that my parish have a Latin Mass once a year. I do not think that was an unreasonable request, but from the looks I received, you’d think I came from another planet. I am now considered “one of them”, and a nutcase. Yet in my parish, it seems more about “their” house, and less about GOD’S house.

It’s not difficult to spot these errors, and you don’t have to have super-intellect, either. All one needs is a copy of the Catechism and a bit of time to read it. Besides all of that, it is really important that prayer be added, so you can see, sometimes during the Mass things that are not true.

Case in point, my Deacon during the Homily said quite clearly that “the Miracle of the loaves and fishes was NOT a Miracle, but a sign”. And when I would read the bulletin after Mass, I would find material from a “Priest in good standing”, saying that “Mary taught Jesus how to believe”! If people are not being spiritually fed – they will go elsewhere.

I am tired of my faith being hijacked by those in charge of guiding His flock. And since I am already one of those “ostracized”, they really can’t do much more to me, I figure — So I have begun to “fight” back. I pray every day for my enemies, as well as my friends. I have written to my Bishop more times than I can count (with no response), and have stood up in these parish “faith” meetings, which are more like get-togethers and not about our Faith, and actively correct any errors I find that they are promoting.

This is my Church, too, and I am also a member of the Body of Christ, same as them. I cannot stay silent, while His Church is being torn and the Truth of our Faith is being ignored. The choices these people make indeed have Eternal consequences, and if I don’t speak out, then I am just as responsible.

As a traditional -type of Catholic, we, meaning our family of 5, have found that the typical parish surely is not what it used to be, meaning priests who don’t hold up to Catholic teachings and morals. We church hopped every Sunday until we found our home, a Byzantine Catholic church, and we couldn’t be happier! -Peters family

When one can not find a parish that adheres and accepts all of Catholic truth, then to nourish his soul he should and must attend Mass where it is offered. Why do we have to put up with some priest and some bishops who refuse to teach the full Gospel? It seems to me that where ever the body and blood of Christ is offered so should the boldness of His word be spoken. Speak the truth in love. To do less is to force people to look for the truth in other parishes.
-Jerry Christopher

People leave parishes because duly appointed authorities violate stated norms and do so flagrantly.

Msgr. Campion needs to get around. The issue does not reside exclusively with the laity. Frankly, leadership skills among ordained are … well … poor to put it politely.

Some people “hop” because they are invited to after challenging liturgical abuse – e.g. communion bread of all shapes sizes and flavors, standing through the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest with musical accompaniment to the Eucharistic Prayer, non-Catholics taking communion, non-ordained people giving homilies. It goes on. Sometimes when you challenge these abuses you are politely asked “why don’t you just go someplace else.”

Sometimes it isn’t liturgical abuse. As a CCD teacher I actually sat and listened while a Ph.D. in psychology told a group of 7th and 8th graders he believed saints “orgasmed” when in deep prayer. I was so stunned I couldn’t object. Once, when shopping after moving into a new area I asked the priest if the parish was community centered or Christ centered. He turned around and walked away never to be seen again.

Sometimes my dear Msgr., it isn’t the hopper, it’s the landing zone. –Steve

Msgr Campion is right at he is aiming for the more desirable behaviour, but it would be helpful if he would write an article with practical advice on approaching priests who redesign the liturgy and preach from the Gospel according to Mavericks. People also need to feel they will be supported by their Bishops when bringing these concerns forward. -Sr. M.A.

I am so glad I read the comments because this article made me extremely upset. I have been grappling with issue for some time now. We moved to a very large suburb out of Chicago, and the Church in our community very much seems like a potpourri of modern, liberal theology. There are drums on the altar, hand clapping, PowerPoint presentations on the altar during the homily that had nothing to do with the Gospel, Protestant hymns, etc. There is absolutely no reverence in this Church by the Father s or the congregation. There are people peddling goods and services in the Narthex like it is a convention hall. Father mumbles and speeds through the Consecration like he has somewhere better to be. There is never talk of anything that might make people feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. Hell, sin, and Purgatory have never once been tackled during Mass. This Parish seems to have the social aspect down, but the Mass seems like an afterthought. I am a married mother of two very young children with one on the way, and since my husband is C of E, I am the sole teacher of our Faith in our home. Msgr., is it not better for me to travel 20 minutes to get to Mass on Sunday with the kids at a Church that teaches the true Magisterium of the Catholic Church? Should I stay at what equates to a Protestant mega Church because that is the Church closer to my home? I want to attend Mass and be present with the Lord, not feel like I am at a show. Things are different, Msgr. Many people no longer have the luxury to live down the street from a Parish. Even this Parish is still a 10 minute drive. Trust me, I would love to have a Church in walking distance, but financially, we can not afford to live in area like that. I feel I am doing my best to teach my children the true teaching of the Church. I just wish we would receive more support for trying to seek out the Truth, and not be chastised because our local Parishes are not living up to their obligation to teach the True, Catholic Faith.

