Why Do Catholics ...?
Is it actually a mortal sin to miss the epistle, Gospel and/or priest’s sermon at Mass?
The Sunday obligation (Canon 1247) is “to participate in the Mass.” There is no mention of certain parts that can be skipped. This has to be the goal of Catholics: to get there before it begins and to remain until the dismissal.
But what if you come late or must leave early? It is in such circumstances that the moral theology tradition speaks of being there for the essential parts, the Gospel, which is at the heart of the Liturgy of the Word, through the heart of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and up to and including the priest’s Communion. Can one avail oneself of this knowledge to set legal minimums of attendance? No, only to determine if one has negligently and culpably failed to fulfill the obligation. A mother of five who arrives at the homily because having dressed the fifth kid she found that the first one had now undressed and she needed to dress that child again would likely not have to go again. This would be no different than excusing oneself due to another kind of impossibility, such as sickness or severe weather. On the other hand, the person who arrives at the homily or later through neglect or disregard for the seriousness of the Sunday obligation has good reason to go again to Mass or to confess his negligence.
And yes, knowingly and willfully failing to fulfill the Third Commandment, as specified by the Church to participation in Mass, outside of a proportionate reason, would be a mortal sin.
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