Is it sacrilegious to launder third class relics?

Suppose someone has a handkerchief or a cloth that they touch on tombs and relics, eventually, that cloth would be filled with dust and grime. I wonder if it is wrong to wash that cloth, or if it won’t be a third class relic anymore if you wash it. Not being superstitious or anything, just that I don’t know much about third class relics.

No, of course it can be washed. It should be washed carefully, to preserve it, of course, but even if it were damaged, it would still be a third class relic.

In genealogy we see things like “third cousin once removed” – but washing a third class relic won’t make it a “third class relic once removed” :smiley:

Forgive me for snickering but I must. For some of us, pious devotion can be just a hop skip and jump from backwards superstition. The power and the grace come from God alone and never from a piece of cloth or bone. The grace that comes from veneration of relics is a product of our interior faith and receptiveness to God’s grace. Wash the hankie and refocus on the divine rather than the material.

Its only a third class relic if it is touched to a first class relic. i.e. a body part of a saint.

The notion that a third class relic is achieved through touching a tomb or whatever is a modern innovation and goes completely against Church tradition.

There is no official Church classification for relics which is why we look to Church tradition:

  • A first class relic is part of a saint’s body

  • A second class relic is part of the clothing or something used by a saint during their life

  • A third class relic is any other object, such as a piece of cloth, that has been touched to a first class relic (and not to a second class relic)

Could you share your source? I would find it very helpful for sharing with others.

Father John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary:

RELIC. An object connected with a saint, e.g., part of the body or clothing or something the person had used or touched. Authentic relics are venerated with the Church’s warm approbation. They may not be bought or sold. Those of a martyr are placed in the altar stone at the consecration of an altar. Relics are of three classes: the first is part of the saint’s body and is the type placed in the altar stone; the second is part of the clothing or anything used during the saint’s life; and the third is any other object, such as a piece of cloth, that has been touched to a first-class relic. (Etym. Latin reliquiae, remains.)

There is another source but I’ve lost the bookmark. I’ll try to find it for you.
As I said there is no official Church classification of relics so there is no Church document as a source.

This is not the other source but from an article by REV. CHARLES MANGAN on Church teaching on relics.


“There are three classes of sacred relics. The first-class is a part of the saints body. (It is this type which is placed in an altar stone.) The second-class is a piece of the saints clothing or something used by the saint, while the third-class is an object which has been touched to a first-class relic.”

Thanks. I can confirm your experience of much confusion around the third class relics. :slight_smile:

This is one of these matters that could easily be resolved by the Church issuing an official classification. I don’t know why this isn’t done. It should be very easy to do it. It is not a doctrinal issue.
Without it how a third class relic is achieved could be done in different ways because people could argue that we are not bound by Church tradition. I think that is what has happened because so many people want a relic nowadays. Under Church tradition there would be far fewer third class relics.

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