We are a family created through transracial adoption. We attended our “local parish” for several months. I really wanted to like the parish, to be part of it, to find a parish family in this new part of town to which we had moved. NO ONE spoke to us. Finally one person did. They spoke long enough to tell us that we should meet “The XXXX family” because they have a family like ours. We went church hopping the next week. I do not need to expose my children to that kind of blatant racism. We found a parish 20 minutes further away, yet we attend routinely and have are now active members of that parish. Which was better – to stay at the local parish where I would have found every reason to NOT go to Mass because I wanted to protect my children, or go to a parish that welcomed our family and extended the hand of Christ to us.

I don’t believe for a minute that church-hopping is the reason why 99.9% of Catholics that don’t go to Mass regularly are not going to Mass. People nowadays and unfortunately it is usually young people do not feel the need to go to Church and most of that is the culture.

These people usually are apart from their families (which used to be a good source of support for church-going), have friends who are busy doing so-called fun stuff on Sundays or even kid stuff (there are so many sports leagues and not enough fields that a lot of leagues have games on Sundays) or just believe that religion is not for them.

I believe people are just coming up with excuses not to attend Mass because they don’t think it is important because of the culture in America and the world right now. I have read that this even occurs with immigrant families in the 3rd generation or so, first 2 generations go to Mass every Sunday but the 3rd or after, decide it isn’t for them and don’t go. So even the devout Mexican and Vietnamese Catholics are being affected by the culture. Not sure how we combat this except by prayer and evangelization.
-Eric B

The Catholic Church is the church of Christ.
I moved because the pastor was mentally ill and the diocese refused to respond to the letters of the loving, caring parishioners of many years. The parish existed before the pastor came but it is barely existing now. The bishops must show care and understanding for the good people rather than defend the priest who is causing problems (due to illness).
Our churches are the centers of our rich devotions and often friendships. I didn’t want to move but the bishop was not responding to the damage done by a priest who was grossly hurtful. Perhaps the church owns some of the problem with declining attendance?

-P Kudrav

Church Hopping

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft April 4, 2011

The more years that separate me from my time at Notre Dame, the more I realize how easy college made certain things in life.  Making friends was easy as I was surrounded by a great community of people with whom I had a lot in common; I never had to spend a lot of energy finding people with similar interests.  We also had Mass in our dorm, which meant we all went to Mass with our closest friends — it didn’t take a lot of extra work to be part of a spiritual community.  In fact, being a theology major and, in general, just being a Domer, it was never difficult to find tons of groups, retreats, events, or volunteer opportunities that guaranteed an awesome spiritual community.

Then I graduated and lived in a Catholic Worker house.  As a community we said daily prayers together, usually attended daily Mass, and were always having discussions about faith and Church teachings and how to live out the Gospel.  It too was a wonderful spiritual community.

Then came Austin — when I finally found out how hard it is to make friends in the “real world”.  There was no longer a guaranteed community.  I was in the world where most people were very different from me and I had to work to find people that I could relate to and be friends with.  As for a spiritual community, this was even harder.  I couldn’t just walk down the hallway with my roommate to go to Mass.  I couldn’t just get dressed and head downstairs for Morning Prayer.  I had to put effort into finding a place to call home.

Ever since getting married and moving to a new part of town, Brandon and I have been bouncing from parish to parish looking for a home.  Parish-hopping if you will.  Between me, the theology major, and Brandon, a complete and total liturgical nerd, we are extremely picky when it comes to finding the right parish.  A good homily is a big deal to me, which immediately narrows down the pool.  Sometimes we get tired of mediocre liturgical music, so we want a place with a good choir that sings traditional songs.  I also want a church with an active Hispanic ministry where we can attend Spanish Mass at least once a month.  On top of this we want a vibrant community that is active in social justice, interested in discussing and sharing their faith and deepening their understanding of the Church and God.

With all that criteria we set out to find the right fit — and it turned out to be much harder than we expected. One church had a bad sound system and we couldn’t understand anything.  One church had horrible music.  The priest at one wasn’t charismatic enough.   One had no cry room.  One had no social justice ministry.  And so on, and so on: bad homilies, not diverse enough, no Spanish Mass, no English Mass, not welcoming enough, too big, too small.

Within a fifteen-minute drive we can get to at least 12 churches so we sampled a lot.  Feeling pretty unfulfilled with our search, Brandon and I sat down to discuss our priorities.

After all this church shopping, we realized how jerky we were being.  The Church is made up of people and people aren’t perfect.  How could we expect to find the “perfect” parish and hold churches to such a high standard when we ourselves are far from being perfect parishioners?  We typically show up during the Gloria due to figuring out how to get around with our two little ones in tow.  We distract people around us when we’re attempting to squeeze our way into a pew after Mass has already started, not to mention that Olivia is certainly no angel during Mass once we’re settled.  We have yet to start giving at church again on a regular basis, and for now we don’t even have much time to give to the parish.

Thinking about these points definitely knocked me off my high horse.  How could I criticize the priest for not doing cartwheels to keep my attention during his homily?  Or criticize the choir for being slightly flat when singing the entrance song?  We don’t go to Mass to be entertained, we go to grow in grace and in faith and to worship God in communion with others.  Whether the liturgy is done well or not, it is still worthy of our time.  If God can be patient with all of my imperfections, then I should be able to do the same with others.  If the parish and the Mass are good enough for Jesus to become physically present then it is certainly good enough for us to spend an hour in prayer.

