Missing Mass Mortal Sin?

Is missing Mass on Sunday a mortal sin? You have to stop and define mortal sin. First of all, a mortal sin is something which, by its very nature orients us away from God rather than toward God. One of the ten commandments is ‘keep holy the Sabbath Day’. How do you sanctify the Sabbath? By worshipping God. How do you worship God? By going to Mass. If you don’t to this you orient your life away from God and if you continue in this same direction then you will not end up with God. You will end up away from God, and since God is love and light and beauty and truth, then you will end up without love and light and beauty and truth, and that means death. So is missing Mass a mortal sin? Yes.

However, the definition of mortal sin is that it not only has to be grave matter, but you have to know that it is grave matter and there has to be an element of pre meditation to your decision. I’d add, that you also have to continue in your decision without any thought of regret or acceptance of wrongdoing. Also, when deciding a person’s culpability we have to weigh up the circumstances and the intention of the action. Mitigating circumstances and a good intention cannot make a wrong action right, but they can lessen one’s culpability.
If you miss Mass on Sunday because you can’t be bothered, or because something has come up which you believe is more important, then even if it seems a small thing, you have committed a mortal sin. If, however, you miss Sunday Mass because you are traveling and you genuinely can’t get to Mass–even though you tried–it’s not a mortal sin. If you missed Mass because you were sick or because you were looking after a sick old person or child, then it is not a mortal sin.
However, if you miss Mass because you are working–you have decided to put something before God. Even so, if you have to work to support yourself and your family and there really is no way you can get to Mass on a Sunday because of your work commitments, it is possible to ask for a dispensation from your pastor to attend another Mass as soon as possible. But is this ever the case? In most towns there are Mass times from around 5 on a Saturday evening through 5 or even 7 on Sunday night. Does anyone work a shift that keeps them at work that long? I doubt it.
The Catholic Church’s teaching is simple and makes common sense. You have an obligation to go to Mass each Sunday. This helps you to put God first in your life. It helps you to orient your life towards heaven. It helps you to order all things in priority after God. It helps you to walk the path to heaven with confidence and hope. If you miss for a good reason and at no fault of yourself it is not a mortal sin. If you miss through negligence or because you have put something else (anything else) before God, then you’ve oriented yourself away from God and need to go to confession and re-orient your heart to God.
Finally this: why go to confession? Can’t you just say ‘sorry’ to God and be done with it? Several reasons why confession is important: first, the sin of missing Mass intentionally is a sin against the Church as well as against God. Therefore we go to the Church for forgiveness. Secondly, although we make an act of contrition and confess our sins to God on our own, we cannot receive absolution from Holy Mother Church without a priest. Finally, the sin of missing Mass is a formal and ceremonial duty. The restitution for that is to go through the formal and ceremonial sacrament of confession.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    very clear, informative post— I'm afraid culturally it is just not 'normal' to be in church Sunday morning. I tell my kids 'civilized' people worship together at least once a week- whether Jewish, protestant, Catholic, etc

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16142633311407145793 Wine in the Water

    I find the easiest way to explain it is to say that it is a mortal sin to skip mass, but not to miss it. I usually add a clarification that if you had any reasonable opportunity to attend mass and didn't, then you skipped mass.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07564546155986482730 Matthew the Curmudgeon

    Speaking of MASS MISSING, how is the 'ad orientum' progressing?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04596495266878947377 joe

    Nurses and other health care professional often work 7A-7P on Saturday and Sunday.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04675760152300748908 Francis X.

    Father, For what it is worth I am a police officer who works rotating 12 hour shifts. When I am on the night shift, 1900-0700, it is an easy, but sleepless endeavor. When I work the day shift 0700-1900 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I can not make mass. There is a parish about 15 minute away that offers a 1900 Sunday mass and if I can manage to get done work on time, a rarity, and rush I can make mass before the gospel is read. Other than that I just can not attend on my weekends to work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05320340242777743029 zillionaire

    Father, this is an insightful and thoughtful post, right up until the last paragraph.We agree that if someone knowingly and seriously turns away from God, they are committing a mortal sin.Many casual Catholics, lapsed Catholics, and non-Catholics do not attend Mass, but they sanctify the Sabbath by attending Christian worship, performing community services, practicing prayer and reflection, etc.(This seems less sinful to me than attending Mass WEEKLY due to obligation and participating WEAKLY in the worship, which happens all too often.)Since the Church allows that non-Catholics can attain salvation, I suspect that some of the folks who kept the Sabbath, but missed Mass, will join us in the afterlife. (Surely, we do not believe that only Catholics, who "realize" the gravity of missing Mass, can commit a mortal sin by so doing.)"The sin of missing Mass intentionally is a sin against the Church, as well as against God … We cannot receive absolution from Holy Mother Church without a priest."We need to get things right with God and with our neighbors, if we have offended them, but does the Church have an independent existence, apart from God and our neighbors, and why do we need an intermediary to make things right?Thanks for a (mostly) great post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03712847620544707916 gradchica

    Thanks for the post, Father. But yes, there are people who work shifts that would keep them out of any available Mass–as a resident and now a fellow physician, my husband can be on-call in the hospital from early Saturday morning until late Sunday evening. The last Sunday Mass where we lived was 5:15 p.m. and he often would not get out until 7 or 8 p.m. He always contacted our pastor for a dispensation beforehand, just in case he couldn't get out of the hospital in time. If he could wrap up early, he would run to Mass still in his scrubs–so if people see folks in blue pjs at Mass, it might be my husband after a long shift!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04675760152300748908 Francis X.

    Blogger zillionaire said…"Since the Church allows that non-Catholics can attain salvation, I suspect that some of the folks who kept the Sabbath, but missed Mass, will join us in the afterlife".All things are possible with our omnipotent God, but I wouldn't speculate on the probability.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09423813789521648305 christine

    Father, Great information. I will present this to my 16 and 18 yr. old teenager. I couldn't have explained this the way you did. Thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03011785452075633790 Mark G.

    Attending Mass also extends to Holy Days of obligation apart from Sundays.A pet peeve of mine is when my parish, which has 4 full weekend Masses, only schedules 2 Masses on Holy Days. It's almost like implicit permission to skip.I also wish the bishops would not transfer Holy Days to the nearest Sunday. It's confusing & often catches folks off guard.My grandmother once told me, "When it's Sunday, you go to church." If you love God & believe that Christ is really present in the Eucharist, you wouldn't ever be anywhere else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02124016138744064898 Donna Carolina

    Today was the first day in my 50 + years I refused to attend Mass, and I plan to leave the church once and for all. It is all a matter of moral authority. When I attended Mass at a parish in North Charleston the priest was always telling us we needed to donate MORE MORE MORE. He was a rude jackass-and then he was convicted of several sexual offenses and is on the SC registry. The priest who buried my father later was arrested for sexual molestation charges and did Federal time. I once belonged to a parish in Goose Creek and after putting up with the downright rude and un-Christian behavior of the jackass parish priest I quit that church. Now I learned and verified that the Monsignor/pastor of my church has a home in another state that he "shares" with another man. I am sick of immoral people who run the church, bleeding the parish of cash and making us feel guilt for not doing their bidding. On the plus side, I have decided to donate the money I put in the basket each week to various REAL charities, not social clubs run by sodomite deviant hypocrites.