Friday, March 13, 2020

Catholics will begin to wonder if they should go to Mass or not, and what if Mass is not available. The coronavirus is radically changing our society and Canon Lawyer Ed Peters’ provides an excellent primer on “to go to Mass or not to go to Mass.”

***********************************

The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and (locally observed) holy days of obligation set out in Canons 1246-1248 (see also CCC 2180-2183) is gravely binding in conscience. No reliable commentator disputes this. The Church does not, however, enforce this attendance obligation in the external forum (e.g., Church police do not take attendance at Mass and issue tickets to no-shows), but she has articulated guidance to assist observant Catholics in assessing their obligations under various circumstances.

Preliminary point.

Regular ILOTL readers know that, in discussing some questions regarding the Mass attendance obligation, I do not apply the “How much can I miss and Mass still counts?” analysis and instead prefer a “Why did I miss however much of Mass I missed?” assessment of one’s reasons and/or justifications for missing part or all of an obligatory Mass. That same approach—one that asks not How much of it did I miss, but Why did I miss it?—helps one assess, I suggest, the force of one’s Mass attendance obligations in times of pestilence.

Three factors can obviate one’s obligation to attend certain Masses, namely: impossibility, dispensation, or excuse.

Impossibility.

Since ancient times it has been recognized that no one is bound to the impossible. If Mass has been canceled in one’s locale (and even though some effort to find a Mass outside of one’s usual locale is expected), one is not required to undertake burdensome efforts to find and attend a Mass somewhere else. Indeed, canon law anticipates that attendance at Mass, even obligatory Masses, might be impossible sometimes and recommends that the faithful engage in some other liturgical exercise (say, the Liturgy of the Hours, per Canon 1174) or otherwise spend an appropriate amount of time in prayer, per Canon 1248. Watching a televised Mass might be a good exercise but such exercises do not satisfy the Mass attendance obligation—that obligation having been obviated by impossibility—for only attendance at Mass satisfies a Mass attendance obligation.

Dispensation.

The obligation of weekly divine worship (and to some extent the holy day obligation) reflects divine law directives going back to the Decalogue but the modern Sunday obligation is a function of ecclesiastical law and is thus liable to diocesan-wide dispensation by the diocesan bishop per Canon 87. In addition Canon 1245 authorizes parish pastors (but not just any priest, etc, per Canon 89) to dispense those belonging to or present in his parish from this obligation. To be sure, Canon 90 urges executive authority figures to consider carefully the spiritual welfare of their subjects, the gravity of the law being dispensed, and other circumstances in deliberating about dispensing from a law. Nevertheless, doubts about the sufficiency of the reasons behind a dispensation are resolved in favor the dispensation.

Excuse.

This method of obviating the Mass attendance obligation is the one that most likely impacts individual Catholics and it takes more time to discuss.

Among the reasons long recognized as excusing (not technically ‘dispensing’) one from attending an obligatory Mass is one’s personal illness. Two points need to be made about illness.

First, people experience the symptoms of personal illnesses in different ways such that what one person might find to be an inconvenience (say, a headache) another might find to be a dolor seriously impacting one’s ability to act, think, pray, etc. Each member of the faithful is accountable to God, and not to others, for how he assesses the experience of his symptoms against the obligation to attend certain Masses. As far as the faith community is concerned the individual’s assessment of the effects of his illness is what counts. If one feels too ill to attend Mass one is excused from the obligation of attending.

Second, personal illnesses can present different degrees and kinds of risks to others. Many serious illnesses pose no risk to others (e.g., cancer) while some minor or moderate ails are highly contagious (e.g., colds and flu). Beyond, then, the personal experience of illness relevant to assessing the obligation to attend Mass, one must also weigh the risk that one’s illness poses to others by attending a Mass (obligatory or otherwise), this consideration, moreover, not undertaken as an expression of charity toward others but as an exercise of justice toward them. So, to take an easy case, if one knew that one was contagious with a serious illness then, even if one personally felt just fine, I think one would be obligated not to attend Mass, even one obligatory.

In sum, those suffering from serious illnesses are excused from the grave obligation of attending Mass under either, and perhpas both, headings above, namely, they might feel too ill to attend Mass and/or they might pose a serious risk of infection to others.

But a more difficult question is presented by coronavirus, it seems, in that one is contagious with this very serious virus for a considerable period of time before one is even aware of being infected. In terms of assessing the obligation to attend Mass, this scenario fits under neither the first scenario above (for one does not feel ill, but is only, albeit not unreasonably, afraid of becoming ill), nor is one aware of being especially contagious to others. What to do, then, about assessing one’s Mass attendance obligation during times of serious pandemic when (a) it is feasible to find a Mass; (b) one has not been dispensed from the obligation of attending Mass; and (c) one does not feel ill, although many in the community are falling ill after a considerable time without showing symptoms.

I propose the following approach. Because these considerations are largely prudential (and I use that word in its good sense, and not as cover for doing what I what I find convenient), be aware that even small changes in facts could greatly change how my advice plays out in practice.