We narrowed our priorities: good liturgy, welcoming environment, good Spanish and English ministries, space to accommodate young children, and a place that we could benefit from their ministries without putting much time in at the moment, but still having plenty of opportunity to get involved in later when life settles down a bit.

We finally picked one and were happy to have some consistency to our Sundays.  While the Catholic Church has always been a home, we’ve finally found our home within the Church.

As most parishes do, this church holds a Fish Fry on Fridays during Lent, so we decided to celebrate our decision by enjoying the feast.  We walked in, got our food and sat at a table by ourselves.  We saw the pastor walk in and start greeting people.  Expecting him to just say hello and move on to the next table, we were surprised when he sat down and said, “Hey, you guys are back. I’m so happy.”  Then proceeded to make fish faces at Olivia while he sat and ate with us.

Yep, we’re home.

After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, Vanessa has spent time as a Catholic Worker, a case manager, and a theology teacher. She now works for a Catholic school and is a freelance writer who lives in Austin with her husband and three sweet little girls. See more articles by Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft

Parish-hopping, or life-saving?

By Brenda, April 13, 2012

This past weekend, our beloved faith community, the Oratory Church of St. Boniface, was featured in a surprisingly admiring profile in the New York Times. I guess we’re “progressive” enough to have bypassed the Times’ Catholicism gag reflex, but we are also orthodox, liturgically traditional (and magnificent), and growing. Notably, we are a “parish of intention,” drawing most of us from other, geographically defined parishes in the city and beyond. (The immediate environs are mostly office space, although new condos and hotels are springing up and sending us new members, too.)

All this raises, amid the good feelings, some questions about the idea of parish “hopping” or “shopping.” The notion of a local parish is deeply entrenched, especially in New York City, where many Catholics still identify themselves by parish rather than neighborhood. [Example: I was born in Richmond Hill, Queens. A fellow Queens Catholic will inevitably ask me if I was born into St. Benedict or Holy Child Jesus. The answer is: the former.] So: Should one not “bloom where one is planted”?

And all I can answer is: We tried. God, how we tried, starting back in childhood. My dad, an adult convert, tried gamely to embrace post-Vatican II reforms, but he fell in love with the Church of Latin and incense. I can’t imagine what it cost him to sit supportively while my “folk group” at St. Anastasia strummed their way through “Teach Your Children.” Occasionally, to keep his sanity (and sanctity), we would venture afield for liturgical respite at a more traditional mass, or a parish rumored to have a beautiful pipe organ that was still put to good use. We once tried a semi-outlawed Tridentine mass out on Long Island somewhere; my dad was so orthodox that he insisted upon hearing a licit mass first because the Latin mass wouldn’t “count.”

Flash forward over the years. I have lived in many parishes. All had the most important thing: the true presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. Many also had dedicated and able clergy and reasonably welcoming communities. All had uniformly ghastly music, but we got used to it.  (My dad’s trick was to bury his head in his hands prayerfully after Communion, unobtrusively giving him the chance to place a finger over each ear and drown out the caterwauling.) We tried to “offer up” the mechanical homilies, the occasional lunatic outbursts of liturgical dance, the nun-led schemes to festoon the churches with hideous felt-and-burlap banners. In most parishes, I served as a catechist in some well-intentioned but futile Sunday-school program. But when we moved from one neighborhood to another, with every parish leave-taking, we felt as if we were taking our hands from a bucket of water.

Finally, my husband and I bought a house in Brooklyn. For a decade, we tried to bloom where we landed, to be the “fresh blood” that our fading, once-grand local parish needed, at least in its English-speaking community. (There were vibrant Spanish and Haitian masses, but we are neither Latino nor Creole-speaking.) Meanwhile, family illness and financial stress battered us. Every Sunday, we dutifully endured sermons (mostly scolding) from embittered and exhausted priests, or struggled to glean the garbled message from good-hearted missionary priests who barely spoke English. We had a baby while still care-giving for a host of frail elders. We were spiritually dying of thirst. If you had said the words “pastoral care” to us, we would have had not the faintest inkling what you meant.

And so we “hopped” one morning to St. Boniface, where a friend (a refugee from this same parish) said the music was beautiful. It was more than accomplished; it was infused with caring and awe. The welcome was immediate; there was even a coffee hour (“rather Protestant,” my mother observed dryly). And the homily was warm, articulate, and compassionate, drawn from the lived experience of the priest and delivered as I would speak to an old friend. That’s it, in a word: Caring. Everyone seemed to care.

We came more often, for a spiritual booster shot, before returning to our sad, mostly empty home church. (No, I will not name it.) Our daughter was in a stroller, just old enough to start observing her surroundings when we’d say, “You’re in church now!” I looked around at the handful of elderly parishioners, listened to the umpteenth rant that we were failing to give enough money, cringed at the wildly off-key leader of song performing her solo. I had prepared class after class of Mexican and Caribbean kids from struggling families to receive their First Holy Communion in this church. Our daughter had been baptised there, by a gifted pastor who burned himself out trying to save the place after years of neglect had brought it to the brink of insolvency. We were tapped out. Like the woman at the well, I felt like saying, “Give me this water to drink so that I don’t have to come here anymore!”

