Is missing Mass ever a venial sin?


#1

Last week in the AAA forum, someone asked whether missing Mass due to extreme fatigue was a letigimate excuse for missing Mass. The poster explained that such fatigue could present serious safety issues at work for himself and coworkers. Fr. Serpa responded, “Certainly, you must not jeopardize your safety. If you cannot attend Mass, you are not obliged to. But when you can, then you must.”

It is my understanding of the Church’s teaching that if there is not a legitimate excuse, missing Mass is always a grave matter (mortal sin). It is also my understanding of the Church’s teaching that if there is a legitimate excuse, there is no sin at all in missing. But in the above example, it seems that discerning that threshold of being so tired that safety is jeopardized would be difficult to do. Being tired is also extremely uncomfortable. How easy would it be to rationalize that there is a safety issue when maybe it doesn’t rise to that level of severity? (Note: this is not a criticism of the AAA original poster at all. Where I’m going with this is philosophical.) What if someone rationalizes a little, but believes he or she is excused? Is that mortal or venial?

Here is another scenario. What if, in a certain parish, the priest makes an announcement to the parishioners: “Don’t come to church if you are sick. We want to share in the Eucharist together–not your germs!” What if you are sick and still have a lot of symptoms (stuffy, runny nose and cough), but don’t know if you are actually contagious–the symptoms possibly now being a non-contagious secondary infection. What if, on a Holy Day of Obligation, you have to go to work to attend an important meeting to present some informaiton, but come home right after the meeting to go to bed? Is it a mortal sin to miss Mass for that Holy Day? If someone is able to attend a meeting (though miserable and displaying symptoms), is that person well enough to go to Mass? What if someone is not certain whether he or she is contagious? If someone in this situation should go to Mass, there is potential for rationalization, and given the complex variables, it seems that an error would be a venial sin rather than mortal. This assumes that the person would otherwise ordinarly go to mass without hesitation.

If the Church really does teach that missing mass can never be a venial sin, then subties in the above examples make the difference between absolutely no sin being committed at all and someone being severed from grace and justification–a state of eternal damnation if that person were to drop dead. If subtle, but selfish rationalization has occurred, that person may not even realize it needs to be confessed.

Philosophically, it doesn’t make sense to me that there are never occassions in which missing Mass is just a venial sin. It seems that there are times which a person may not directly reject Christ, but sins of weakness affect his or her decisions.

Thoughts?


#2

It is my understanding of the Church’s teaching that if there is not a legitimate excuse, missing Mass is always a grave matter (mortal sin).

Your understanding is not in line with church teaching my friend. “Grave matter” is part of what makes up a mortal sin, as per the CCC.

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter

and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."Under the situations that you describe there is no likelihood of deliberate consent. If one is suffering illness or extreme fatigue for a good reason (not like staying out all night partying…duh), such as sitting up at the hospital with a sick or dying loved one maybe. That would appear to mitigate the sin. All I would say is that one needs to remember that rationalizations are only suitable for other humans, but God knows exactly what the truth is…He sees none of that.


#3

[quote=BlackKnight]Your understanding is not in line with church teaching my friend. “Grave matter” is part of what makes up a mortal sin, as per the CCC.
No, I don’t misunderstand Church teaching. I’m aware that mortal sin consists of those 3 components. My question pertains to whether less than full knowledge or less than full consent lowers an objectively grave matter to only a venial sin or whether less than full knowledge or less than full consent completely voids any commission of sin at all.

Under the situations that you describe there is no likelihood of deliberate consent. If one is suffering illness or extreme fatigue for a good reason (not like staying out all night partying…duh), such as sitting up at the hospital with a sick or dying loved one maybe. That would appear to mitigate the sin.

You describe a situation that is very cut and dry. I’m inquiring about circumstances that are much closer to the threshold of full knowledge and full consent–but don’t completely satisfy those conditions.

All I would say is that one needs to remember that rationalizations are only suitable for other humans, but God knows exactly what the truth is…He sees none of that.

