Someone was asking about internet mass while on vacation. Fr. Vincent Serpa gave a succinct NO (below) in the ask an apologist forum. I think it is a gray area that could not have been specifically adressed by cannon law or the commandment to honor the Sabbath. I am not claiming he was wrong, but I think there is room to flesh out the argument. I have not had any luck with the priests at the online sites, so I am grateful someone waded in. I would be interested in any other opinions from local parish priests or people here.
The celebration of Mass is a personal experience. Watching on television or the internet is not being present in person. It does not satisfy our obligation to be present for Mass.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
I have used the internet masses online when I felt I had a reasonable excuse as defined by the Catholic rules I was raised with: ewtn.com/expert/answers/sunday_mass.htm
I have written several of these sites with this exact question and none have answered back, so I applaud you for entering into this area. However, I have a few questions starting with the grave clause.
“grave cause”…such as the necessity to work to support one’s family, child care, personal sickness or the care of the sick, necessary travel etc.
The person who wrote you cited vacation travel. It can be argued if this is a necessity. I would think the access to a church was the real issue. Was one right down the street or not available “in the area”.
Second is what does impossible mean, when the internet site (ewtn above) defines this as a priest “in the area”.
Referencing the Catechism of the Catholic Church
2183 “If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the Liturgy of the Word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families.”
I had this issue when traveling for a month to Thailand with my wife. There was no Catholic church in the area and the nearest one was about an hour’s drive or an hour by bus, with wait time and a taxi from the station. Since no one else was Catholic and I did not want to venture alone (not knowing Thai) online mass seemed a good substitute to asking her realtives to invest 3 or 4 hours of their day, including waiting an hour. It was not impossible, if I were willing to risk life and limb and possibly not returning to my wife’s town for days or severely imposing on her family.
Of course all these Catechism rules were written before the internet. If you had answered that the mass was a “communal experience” as the Catechism below, it would have been more convincing to me. I can personally participate in an online mass the same as sitting in church. You can also argue, as mentioned by the priests online, that they are servicing the “internet community”
2182 Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church. The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God's holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So while I would not argue that weekly internet mass is a replacement for attending a local parish and participating in that community, when away from your local parish and another church is not nearby. It seems much better than doing nothing and going to confession for skipping and that this does fulfill the obligation to attend mass. Impossible is a big word. After all. to me the overriding commandment is to honor the Sabbath, which we Catholics don’t really do anyway. Of course we believe we have a good reason but it seems clear to me that weekly dedication is the urgent need.
Dr. Brian McCarthy