On Restoring the Sunday Mass Obligation

by Steve Ray on February 20, 2021

This article was released Saturday, February 20 at The Catholic Thing.

As American Catholics enter Year II of lockdown, a number of dioceses are beginning to roll back the universal dispensation from Sunday Mass.  The Archdiocese of Detroit is the most prominent, announcing that as of March 13, the universal dispensation of the faithful from the dominical precept will be replaced by eight specific grounds for dispensation,  including illness of various kinds, caring for sick or homebound people, pregnancy, being 65 or older, not being able to get there, or “significant fear.”….

…The usual suspects quickly jumped out to assure us that “conscience” and not the hierarchical church has the final word on so esoteric a discipline for Catholics as participating in the Sunday Eucharist….

It’s time to end universal dispensations.  Two obvious things make that case.  Lots of secular activities are now pretty robust.  Churches aren’t.

I love this guy! I love this guy!

Over two recent weekends, I was looking at a local brewery, gym, grocery, and clothing store.  They might not be as filled as they were a year ago, but they weren’t doing too badly, either.  While arguably people need the grocery store, Friday night foursomes over beers at the bar seem less compelling….

(Picture: Priest with a sign saying, “If you can come grocery shopping then you can come to Mass.“)

Some bishops have posed the question, “If you feel comfortable dining out in a restaurant, why can’t you return to church?”  Today’s Twitter crowd criticized such tactics as stoking people’s “guilt,” a clearly impermissible motivation – for them – to get people to question their behavior.  But the question remains: If we are willing to take public risks on exposure not strictly necessary to at-home survival (e.g., going to a bar or restaurant), what makes the risk factor of Church so much more dangerous, at least in our minds?

We are at a dangerous crossroads.  Catholicism is a sacramental religion, i.e., one that involves the physical. COVID is a particularly apt disease for our gnostic-tinged age: it treats the physical as suspect, dirty, contaminated…..

…. Governments that suggest we “can worship in the privacy of the home” are governments implicitly advancing a Protestant theology of “Jesus as my personal Savior,” for which the church is a nice but ultimately unnecessary accessory.

Lots more in this excellent article. To read the whole exhortation, click here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tom Govern February 20, 2021 at 10:34 PM

We need to get people back into the pews ASAP. The problem is that, at least my church, we cannot accommodate more than 680 people at four Masses with distancing restrictions. That is at least half of what we need even adding a extra Mass. Difficult situation at best, unless the rules are changed.

Still we need to tell people that they should return to Mass, then figure out how to support the crowd should it come.

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