[/quote]

Not sure what you mean by “rationalizations are only suitable for other humans.” You’re absolutely right that we can’t fool God. But sometimes we can fool ourselves. To some extent we are culpable for self-deception, which ranges in scope from extremely slight to blatantly severe. It doesn’t make any sense that there wouldn’t be any accounting for the occurance of venial sin.


#4

I would suspect that if one got so busy working that one lost track of what day of the week it was, and could have ascertained that it was Sunday, and missed Mass as a result, that might qulify for a venial sin. It was not intentional to miss Mass; but Mass is a serious enough obligation that one has the duty to figure out what day of the week it is.

Sorry, best example I can come up with on the spur of the moment.


#5

[quote=otm]I would suspect that if one got so busy working that one lost track of what day of the week it was, and could have ascertained that it was Sunday, and missed Mass as a result, that might qulify for a venial sin. It was not intentional to miss Mass; but Mass is a serious enough obligation that one has the duty to figure out what day of the week it is.

Sorry, best example I can come up with on the spur of the moment.
[/quote]

I did the same thing one Sunday morning. I was working on the computer and intended to quit and go to church when the time came, but I lost track of time and next time I looked up, Mass was half over. Was that a grave matter, a venial matter or was no sin committed at all? I went to confession for it, and my priest did not correct me for being too scrupulous.


#6

If I’m ever tempted to miss Sunday mass, I need only think of the scourging scene in The Passion of the Christ. Jesus went through all of that for me…the least I can do is accept His invitation to join Him for Eucharist.

To answer your question more directly…if one truly didn’t know that missing mass was a grave matter, then I suppose one could make a case that missing mass was venial. Of course now that everyone who reads this knows…it’s now a mortal sin if you miss mass.

I really wish priests would grow a spine and emphasize this from the pulpit more often…actually ever.


#7

[quote=StCsDavid]If I’m ever tempted to miss Sunday mass, I need only think of the scourging scene in The Passion of the Christ. Jesus went through all of that for me…the least I can do is accept His invitation to join Him for Eucharist.

To answer your question more directly…if one truly didn’t know that missing mass was a grave matter, then I suppose one could make a case that missing mass was venial. Of course now that everyone who reads this knows…it’s now a mortal sin if you miss mass.
[/quote]

That’s not completely true. If you miss for a legimimate reason, there is no sin at all. My question pertains to ambiguities in discerning what is a legitimate reason. If someone displays severe cold symptoms, but isn’t sure whether he or she is contagious, is a grave matter to stay home or not? If it is a grave matter, does less than full consent and knowlege (with some human weakness thrown into the mix) reduce it to a venial sin or is there no sin whatsoever?


#8

On this point, it should be noted that while we are required to go to Mass, we are not required to receive Communion.

Venial sin by definition.

hurst


#9

[quote=petra]If someone displays severe cold symptoms, but isn’t sure whether he or she is contagious, is a grave matter to stay home or not?
[/quote]

If you have symptoms of a contagious disease, then it’s encouraged that you stay home so that you do not spread the disease to other parishoners (knowingly spreading a disease itself could be a sin depending on the circumstances). This is definitely not a mortal or even venial sin.


#10

This is a tricky topic. I believe cann law allows no explicit excusal for missing mass. Some cases are probably pretty clear (i.e., I was unconcious and in the hospital), and I am sure canonists have an understanding thst certain conditiopns would tend to mitigate missing mass (beyond the obvious cases).

Still, I (personally) think we need to be careful in passing our own judgement in determining whether our excuse mitigates, and as mentioned by some of the posts, here, the best practice is probably to confess missing mass.

I think a better question would be, if we were not sure if our “excuse” mitigated, and we missed the 45 minute window of opportunity our parish offfers us to confess (hopefully some parishes have more frequent confession available), and we think likely it is ok, is it advisable to take eucharist?

Mark
www.veritas-catholic.blogspot.com


#11

[quote=petra]I did the same thing one Sunday morning. I was working on the computer and intended to quit and go to church when the time came, but I lost track of time and next time I looked up, Mass was half over. Was that a grave matter, a venial matter or was no sin committed at all? I went to confession for it, and my priest did not correct me for being too scrupulous.
[/quote]

Just curious. Why didn’t you go to the next Mass. Our church has 10 Masses on a Sunday. Does yours only have one?


