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My parish is open for Mass, but I'm afraid of catching coronavirus. Is it a sin to skip Mass?
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As parish churches reopen for Mass, a question arises. Is it a sin to skip Mass out of fear of the coronavirus? We put this question to Deacon Keith Fournier, the Dean of Catholic Online School and a deacon serving Bishop Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler Texas. Here is his excellent response that should inform your choice.
Is it okay to skip Mass out of fear of coronavirus?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Marshall Connolly: Deacon Fournier, is it a sin to skip Mass out of fear of catching the coronavirus?
Deacon Fournier: It depends on the Diocesan Bishop -- he has the authority to dispense from Mass Attendance. In my diocese, now that we are open again to Mass Attendance, the obligation is dispensed for people over 65, or who have other situations which make them susceptible to the virus, such as a compromised immune system.
Also, if a person has a medical condition, they can ask their pastor for such a dispensation. If they are sick, they are not obligated to attend Holy Mass. They should also ask to have the Holy Eucharist brought to them by a priest, a deacon, or a duly appointed Extraordinary Minister.
I'm not sure that such an article can -- or should attempt to- give an answer - which fits everyone.
You also have to examine the source and cause of the fear in the person.
For example, in our Diocese, we keep social distancing in the Church. Those who distribute the Body of the Lord sanitize their hands and wear masks...
Here is a decent summary of the general approach.
As usual, in questions like this we always begin by going to the Catechism:
"The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail at this obligation commit a grave sin." (CCC 2181, emphasis added)
"To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell." (CCC 1033; see also 1037)
And, the Code of Canon Law:
Can. 1246 Â§1. Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation. The following days must also be observed: the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles, and All Saints.
Â§2. With the prior approval of the Apostolic See, however, the conference of bishops can suppress some of the holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.
Can. 1247 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.
Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord's day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.
Can. 1248 Â§1. A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.
Â§2. If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families.
We reach the world and so much of the determination rests with the Bishop and the priests in such pastoral matters. That is where the concerned Catholic should turn.
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