Church Admission Fee


#1

Let me first point out that I'm not a cheapskate. I appreciate that the upkeep of churches and cathedrals can be expensive and when I visit a church or cathedral that's not my own, I make a contribution towards its upkeep. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned at the practice of charging an admission fee where churches are popular with tourists.

A church is not a museum or an art gallery, it is the house of God. Admission should be free to all whether they have come to pray or just to look. I believe that we receive a blessing if we enter a church in prayerful mood and charging or paying for that blessing is the grave sin of simony. Does anyone know if there are any pronouncements from Rome on this subject?

Yes I know you can avoid the charges by arriving at Mass time, but that is not the point. I have no objection to giving money to the church - I just don't expect it to be a commercial transaction. I have now taken to writing the the Vicars General of cathedrals in Europe where there is an entrance fee.

When we finally approach the pearly gates, we can have confidence that our entrance fee has been paid for us. Those who seek to charge us to enter our churches may find otherwise.


#2

That is your opinion.

That is also your opinion, but not in keeping with the Church’s teaching regarding simony.

No pronouncements to my knowledge.

Best of luck to you.


#3

[quote="jimrob, post:1, topic:335034"]
...Yes I know you can avoid the charges by arriving at Mass time, but that is not the point....

[/quote]

If they have to pay somebody to supervise the visitors, it absolutely is the point. Many churches have to be locked except during Mass times, because the church cannot afford the security cost of keeping them open at other times. Churches are very vulnerable to vandalism these days, so this is a real concern. It is unfortunate, but having those who wish to visit the church outside of Mass times pay for the cost of security is a reasonable solution. If not for that, the same churches would have to be locked, so that they would not be ruined for the purpose of worship because of laxity in guarding them by those entrusted with their care.


#4

I'm not a world traveler or anything, but I have not once been charged to enter a Catholic Church. What basilicas or cathedrals, exactly, are doing this?


#5

I have never encountered paying for entering a church either. Might the charge be for a historical building or other tourist spot?


#6

[quote="EasterJoy, post:3, topic:335034"]
If they have to pay somebody to supervise the visitors, it absolutely is the point. Many churches have to be locked except during Mass times, because the church cannot afford the security cost of keeping them open at other times. Churches are very vulnerable to vandalism these days, so this is a real concern. It is unfortunate, but having those who wish to visit the church outside of Mass times pay for the cost of security is a reasonable solution. If not for that, the same churches would have to be locked, so that they would not be ruined for the purpose of worship because of laxity in guarding them by those entrusted with their care.

[/quote]

And that is the case with our cathedral where I go to church. Because of vandalism by homeless people in the park across the street, you cannot even go into our cathedral church except for mass times. :( Luckily there is a small chapel that we have access to during the day.


#7

[quote="Patti_M, post:6, topic:335034"]
And that is the case with our cathedral where I go to church. Because of vandalism by homeless people in the park across the street, you cannot even go into our cathedral church except for mass times. :( Luckily there is a small chapel that we have access to during the day.

[/quote]

This is even more sad in light of the fact that a church is the one place where every comfort, every fine detail, and every piece of art is there are much for the edification of the poor as for the rich. In an ideal world, all the churches would always be open for the spiritual elevation and comfort of everyone, whether rich or poor, a place where all could rest their hearts and souls in the lap of the Almighty at any time that they needed it. :(

In that sense, I see exactly where the OP is coming from. Still, the churches must also always be kept free of sacrilege and ready for the offering of the Mass and other liturgies. When there is danger of sacrilege or if someone might terrorize the faithful, there has to be a lock or a guard (not just to keep the building and the sacred objects in it safe at the expense o the needs of persons, but to remove that near occasion of sin, which is a need of persons, as well).


#8

We’ve been to major cathedrals in England, Portugal, and Spain, and major churches in Rome, and also have never encountered this. What we HAVE see are donation boxes at the door for a free-will offering to defray expenses. Can the OP specify where “admission fees” have been encountered?


#9

[quote="EphelDuath, post:4, topic:335034"]
I'm not a world traveler or anything, but I have not once been charged to enter a Catholic Church. What basilicas or cathedrals, exactly, are doing this?

[/quote]

[quote="Brigid34, post:5, topic:335034"]
I have never encountered paying for entering a church either. Might the charge be for a historical building or other tourist spot?

[/quote]

This is my question as well. There is a misconception, for example, that Notre-Dame in Paris charges admission. It's true you have to pay to go up the tower and ooh aah at the view, but entering the cathedral itself is free of charge. I have been there countless times and never paid a cent for it.

[quote="Tarpeian_Rock, post:8, topic:335034"]
We've been to major cathedrals in England, Portugal, and Spain, and major churches in Rome, and also have never encountered this. What we HAVE see are donation boxes at the door for a free-will offering to defray expenses. Can the OP specify where "admission fees" have been encountered?

[/quote]

Yes, the donation boxes are present in every European cathedral I have visited (maybe ten or so) but contribution is purely voluntary.


#10

If the charge is for security due to vandalism, then this is a sorry day. I'd call it just another sign of the end times we're in. So if it's necessary then okay, but I'd expect to see several security guards present. And I mean real security personal, that can fight off thieves, and they should have a gun and a license to use it. Hopefully they never will, but if the money is for security I want to see them there.


#11

Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal charges an entry fee.