#12

I think the question is a bit confused in that it inquires whether a grave matter, such as missing Mass, can ever be non-grave. An issue is either grave, or it is not; the severity of the sin depends on issue being addressed, not how it is handled. Whether the person has commited the sin in question, however, has to do with how they came to the action.

In this case the sin is missing Mass, as attending Mass is a grave matter. If you can’t attend, or should not attend, due to mitigating circumstances that doesn’t change the fact that Mass is a grave matter. Since there are mitigating factors, however, you are not guilty of violating the grave matter. Mass, being among the holiest things the living can experience, is never going to be less than a grave matter; the Eucharist is never a casual event.

Venial sin is more about casual failings, IIRC.

Peace and God bless!


#13

[quote=thistle]Just curious. Why didn’t you go to the next Mass. Our church has 10 Masses on a Sunday. Does yours only have one?
[/quote]

Our church has 3 Masses: the Sat. vigil, an 8:00 and a 10:30 Sunday morning mass. I was preparing to go to the 10:30 Mass, which was the one I missed.


#14

[quote=Ghosty]I think the question is a bit confused in that it inquires whether a grave matter, such as missing Mass, can ever be non-grave. An issue is either grave, or it is not; the severity of the sin depends on issue being addressed, not how it is handled. Whether the person has commited the sin in question, however, has to do with how they came to the action.
[/quote]

That’s not entirely true. Some actions that are grave matter become venial when the scope or harm is very minimal. Stealing is a grave matter, but using an employer’s copy machine to make a personal copy would be venial. Speeding is another example. Driving so fast that you are endangering your life or the lives of others is a grave matter, but going 5 mph over the speed limit is venial. Missing Mass because one simply doesn’t want to go is a grave matter. But if a person’s weakness factors into discerning whether they are, in fact, contagious or so tired that not getting extra sleep would endanger others’ safety, does that change the nature of what would ordinarily be a grave matter?

In this case the sin is missing Mass, as attending Mass is a grave matter. If you can’t attend, or should not attend, due to mitigating circumstances that doesn’t change the fact that Mass is a grave matter. Since there are mitigating factors, however, you are not guilty of violating the grave matter. Mass, being among the holiest things the living can experience, is never going to be less than a grave matter; the Eucharist is never a casual event.

Venial sin is more about casual failings, IIRC.

So you’re saying that there is a hard and fast line between guilt of violating a grave matter and no guilt whatsoever. If someone is unsure whether they are contagious or whether they are so tired, their fatigue may jeopardize others’ safety, it is best to err on the side of going to Mass because we cannot know for sure when a complete absence of guilt turns into a violation of a grave matter. Do you agree?


#15

So you’re saying that there is a hard and fast line between guilt of violating a grave matter and no guilt whatsoever. If someone is unsure whether they are contagious or whether they are so tired, their fatigue may jeopardize others’ safety, it is best to err on the side of going to Mass because we cannot know for sure when a complete absence of guilt turns into a violation of a grave matter. Do you agree?

Nah, I don’t agree with that. Missing Mass because of contagion or serious fatigue are properly valid reasons, so if you err on the side of missing Mass within reason you are no more guilty of it. The key is the intent; God does not sit there with a ledger of actions, and one can’t accidently commit a mortal sin. If your intentions are not spreading your sickness, and you have good reason to believe you are indeed sick, then you aren’t commiting a mortal sin through staying home. In fact, such an act could be an act of charity if you find yourself really yearning to go.

As for the “degree of sin”, I’m not sure about the copy machine example. I think it has more to do with how the other person would view the theft than it does with the amount of things being stolen. In all likelyhood the workplace isn’t going to care, and the sin is one of omission in seeking the full consent, which would be venial. If the workplace has very strict rules about such things then I can see it being a mortal sin as you are willfully and wrongfully violating another’s rightful possessions. As for speeding, I don’t think that going five miles over the speed limit constitutes reckless endangerment, which is the actual sin in question. Speeding, then, in such a manner is not a question of danger, but of obedience to legal authority, and would fall under the same category of “how much is allowed to let slide”.

Just my thoughts and opinions!

Peace and God bless!


#16

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