Our decision to shop and then hop was a painful one, but one I cannot regret. Often, you can do things for your children that you couldn’t do for yourself. And I couldn’t bear to have my daughter think “Church” was those bare, ruined choirs.

In the years that followed, the community at St. Boniface–not just the clergy, but countless friends–have buoyed us up, inspired us, and modeled Christ for us. I have laughed there (which would make our founder, St. Philip Neri, very pleased) and also wept there, and never have I struggled alone.

And this past Christmas, two of my daughter’s friends in Catholic high school asked to join us for midnight mass. They loved it. If you know teenagers, you know that this is a miracle.

I am not certain how our geographic parish is doing these days; well, I hope. It is, at least, still open, although its school closed a few years ago. (Our daughter went to another Catholic parochial school nearby, since St. Boniface doesn’t have a school.) We transplanted ourselves where we were able to bloom, in a parish that was itself dying until a visionary community rolled up its sleeves and got to work. And now I feel like Peter asking Jesus, “Lord, where else would we go?”

Meeting them where they are: a profile of an “intentional parish” in Brooklyn

By Deacon Greg Kandra, April 10, 2012

I missed this on Good Friday — I was otherwise engaged — but it’s worth a read.  It looks at a growing phenomenon in the Church: people seeking out parishes outside of their geographic boundaries.

From the New York Times:

St. Boniface attracts an average of 700 people a weekend, remarkable when only about a third of Roman Catholics registered with the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York attend services on an ordinary Sunday, according to a spokesman for the organizations. Social justice programs, like a secular nonprofit group that helps support a community in Kenya, and homilies flecked with literary allusions draw a diverse and impressive crowd, with many writers, civic leaders and professionals in the mix.

The church’s high ritual and its open and inclusive approach appeal to people born to the faith, converts, Christians of other denominations and, particularly, young families. The priests have also made a special point of welcoming Catholics who have been distressed by some of the church’s politics or its sometimes rigid hierarchy.

St. Boniface is an example of an intentional parish, a phrase some members of the clergy use to describe a destination church that attracts people from beyond its geographic boundaries. Many gay and lesbian Catholics travel to the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Chelsea. Some traditionalists attend the Latin Mass at the Church of St. Agnes in Midtown, and foreign language speakers often go distances to hear Mass in their mother tongues. But St. Boniface stands out because the vast majority of those who worship there do not live within the parish’s boundaries but come from across Brooklyn and Manhattan, some even from the suburbs.

There are many denominations of Protestants, allowing worshipers to choose churches that reflect their values and priorities. But until recently, parish shopping was unheard of among Catholics, who, for generations, went lockstep to their local churches.

Indeed, Catholics in New York’s immigrant enclaves often identified themselves according to parish, not neighborhood.

“It was just the vernacular, ‘Which parish do you live in?’ ” recalled Justice Robert J. Miller of the New York State Supreme Court, who grew up in Brooklyn. He now drives to St. Boniface from Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, but in the 1950s, he said, the parish “was your world.”

Catholics no longer live in a Catholic world, explained David Gibson, author of “The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful Are Shaping a New American Catholicism,” and a St. Boniface parishioner.

“Catholicism now is more about making choices,” he said, and for some, that means traveling to parishes where they feel affirmed.

“Meeting them where they are” is a mantra among St. Boniface’s five priests and a lay brother, who make it a point to invite new faces to monthly home-cooked lunches in the rectory.

But the inclusive philosophy has a stickier side. While the priests hold true to and convey all the church’s teachings, whether from the Vatican, the United States Conference of Bishops or the Diocese of Brooklyn, they accept that not everyone in the pews does.

When a lesbian couple approached one of the priests, the Rev. Mark Lane, about baptizing their child, they were afraid he would turn them away, he said. But they were welcomed. For Father Lane, 55, the parish’s openness simply reflected Christ’s teachings to love everyone. Even if that could be taken as an implicit critique of the church’s position on homosexuality, the parish did not make the family occasion into a cause.

“The danger is, you turn that into a platform and forget about the persons involved, and I think that’s wrong,” Father Lane said. The two mothers stood at the font with their child along with everyone else. “The symbol is visually powerful, but that’s enough.”

The priests prefer to address controversial issues like same-sex marriage and the death penalty outside of Mass, and while anti-abortion marches are listed in the church bulletin, they are not announced after services. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, head of the Diocese of Brooklyn, recently wrote a letter condemning the Obama administration’s mandate that health insurance cover birth control; the letter was distributed in the church, but the priests have preferred to address the debate one on one with parishioners.

“It is not to be evasive about any important issues,” the Rev. Joel Warden said of the approach, “but rather to create hospitality so people on both extremes could feel comfortable here.”

St. Boniface’s culture is rooted in its unique structure, Father Warden added. While most Catholic churches have priests on 12-year assignments, St. Boniface’s five priests and its brother are committed to the parish for their entire lives as part of the Community of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, an international Catholic society.

