Can a catechumen burn hell notes to their ancestor?


In fairness to Rutherford, I get the sense he’s very young and English is not his first language, so reading his posts in a charitable light is probably the way to go.


There is no prohibition against Catholics or catechumens observing occasional non-Christian religious services for good cause, such important family gatherings. There is no moral concern whatsoever with mere upkeep of a family cemetery plot; such care for a place of final rest, as well as prayers for the family members resting there, is even encourage by the church.

I am not familiar with burning “hell notes”, in particular. Skimming the thread, it appears to involve sending “money” to your relatives in the afterlife by burning it. The ritual itself does not appear to be seriously incompatible with the faith, although some of the underlying theology will be flawed. You might avoid overt participation in the ritual, while offering silent prayers for your family member’s intentions from the sidelines. Showing concern for those who have passed, however, is an integral part of the Catholic faith that I hope you would retain upon your full conversion.

I don’t see it problematic that you attend with your family and participate in the service elements, while offering general concurrence with their prayers. As Catholics we have the fullest understanding of the God, but prayers from all people of good will are heard by him as well.



Ok, but being a catechumen ,these practices are immaterial,and of no use to you ,as in Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”Matthew 8:21 Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

If you become Catholic ,you can offer Mass for the dead ,those in purgatory,you can help them by your prayers ,sacrifices ,good works and do other penances for them ,in a more excellent way ,if one in the family comes to Jesus ,the whole family (Even your whole tribe God willing)can be saves as in Acts 16:31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And God will restore you fortunes as in Isaiah 58:11 The Lord will guide you continually,and satisfy your needs in parched places,and make your bones strong;and you shall be like a watered garden,like a spring of water,whose waters never fail.12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;you shall be called the repairer of the breach,the restorer of streets to live in.

Hebrews 11:15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.


Rutherford2 really needs to speak to his pastor about this in order for him to get a better understanding. I seriously doubt that any posters here are qualified to quote cannon law, and are familiar enough with Chinese culture to give any pastoral advice.

This Chinese festival appears to be a Chinese cultural family tradition. It’s likely that Rutherford2’s pastor would not have a problem with him taking part in most or all of it. But Rutherford2 needs to talk to his pastor, who is responsible for him, in order to get a better understanding of these sorts of things.


You can be denied baptism if you refuse to renounce pagan rituals as a catechumen. It’s the traditional reason for the three scrutinies.


I read his writing in a charitable light. And I really enjoy the younger Catholics perspective on life. PLUS, I never ever “patronize” the youth. In fact, I admire the young Catholics on this forum - I can only wish I had their level of apologetics when I was their age.


This is the first I’ve heard of this controversy, so thanks for bringing it to our attention. This seems like quite the complex issue and to the extent that the wikipedia article is accurate it sounds like the Church has already legislated on this issue and it isn’t as black and white as many of the participants in this thread believe. I second the advice to speak with a priest, preferably one who is familiar with this custom and the extent to which Pope Pius XII relaxed the earlier condemnation of it by Pope Clement XI. This issue is frankly way above the pay grade of most of us here and since the vast majority of posters are either of Western European stock or hail from Western nations we tend to excuse our own culturally appropriated pre-Christian customs while snubbing our noses at the “paganism” we see elsewhere.

We used to get a heaping dose of this every year at CAF around All Souls Day when the controversy over Mexican/Central American practices for the dead would be rekindled and invariably there would be Anglos here condemning the ofrendas traditionally made at cemeteries on el Día de los Muertos. I frankly don’t see much of a difference between this Hell money and the coins, food, sweets, etc. offered to the dead in Latin America.


It’s a classic !!! I’ve seen and held the first imprints ever from back in the day detailing the controversy.


I knew you were old, but not that old! :grin:


I agree with others who recommend talking with your priest.

Perhaps you can help your family see how Catholics honor those who have died by praying for them. In addition to personal prayers, perhaps you could have a Mass celebrated for your deceased family members around the same time. You could invite your family to attend with you. If they’re not open to the idea, you could still attend.


You are correct about the “above their pay grade”. My issue is not my own, it affects the whole Chinese-Catholics community. We Chinese is taught from young to respect our parents, then love our neighbours, etc which is basic Confucianism. Respecting our ancestor is a big deal for us and I don’t think any single priest can easily give a final word.


And doing so correctly is pious obedience to the commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” However, burning hell notes gives a false testimony about death, judgment, Heaven and Hell. In their present state, the dead have no bodies with which to enjoy material goods. When they are raised from the dead, this entire present world will pass away. There are no material goods which can benefit them now or at the Resurrection, but there are spiritual goods which can benefit the dead: prayers, masses, and works of charity can expiate the punishment of the faithful departed. No one in Hell can benefit from them, because they have no communion with God and His Church from which to derive benefit; however, in the absence of special revelation, we do not know whether or not a given person is in Hell, so we pray for all in the hopes that they may benefit from them. The souls in Heaven are now receiving their reward for their virtues; there is nothing you can give them to add to it.


My understanding is that the ancient Chinese began burning printed paper as a substitute for goods. I.e. the value of a pig being set at 100 won (today’s money), a 100-won note, burned on an altar, would make the god(s) as happy as would the pig.
A better question might be, if one is now worshiping a [Chinese] god, or is preparing to worship a [Catholic] god, what can either god do for one if he is foolish enough not to see the substitution?

Then Elijah approached all the people and said: “How long will you be limping between two different opinions?" 1Kings 18:21
Good question, eh?


What is the purpose or intention this burning?


“A better question …” Did you mean to ask this of another poster?


Good point. I was ‘limping on two posts’. :slight_smile:
First part was to you. In the second part my mind was mostly on the OP, as a response to the religious aspect.
And, to clarify, I wouldn’t have anything to do with a god so easily fooled.


Burning the stuffs turns them into spiritual stuffs making it easy for the ancestor’s spirit to grab and use.



When you become a Catholic ,you can do it in a more excellent way ,to honor ,respect and pray for your ancestors ,which will bring them more comfort ,benefit and reparation ,and even redemption through the merits and Graces by Jesus ,through the Church ,the Holy Mass and other prayers

2 Maccabees 12 : 42 and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.

Ruth 2:20 Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a relative of ours, one of our nearest kin.”

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sister sin every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.


So you are thinking a bunch of laypeople on the internet can?

We have a lot of Catholic families who participate in Santa Claus activites, so I can see both sides of the situation you are in.

Do the Hell notes have to have a certain look? Or can they be any sort of paper? If the latter, it seems to me you could write a prayer for your ancestors on pieces of paper and burn those, maybe with a bit of incense. Pray the prayers as you write them, of course.

Then you would be taking care of the place where your ancestors’ bodies are, a spiritual work of mercy, and praying for their souls, and even more important work of mercy!


The idea of a Hell note doesn’t sit well with me. Why not write a prayer for the repose of their soul and burn that?

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