Roman Catholics in Australia have been ordered to keep funeral Mass eulogies short and to steer clear of tales of sex and drunkenness, after a reported increase in "inappropriate" statements.

In new guidelines, Cardinal George Pell, the country's most senior Catholic, has imposed a five-minute deadline and deemed some areas of a person's life off limits.

"On not a few occasions, inappropriate remarks glossing over the deceased's proclivities (drinking prowess, romantic conquests etc) or about the Church (attacking its moral teachings) have been made at funeral Masses," Cardinal Pell's guidelines say.

He said the comments often embarrassed the priest, the family and the congregation and become the focus of the service.

The "words of remembrance" should last no more than three to five minutes, or one typed page, and should focus on a person's human qualities and faith", the guidelines say.

"The reflection should be prepared beforehand, and ideally be reviewed with the priest or presiding minister beforehand, to avoid undue length or embarrassing situations."

The guidelines say that anecdotes, poems or songs, might be better kept for services at the cemetery or crematorium, or for a vigil prayer service the night before a funeral.

The Catholic Church in Ireland, and in most of the United States, prohibits lay people from delivering eulogies during funeral Masses.