Unlike priests assigned by a diocese, Father Warden said, “I’m not here to execute an individual vision of what the parish should be.” He added, “I’m working in collaboration.”

The Brooklyn Oratory arrived at St. Boniface in 1990, when the number of parishioners had dwindled to 50. Its ministry in Downtown Brooklyn largely meant repairing the boiler, painting the gloomy nave white and gently asking prostitutes to move off the church steps. The construction of luxury condos nearby has brought new families in recent years. But the parish had to grow by word of mouth.

At the monthly social hour of the Brooklyn Oratory Young Professionals recently, three dozen parishioners in their 20s and 30s mingled around a table of pigs in blankets, carafes of wine and bottles of Brooklyn Brewery beer.

With a cup of sparkling water in hand, Amanda Straub, 38, of Park Slope, Brooklyn, said she had resumed attending Mass regularly only a year ago. The sex-abuse scandals had not kept her away, she said, nor had any particular church policy. “I just didn’t know what place it should have in my life,” she said. Having read about St. Boniface in a profile of Linda Gibbs, a deputy mayor in the Bloomberg administration, Ms. Straub went to a Saturday evening Mass. The homily enthralled her, and she kept coming back.

Pedro De Oliveira, 31, lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, but attends St. Boniface, where he counts the priests among his closest friends. “I think our generation asks much more, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ” he said. “They’re much less likely to go to church because it’s a rule.”

Church leaders are concerned about young people leaving the faith in the time between when they leave home and when they marry, and some consider the decline in Catholic weddings in the city — the number in the New York Archdiocese fell to 4,679 in 2010, from 10,803 in 1990 — to be a troubling indicator. Citing the problem of keeping unmarried adults in the fold, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, recently gave parish shopping a soft endorsement. At a conference at Fordham University in January, Cardinal Dolan responded to a young Catholic disappointed with his local parish by saying: “I don’t mind telling you to be rather mercantile. If the particular parish that you’re in does not seem to be listening, there are an abundance of those that are.”

Msgr. Kieran E. Harrington, a spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn, is not a fan of the practice. Though the number of people who travel to parishes outside their neighborhoods is too small to make a real impact on the diocese, he said, he feels that it’s a Catholic’s duty to worship locally.

“The church is about growing where you’re planted,” said Monsignor Harrington, the pastor at the Church of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, which draws longtime Haitian and Hispanic residents and recently arrived white professionals.

“It’s like a family,” he said. “You don’t choose your family.”

Serena Derryberry, 44, a physician, confessed that she felt guilty for not keeping her body — and her resources — in the struggling parish near her home. It is a soaring but broken-down cathedral where pews sit largely empty and an echo makes it impossible to hear the homily. Sitting in it, she said, “is depressing, lonely.”

“I’m too selfish,” she said, filing out of Mass at St. Boniface, her toddler son in her arms. “I want to go where I’m having a good experience, and not have to work at getting it.”



While in the context of modern American thought, with endless emphasis on our multitude of “choices” of where to shop, dine, vacation, etc., the notion of “parish shopping” may seem perfectly logical, the fact remains that the practice is still illicit with certain extraordinary exceptions.

Under Canon Law parish membership is still determined by location of domicile.

One can register “extra-parochially”, but I have always understood (since I was in such a situation many years ago) that there are two conditions that must be met in order to to do so. First, the desire to register in a parish other than one’s canonical/geographic one must be motivated by “genuine pastoral need”, for which the burden of proof is entirely on you (and make no mistake about it, personal tastes regarding preaching style, liturgy, music, aesthetics, architecture, socio-political slant, identity group, etc., do not qualify as “genuine pastoral need”). Second, the pastor of the parish you wish to register in must give his consent, as he is not juridically required to minister to those outside of his geographic territory (or to put it another way, you can’t just walk in to any parish and say “I want to get married here” or “Baptize my child” or “Bury my dead sister”, as the pastor wouldn’t have any idea who you were or if you were even a practicing Catholic!).

I have long believed that the “Balkanization” of the local church began when we started getting lax about parish membership, thereby letting people start thinking of themselves as “Adjective-Catholics” (choose your adjective: liberal, conservative, traditionalist, charismatic, social-justice, Euro-, Afro-, Indio-, etc.) instead of just “Catholics” who are all subsumed in to the Body of Christ.

Since Deacon Kandra is a member of the clergy of the Diocese of Brooklyn, it pains me to let him know how many of my friends who are fellow Catholics, who live in the Diocese of Brooklyn, act and behave and talk about themselves as if they are members of the Archdiocese of New York (as I am). When I point out to them that Bishop DiMarzio is actually their Bishop and that they are indisputably under his obedience, they shrug and say things like “oh well, I like it better here (fill in parish)” or “I’m a member of the Universal Church, so it doesn’t matter” (Yes, we’re all members of the Universal Church, but within that Universal Church, we also belong to a LOCAL church under the pastoral leadership and spiritual fathership of our bishop-ordinary, and yes, our local parish priest!). I have even tried to explain to them that it could even be a sin against both charity and justice not to support their own parish, but to no avail. It falls on deaf ears.

