Is It Always a Grave Sin to Skip Sunday Mass?

DIFFICULT MORAL QUESTIONS: ‘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 in this obligation commit a grave sin.’ (CCC 2181)

‘Empty Pew’
‘Empty Pew’ (photo: Johannes Ziegler Photo / Shutterstock)

Q. I returned to the Catholic Church's traditional Latin Mass 14 months ago. I have traveled four hours round trip to a Latin Mass each week because it means so much to me; however, on at least 12-14 occasions I was not up to the drive but could have attended a nearby ordinary Mass. I did not do so. Are we followers of the extraordinary form expected to substitute with an ordinary Mass versus not attending Mass at all? Are my absences considered a mortal sin under these circumstances? — William, Florida

A. In its treatment of the Third Commandment of the Decalogue (2180), the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the serious obligation of all Catholics to participate in Mass on Sundays and other holy days. This is fulfilled by participating in Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite. 

Both the ordinary and extraordinary forms are valid rites. Our preference for a particular form does not exempt us from this basic obligation. Serious reasons such as illness or the care of infants can excuse us from the obligation, but, the Catechism teaches, “those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” (2181). You therefore should confess those occasions where you did not attend a valid Mass when you could have. 

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