Admission fees apply to all visitors, with or without a guided tour. This contribution is necessary to cover the annual costs of restoration and upkeep on this historic building.
Adults: $5 ($10 for guided tour)
Ages 7 to 17: $4
Age 6 and under: Free


#12

Historically popular pilgramage churches, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, often charge visitor fees to maintain its artefacts, facilities, programmes, etc.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome charges €12 to visitors outside of services and still admits millions every year; how many do you think would visit if it was free? It’s a massive church, but there’s not enough space for everyone who wants to worship, let alone those who are just there to photograph. Admittance fees support the church and stem the demand; you wouldn’t feel too prayerful if you had to queue up for days or worship in a building beyond its safe capacity.


#13

[quote="EphelDuath, post:4, topic:335034"]
I'm not a world traveler or anything, but I have not once been charged to enter a Catholic Church. What basilicas or cathedrals, exactly, are doing this?

[/quote]

The Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal does charge an entrance fee, but you are not required to pay it if you're going there for prayer, Holy Mass, or receive the sacraments. I showed up at the entrance and the employee let me in for free since I told her I was there for confession. You can show up with a missal and rosary beads to appear more credible :).


#14

[quote="allen2690, post:13, topic:335034"]
The Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal does charge an entrance fee, but you are not required to pay it if you're going there for prayer, Holy Mass, or receive the sacraments. I showed up at the entrance and the employee let me in for free since I told her I was there for confession. You can show up with a missal and rosary beads to appear more credible :).

[/quote]

Is the showing up with a missal is so you won't get charged for being there for Mass or confession, or to get by as a tourist without paying the fee? :eek:


#15

[quote="Geo17, post:10, topic:335034"]

If the charge is for security due to vandalism, then this is a sorry day. I'd call it just another sign of the end times we're in. So if it's necessary then okay, but I'd expect to see several security guards present. And I mean real security personal, that can fight off thieves, and they should have a gun and a license to use it. Hopefully they never will, but if the money is for security I want to see them there.

[/quote]

Tourist crowds are far more dangerous than vandals or pickpockets. It's easier to scare people in unfamiliar territory, and you only need a few of them and the appearance of a threat to create panic. Also, shooting can escalate an already volatile situation and it has been proven many times in the past.

We on the other side of the pond generally have a better attitude about guns. ;)


#16

I have paid to visit Catholic churches in Dubrovnik (Croatia) and M'dina (Malta). The Dubrovnik church had a man sitting at the door and nobody got past him without paying about 1 euro. It was a small Church with nothing special about it apart from age. The arrangement in M'dina was that we paid to enter a museum type exhibition opposite the church, but we could only enter the church after visiting the museum. As far as I can remember, there's also a charge to visit the Cathedral in Valetta (Malta) but that's because it houses a famous painting.

I was shocked the first time I had to pay to enter a Catholic Church but, on reflection, the reasons given by previous posters makes sense.

Last year, I visited the Vatican for the first time in very many years. There was an entrance fee for the Vatican Museum which included access to the Sistine Chapel. Entrance to St. Peter's Basilica was free, although I'm sure there's a charge for the lift to the dome. Oddly enough in the "olden days" when there was no admission fee for either the Basilica or the Sistine Chapel we were able to saunter around and enjoy at our leisure. Last year, we queued for a very long time and were squashed in like sardines.

Considering the cost of maintaining and securing the priceless artwork in the Vatican, I can certainly appreciate the need to have tourists pay. I was very shocked, however, to hear from my guide that the Sistine Chapel is hired out for private functions.


#17

[quote="coachdennis, post:14, topic:335034"]
Is the showing up with a missal is so you won't get charged for being there for Mass or confession, or to get by as a tourist without paying the fee? :eek:

[/quote]

You won't get charged if you're there for prayer or to receive the sacraments. That was just a little joke about the whole missal. However, when I had visited the basilica a few months ago, the employee didn't really believe that I was there for confession (but I really wanted to go to confession; I was doing a little pilgrimage and visiting several churches in Montreal). She let me in for free and I'm assuming she saw my missal. I guess it depends on the employee at the entrance; some will believe you and others won't. It has happened to some of my relatives who wanted to go pray there. Besides, I had left some money in the donations box that was reserved for the basilica's maintenance. Whether or not I had paid for the fee, the basilica will still receive some money from the Archdiocese because of La Collecte Annuelle.


#18

There are a number of cathedrals in Spain (for example) which charge an admission fee including Burgos and Leon. This is more than just a donation box at the door but a fully enforced, ticketed entry procedure.St Peter’s (along with the other major basilicas in Rome) is free to enter at any time. Both Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s in the UK (which are Protestant churches) charge for entry outside of service times.

The basic rule is that the charge doesn’t apply to those wishing to enter for prayer or worship. The catch however is that those entering for prayer (and probably anything other than a Sunday mass) are restricted to entering only one part of the building. In this way, the administrators are trying to achieve a balance between the requirement to allow free access worship (and prayer) but at the same time cover the costs of maintaining the building which are increased by the number of visitors.

Personally, I’m uneasy about being charged to enter any sacred space but at the same time can appreciate the fact that these buildings cost a massive amount to run and maintain and that money has to come from somewhere. A compromise option could perhaps be to only charge groups but then that could potentially deter groups from visiting or they could just enter as individuals (albeit unguided)…


#19

If you don’t mind, where is that in Texas?
I have only been to the cathedrals in Austin, San Angelo. Lubbock, Austin and El Paso and they were always open during daytime.

I have been to vespers at the Orthodox cathedral in Dallas as well…


#20

[quote="EphelDuath, post:4, topic:335034"]
I'm not a world traveler or anything, but I have not once been charged to enter a Catholic Church. What basilicas or cathedrals, exactly, are doing this?

[/quote]

50 years ago, it was standard to have a box in back of the church asking a set fee, like a quarter or some similar amount.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.