I pray that all Catholics slay that beast of spiritual pride which says “It’s all about ME and what I want, like, prefer, etc.,”.

Christ is the vine, and we are the branches.

Gaudete in Domino Semper! –Richard M. Sawicki

This article is full of baloney. –Joan

When I move to a new place it is my practice to search out the best parish available. I wouldn’t trust the health of my body to a doctor simply because he lived on the same street, and I am far less likely to trust the health of my immortal soul to the life of a parish simply because my apartment happens to fall in a certain region. –Peregrinus

Oh, for Christ’s sake! (And I mean that literally.) Tell me church shopping doesn’t occur across the board and that just as many people aren’t fleeing the warm and the fuzzy for the rigid and the righteous. Tell me it’s just an accident of geography that whole neighborhoods full of Catholics are trads—especially when, as is common, traditional parishes are found smack in the middle of the unpopulated urbs where there aren’t any neighborhoods to speak of anymore. It’s reprehensible, apparently, when some of the Body of Christ seek welcome and nourishment for their souls outside their own front yard, but when others do, it’s the martyrs taking to the mattresses to preserve the True Faith. Kettle, meet pot. And when you’re finished with the tweezers, there’s a log in your eye that needs addressing. -Joanne K McPortland

While Richard seems to want to hide in the intricacies of Canon Law, the rest of us — including some bishops — realize that Jesus taught us that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:27)

Non-Territorial parishes are perfectly licit in Canon Law. They exist everywhere — you just don’t know about them.

–Many are known historically as “nationality parishes” which were created for one specific language group regardless of where those folks resided.

–Some bishops have given “non-territorial” privileges to inner-city parishes that cannot support themselves through membership within blighted areas of urban America.

–AND do not forget about the Military Archdiocese of the United States where ALL the parishes are “non-territorial.”


I know a sizable number of people who are registered in my parish live outside its geographical boundaries. It is a fact of Catholic life. I know someone who lives on Staten Island and drives to Brooklyn because he likes the priests at a particular parish. He’s even changed his membership to that parish — which is in a different diocese from the one in which he lives.

What’s worse? To go out of obligation to a parish down the block with listless liturgies, bad music and half-baked homilies, or to go 30 minutes out of your way to a place that leaves you feeling like you have been spiritually challenged, uplifted and fed? Deacon Greg Kandra

Now that the New York Times has called his attention to it, I wonder how the Bishop of Brooklyn will feel about the way Fr. Lane runs his intentional parish. The two-mother couple had a child baptized there. Do they also regularly receive Holy Communion? Would Fr. Lane welcome Barbara Johnson (the Buddhist-lesbian from Maryland) and her partner? –Chris

Actually, parochial registration is a merely a discretionary administrative act, and not part of canonical requirements (unlike the registration of conferral of sacraments). One is a member of one’s parish of domicile (personal or geographic) automatically, but one is free since the 1983 code of canon law was adopted to attend Mass and support a parish wherever one pleases within one’s diocese. Domicile is associated with certain canonical requirements (for matrimony, for example), and one has certain canonical rights in one’s parish of domicile that one does not necessarily have canonically in another parish. The non-domicile parish can choose to “register” you or not (in your case, either the parish or the diocese in question seems to have adopted a standard in that regard, but it’s not a standard of canon law as such; other places may have none whatsoever, and I believe that is more common), and can place burdens on your ability to send your children to its school that it might not place on its own canonical members. –Liam

The fact that Catholics parish shop should not constitute a news flash to anyone. This has been going on in large numbers for quite a long time. What galls about this article is the timing of this piece of “news” and the parish it highlights. Why would the NY Times choose to run an article about some Catholics choosing a liberal-ish parish in 2012? It just seems to fit the Times template- that no right-minded person would stay in a parish teaching Catholic moral truths openly and without equivocation- too easily. -Mary Russell

With the responsibility for not just me but also my wife and children, I definitely “parish shopped”. In my diocese in the late 90′s to early 2000′s that meant looking for a parish where I would not have to regularly explain to my children why what Father said in the homily was heresy – usually of the modernist, bible as non-historical myth meant to explain moral lessons, explain away all miracles variety. I spent 3 months sitting in the pews in 11 different local parishes to survey what was available. Finally my wife and I gave up trying to find a parish that would keep our children in the faith. At the parish we ended up at we have good fellowship with people our age, but there is *nothing* for high school to young adult ages. Also, the pastor gives really good homilies when he sticks to explaining the scriptures (I think he used to teach at the diocesan seminary), but he really goes off the rails when he talks politics (he appears to be a true liberal democrat) or against the military in his homilies (even though he has had an associate pastor who was a marine chaplain in Afghanistan), and his demeanor comes across as smug to many, including our children. Those “off the rails” moments are such that our children (now young adults) absolutely refuse to attend that parish. Also as a result, we now have difficulty convincing our children of the importance of attending Sunday Mass at any parish. -Art ND