A) If one is simply, however understandably, afraid of being infected by others, I do not see sufficient excuse obviating fulfillment of a serious religious obligation such as Sunday Mass attendance. The more one’s fears over being infected are, however, augmented by factors such as, say, one’s advanced age or underlying medical complications (e.g., diabetes or pregnancy), the more likely sufficient excuse from the obligation to attend Mass can be found, even though one feels fine.

B) If one has no special reason to think that one is contagious for others, I do not see sufficient excuse obviating fulfillment of a serious religious obligation such as Sunday Mass attendance. Factors that increase the chances that one is contagious for others (e.g., someone in one’s household has fallen ill, or one works with or around ill persons) will more likely result in excuse of the obligation to attend certain Masses, again, even though one feels fine.

Recall, again, that in the both of the above scenarios the Church does not attempt to police one’s self-assessment of the satisfaction or avoidance of the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and certain holy days. As a matter of conscience, one is accountable to the Lord for one’s decision, and the Lord can neither deceive nor be deceived.

{ 6 comments }

This is an unsettling development in the American Catholic Church. However, we had it coming. With priestly scandals, weak-kneed bishops, liberal and leftist theology and politics — what are serious Catholics to do? The answer is to hunker down, pray and work for revival, but many are looking to the conservative, experiential, emotionally-satisfying Evangelical churches and/or their exciting personal theology for reli

See my video below about what “born again” really means according to the Bible.

***********************************************************************

A study found that the number of Catholics calling themselves “born again or evangelical” increased by 85% since 2008.

John Burger | Jan 28, 2020

There’s been a recent trend of Catholics identifying as “born-again,” a term that has become loaded with both religious and political connotation. But in spite of evidence suggesting that the upward trend has been caused by political trends, a political scientist maintains that the trend is more faith-based than anything.“We can see that for both Republicans and Democrats the more frequently they attend church the more likely they are to identify as born-again,” writes Ryan Burge, who teaches at Eastern Illinois University, at the website Religion in Public.

“The model predicts that a Catholic who never attends is only about 5% likely to identify as born-again, while about a quarter of Catholics who attend multiple times a week would identify as a ‘born-again or evangelical’ Christian.

The other noteworthy thing here is how small the differences in estimates are for the Republicans and Democrats. The lines never deviate more than 4% and at the top end of the attendance scale, there’s no statistical difference in the estimates for Republican and Democratic Catholics. It seems that the rise in born-again Catholics is based more on religion than politics.

In 2008, the share of Catholics who said that they were “born-again or evangelical” was at 8.9%. “However, from there we see a steady and unbroken rise, when it reaches its apex in 2016 at 16.4%,” Burge rerouted, basing his study on the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. “That’s an 85% increase in the number of born-again Catholics.”

It’s also a time period that coincides with the two terms of President Barack H. Obama. Might the upward trend be in response to the Obama administration’s championing of liberal policies such as legal abortion and same-sex marriage?

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this figure was the lowest during Obama’s first election and at its peak during Trump’s victory in 2016,” Burge opined. “Since then, there’s been a modest decline: currently ~15% of Catholics believe that they are “born-again or evangelical,” down about a percentage point.”

According to the apologetics organization Catholic Answers, Catholics and Protestants agree that to be saved, you have to be born again. Jesus says in John 3:3, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“When a Catholic says that he has been ‘born again,’ he refers to the transformation that God’s grace accomplished in him during baptism. Evangelical Protestants typically mean something quite different,” Catholic Answers says. “For an Evangelical, becoming ‘born again’ often happens like this: He goes to a crusade or a revival where a minister delivers a sermon telling him of his need to be ‘born again.’ …

So the gentleman makes ‘a decision for Christ’ and at the altar call goes forward to be led in ‘the sinner’s prayer’ by the minister. Then the minister tells all who prayed the sinner’s prayer that they have been saved—’born again.’”

Burge looked at data from various angles—age, education, race. But what really jumped out at him was the correlation of Catholics identifying as “born-again” with their attendance at Mass.

He concluded saying he thinks the American public may see the term “born-again or evangelical” as more a label of religious devoutness, regardless of tradition, rather than a type of religious conversion. “That is: ‘born-again’ may be a shortcut for ‘really religious,’” he explained. “This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that 45% of born-again Catholics say that they attend church at least once a week, compared to just 25% of not born-again Catholics.”

Burge also found that in the 2018 sample of born-again Catholics, 43.6% identified as Republican—the highest recorded number. “It seems that this group of born-again Catholics is starting to coalesce around a specific type of political/religious identity,” he said.

“What’s curious, though, is that religious devotion in America has increasingly meant being more conservative politically,” Burge wraps up. “If that’s the case then we should have seen Catholic Democrats hesitate to embrace the label. So, that’s an unsatisfying conclusion. … Maybe ‘born-again’ needs to be seen as its own category, regardless of the religious tradition people select alongside it.”

{ 0 comments }