Mass Dispensation Update

8/26/20 | Church Articles | by Fr. Dennis Saran

    SUNDAY MASS DISPENSATION: We have received information about the Sunday dispensation. The archbishop has extended the general dispensation from September 6 until Monday, September 14. There will be no further extensions. This means the first weekend the dispensation will no longer be in effect will be the weekend of Sept. 19-20. Although the general dispensation will be removed, the archbishop wishes everyone to understand that a person can, without sin, excuse themselves from Sunday obligation in a variety of circumstances.

    Interesting, the archbishop uses family dynamics as examples of obligations. The archbishop first points out that laws are not created to reign in bad behavior, but provide a frame around what a relationship with God should look like. If God is important in our lives, part of the expression would be attending Sunday Mass. The second important understanding is the importance of a well-formed conscience. In the case for Mass, it means if we had a serious situation causing us not to attend, we would not be sinning and we should not feel guilty about it. With an ill-formed conscience, we use rationalization to make it appear we are comfortable with our decision not to attend. We essentially lie to ourselves. One with a good conscience and a valid reason can correctly, and without sin, excuse themselves from the Sunday obligation. Finally, although a supplement, viewing Mass on television or computer, does not fulfill the Sunday obligation. Watching at home is meant to bring comfort and a feeling of connection for those who have been excused from attending.

    So, having said that, I will let you hear it in the archbishops’ own words as we received the information regarding the dispensation: 

    On September 14, 2020, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation will expire, and it will be the responsibility of those who are capable and not prohibited by other circumstances to attend Sunday Mass. Those who deliberately fail to attend Sunday Mass commit a grave sin.

    There are circumstances where the obligation cannot be fulfilled. One example is the impossibility to attend Mass. When our Churches were closed and offered no public Masses, it was impossible for people to attend, and so there was no sin for missing Mass. If a person is ill, especially during this pandemic, they should remain at home. Likewise, if a person is at risk because of age, underlying medical conditions or a compromised immune system, one would be excused from the obligation. If a person is caring for a sick person, even if they are not sick, they would be excused from the obligation out of charity. Fear of getting sick, in and of itself, does not excuse someone from the obligation. However, if the fear is generated because of at-risk factors, such as pre-existing conditions, age, or compromised immune systems, then the fear would be sufficient to excuse from the obligation.

    It is up to each individual to weigh their own circumstances through an examination of their conscience and determine, by use of their conscience, whether or not they are excused from the Sunday obligation. Remember, a well-formed conscience is upright and truthful

    TOWN HALL MEETING: To help with questions concerning the end of the dispensation, I will be having a Town Hall Meeting outside in the Prayer Gardens on Tuesday Sept. 15 at 6:30 PM. Bring your own chair. Mark your calendars. If you are unable to attend and have specific questions, please submit them by replying to this email. Questions will be answered thematically.