The issue of attending an intentional parish is not new, especially if one looks to attend a parish which may cater to an ethnic group. For example, in the Archdiocese of Washington, we have parishes which cater to particular ethnic groups — Italian, Polish, Vietnamese, etc. — as well as parishes which have Masses and cultural events for those of a particular ethnic community. Also, since Latin Mass is not celebrated at every parish in the Archdiocese, we have people attending from many miles away. I think that the issue which bothers me is the one of the two lesbians. -A Washington DC Catholic

I’m very happy with the pastoring at my parish but I can tell you that if I had to bear uninspiring preaching week after week I’d look for another parish. People put down Fr. Corapi but that sort of inspiration is what I feel I need. How can you blame people for being bored or made to feel insignificant or taken for granted? There are people who leave the Catholic Church over poor pastoring. Is it better that they change parishes or become Protestants? –Manny

If I had stayed at the parish in my geographic boundary I wouldn’t be Catholic now. Thank God, Father allowed us to register at the parish we do go to. -Dymphna

Parish Hopping

By Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, January 30, 2013

Parish hopping is defined as moving from parish to parish in the hope of finding the “right” one. It is the Catholic version of the “church hopping” found in Evangelical, Pentecostal, and some mainline Protestant churches. (Some interesting discussions of “church hopping” can be found online.)

The reason such hopping occurs more frequently among Protestants may be explained by the fact that the primary, in some cases the sole, emphasis in their religious services is on Scripture, whereas the primary emphasis in the Catholic Mass is on the Eucharist. For obvious reasons, it is easier to find cause for complaint in the presentation of Scripture than in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Of course, enterprising complainers can discover offenses in the celebration of the Eucharist, as well. They may say, “Father Aloysius doesn’t fully kneel after the consecration” or “He mumbles ‘the body of Christ’ when he distributes communion.” In their minds, that is enough to warrant the “I’m outta here” response.

There are many other reasons (aka excuses) for parish hopping. Some people don’t like the kind of music favored by the choir director. Others are upset with the flower arrangements on the altar. Still others are outraged when sixth graders from the parish school tap dance to the tune of Ave Maria at the foot of the altar. (OK, I made that last one up.) Some just don’t like the cut of the pastor’s vestments.

Historically, a major complaint of many Catholics about their pastors has been that they talk too much about money. No doubt some of today’s parish hoppers would cite that as their reason for leaving. They expect to find, somewhere, a pastor who will have the financial skills to manage the parish and school with the few dollars they put into the basket each week . . . or at least one who will have the good grace not to whine about his inability to do so.

Some Catholics engage in parish hopping because the pastor is “too liberal.” To be fair, this reason sometimes has a solid basis in reality, notably when the pastor expresses from the pulpit views that, in times past, would have gotten him burned at the stake or at least declared a heretic. But then again, in other cases “too liberal” can be a fancy way of saying “he disagrees with me.”

An interesting variation on “He’s too liberal” is “His sermons are more about politics than spirituality.” This is not a new complaint by any means. Nor is it entirely lacking in merit. In the 1960s a friend of mine had such a reaction to his pastor. As he put it, “I can read the New York Times myself without having it read to me from the pulpit.” However, he didn’t go parish hopping in response—he dealt with his frustration in a more mature way, by grinding his teeth during the sermon.

Today’s Catholics, being more mobile than their parents, can be more adventurous in their search for the perfect parish. I know a woman who drives three hours, round trip, to attend Sunday Mass. (Apparently, there is an extraordinary dearth of acceptable churches in her area.)

Not only do conservative Catholics flee priests they deem “too liberal”; liberal Catholics also flee priests they deem “too conservative.” The offenses of the latter can include behaviors such as giving favorable mention to the Church’s teaching on birth control, abortion, or gay marriage.  Such protests remind me of the Pentecostal woman given to shouting her approval of the preacher’s words. One day, the pastor was reciting the Ten Commandments. After each Commandment, the woman shouted “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!” When he reached “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” however, she turned to her neighbor and said, “Now he’s beginning to meddle.”

A number of people leave parishes not because of the substance of the homilies but because of the poor quality of their presentation. Truth to tell, the homiletics course is not among the most effectively taught in many Catholic seminaries. That could be because in Catholicism the Liturgy of the Word is subordinate to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Or, equally plausible, because seminary professors have the same “whatever” attitude toward elocution as their peers in colleges and universities. In any case, leaving a parish expecting the next pastor to be the second coming of Fulton Sheen is likely to result in disappointment.

I am not saying there are no good reasons for leaving one parish for another but only that when people do so serially, the problem is more likely to be in them than in the parishes. More specifically, they are likely to harbor one or more of these mistaken ideas:

1. They see their role at Mass as spectators or judges. Thus their minds are programmed to cheer or boo the performance (silently, thank goodness). If they had scorecards like the ones used in diving competitions, they would hold them up at various points in the Mass—5.5 for the sermon, 8.0 for the creed, and so on. Their parish hopping is akin to channel surfing.

Such people have never considered attending Mass as participants rather than spectators—that is, giving thanks and praise, reenacting the Last Supper, reverently receiving Christ’s body and blood, and pledging obedience to God’s word, instead of just watching the priest do these things. If they accepted such active, personal involvement in the Mass, they would be less inclined to judge the choir, the lectors, their fellow congregants, and the celebrant.

2. They expect the Mass to be a peak experience that produces wonder, awe, ecstasy, and (to borrow a phrase from an excited political commentator) “a shiver up their legs.” In other words, the spiritual equivalent of a Super Bowl halftime show. Accordingly, whenever they do not have that experience at Mass, they conclude there is something wrong with the celebrant, the choir, the ushers, and even the Mass itself. And so they set out in search of a parish that offers constant peak experiences.

The truth, alas, is that there is no such parish, nor is there any other place that meets that expectation. Just as mountain peaks rise up from valleys, so peak experiences rise up from unremarkable, even humdrum events. (This truth is also missed by those who strive to make church services, Catholic or Protestant, more and more exciting and relevant on the assumption that doing so will necessarily make them more meaningful.)

3. They assume that if a subject, event, ritual, or person bores them, there must be something wrong with it or him. It never occurs to them that they themselves may be the problem. To be sure, sameness and repetitiveness (as one might find in, say, a bad homily) can tempt us to disinterest. But whether we submit to that temptation or not is a matter of our mental disposition and free will.

G. K. Chesterton made an interesting observation about different reactions to monotony: “[Children] always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

This observation deepens our understanding of Jesus’ admonition: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Parish hopping is the contemporary form of Phariseeism, proclaiming how wonderful we are and wishing the rest of the world would shape up. (If the Pharisees of old had owned cars, it’s a good bet they would have been synagogue hoppers.)

The cure for parish hopping is awareness that God won’t be judging us on how many flaws we found in Father Aloysius, but in how many we conquered in ourselves. Focusing on that fact will both make us better Christians and save us a lot of gas.

Catholic Church Hopping

Posted by Sean, March 17, 2013

One Sunday I saw a priest from the Parish I serve at, at the parish church that I live near to. He looked at me as if to ask “Why are you here?” Before that moment I never thought that church hopping to be a problem…. after all, I only go to Catholic Churches.
In fact, besides the parish that I serve at, I go to three other Parishes for Mass, depending on the time of their Mass.
Now, I do not know if the church has an official opinion on church hopping among Catholic Churches, but here are some points against it:
In almost every church in the early times there were:

groups that had honest seekers (Acts 17:11),

false teachers (Galatians 1:6-9),

strong and sometimes clashing personalities (Philippians 4:2),

and advocates for the needy (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).

They sang songs (Colossians 3:16),

listened to sermons (Acts 20:7-12)

and gave food to the hungry (Acts 6:1).

But to belong to a church COMMUNITY is very important. It helps us to grow in faith and piety:

helps us with involvement in a local body of believers for mutual exhortation (Hebrews 10:24-25),

spiritual growth (James 5:16),

manifestation of the Holy Spirit  (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

and there are those who will help us when we fall.

Parish Hopping – is it OK?

Catholic Answers Forums, January 24, 2012


I’m currently registered at a parish near my home (biking distance=10 minutes tops). I try to go to my parish for Mass as often as possible, and take weekly classes there regarding the Faith, and submitted a form to join a ministry (still waiting… they may have forgotten during the Christmas rush!).
A lot of the time though, I find myself in a position where Mass at another parish is just more convenient.
I want to hear of any disadvantages of going to Mass at a parish that is not “your own”.
N.B. I just got a job and my first paycheck came in a few days ago so whichever parish I was going to was only getting pocket change at best. On the other hand, now that I’m going to be having money, should I favor my parish with donations? Or just where ever I am at the time?


That is not parish hopping, that is just choosing the best parish for you to attend and that is always possible. Parish hopping is moving every time the priest says something you don’t like, they redecorate in colors you hate, you get in an argument with the CCD director, you don’t like the food at the parish social or the brand of coffee they serve after Mass.


I belong to one parish that I support all the time. They get a donation for every Sunday, whether I’m there or not. If I have to be at Mass in another parish on a Sunday I will put a few dollars in the collection plate, but nowhere near as much as I give my own parish. That said, I know a pharmacist who used to relieve other pharmacists when they went on holidays or maternity leave or whatever… Judging by what he did in our parish, he must have got envelopes from every parish where he knew he’d be for a while and he gave to each parish as though it were his own.

This report to be updated with my own sad personal experiences in the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore -M

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  1. In the 70 years I have been on this planet, I have been a parishioner of 4 parishes; St Teresa’s, Girgaum Bombay; St Andrew’s Bandra; Sacred Heart Andheri East; and now St. Joseph’s Lonavla. In all these parishes only details of name/address/telephone number and names of family members have been collected by the parish office; this I think is sensible so that if required the parish officials can keep in touch.
    I have never heard of this family card gimmick; perhaps what is being referred to is what is happening in America. In my very personal opinion Americans in general are loud bragging lot, who thought that their dollar was the end of the world, only to reach the stage where they are in serious debt, and that too to China; would be nice if it was clarified where in India this family card thing exists ????

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EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai – 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail:,

EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church

Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai - 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail:,

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