Staying home from mass with baby: mortal sin?

I have a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a 5 month old. Last week, my husband wanted to take the two older kids to mass with his dad about 30-45 minutes away and spend the day in the sun with him (leaving me with no car seats). I obviously could not take the baby in the sun all day. At first, I told him no, we should all go to mass together as usual, but in the morning, I thought it would be nice to stay home with the baby and just let him go, and I know that the CCC sites care of infants as a just reason for missing mass, so I did.

If I’m being honest, I was just beat and didn’t want to go to mass that day and took the easy out rather than going, even telling hubby I would have to go to mass if he got home early with the car so don’t, haha.

Anyway, he got home at 6 and there was a 7 pm mass but baby is cranky and needs to be in bed by then and I couldnt leave her home with hubby at her cranky time when all she wants to do is nurse and sleep.

So my question is, is this a mortal sin? Yes, I missed when normally I would have gone, but since the CCC says “care of infants” is a valid reason, then is just not feeling like dragging an infant to mass every now and then a valid reason to miss?

Please no comments about what a **** person I am for not wanting to go and the people who risk their lives to go to mass and how Jesus died for me and I can’t even be bothered to go to mass. I know this. I am up all night with a baby who barely sleeps and I take care of 3 kids and homeschool them all week, and we do go to mass as a family every Sunday, even on vacation.

Just wondering for practical purposes here if that passage of the CCC really means what it seems to mean, which is that staying home with a young child is reason enough to miss, since the passage itself does not seem to give any caveats.


Only you can really answer what was truly in your heart. You will get varying answers of support and warning but none of that means much if it is troubling you. Bringing it to confession is really the only way you will be sure.


You know your heart. I personally don’t think it’s mortal, but you did confess that you actually did not want to go. This could also mean because of the stress of bringing children along and trying to keep them under control, right? I know it’s hard to have a good devotion time with an upset child. I really wish parishes would offer day care for Mass times. I’m sure some do, I don’t know.

I would examine your conscience as to why you didn’t want to go. We should consider it a holy sacrifice just to bring ourselves to Mass for worship. And doing this with a thankfull heart!

It’s normal to have to fight all sorts of tendencies. I always remind myself that I have never gone to a Mass and then regretted it. :smiley:

Peace to you and your family.

Well stated.

The situation you present is an interesting one to read…given the many details and qualifications of what you think you could possibly do.

The catechism says “…unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.” (2181) You have the care of an infant. Full stop.

The care of an infant (or of the sick who require such care as to not be able to leave them) is a legitimate excuse from the obligation to hear Mass. Really, you answer your own question. “I couldn’t leave her home with hubby at her cranky time when all she wants to do is nurse and sleep.” Another full stop. As a priest, it is not necessary for me to go farther; we already twice have the answer. Everything else is extraneous at that point.

You should not have to talk yourself into using the concession that is there for you; you also do not have to go to extremes to justify using it or feel guilty for using it when you need to.

It seems to me that you are overtired and you have many responsibilities. In a given moment, you had a chance for a quiet day, the others in your household would be gone, it was not possible for you and the baby to go, you could stay home and decompress – and you saw that time would be a blessing and help for you. You were acknowledging in the moment that there were benefits for you, if you availed yourself of the excuse. That’s fine. The realization of secondary benefits for you does not mean you should not use the concession that the law itself gives you to care for your infant. A mother caring for an infant is one of those circumstances in which the Church explicitly says: this precise situation warrants a relaxation on the obligation to hear Mass. You also have to legitimately care for yourself.

With that in mind, hoping not to find yourself in a situation in which you felt you would really need to push yourself into doing something that you saw as a hardship is an alert that you needed NOT to push yourself but to avail yourself of the excuse and be at peace.

From what you write, I think you really are “Trying Hard”. You also don’t seem like you will be abusing this concession or that you are going to be doing this on an on-going or long term basis. Your inclination will be to go rather than not go. You also demonstrate a good understanding of the values that underlie the Sunday obligation, what the Mass is, and the importance of attending as a family. Use the concession judiciously and when you prudently see that, for this particular Sunday, you need to care for your infant and yourself by not going, do so. In the grand scheme of things, this situation is of short duration in terms of real time.

As a priest, I can say all of this to you. If you are truly anxious or would feel more sure, then you should speak to your pastor. As the catechism says in the bit I quoted, he can outright dispense you from the obligation; what I write is instead the application of the excuse from the obligation that the law itself has already given you.

Wow. To hear this answer and to hear it from a priest is so wonderful. I was feeling so guilty because I felt that I was sort of refusing to go even though my conscience was nagging me about it and I technically had the opportunity to go later. Thank you so very much for the heartfelt and CLEAR response with the citation from the CCC. I have always wondered how this particular passage applies and now I know.

9/10 times, I always would choose to attend mass with my family (including the little ones!), but it is so comforting to know that in her mercy, the Church provides for us exhausted and struggling parents and that we don’t need to have some extraordinary excuses to feel at peace in availing ourselves of it.

One more practical question: approximately what age does the Church mean when it says “infant”?

Again, THANK YOU so very much for this wonderful and merciful response!

Many mothers leave “cranky” babies with Dad for much lesser reasons. Good experience for Dad. I get the feeling you were looking for an excuse not to go to Mass. And you have no proof that Don Ruggero is really a priest, so you still need to be honest with yourself and God and talk to a priest. God Bless, Memaw

Rather than taking advice from online sources (and you don’t really know if a priest responded) try talking to your parish priest about it. He is only a phone call or email away and he can advise you properly. I know it is very hard to go when babies are involved but if you feel a nagging doubt that you did the right thing then talk to a real priest and get the right info. God Bless.

Ok I think you guys are being a little paranoid here. Regardless, the fact remains that the catechism does specifically cite “the care of infants” as a valid reason for missing mass, with no elaborations or caveats, does it not? It doesn’t say “unruly infants” or “sick infants”, just “infants”. A five month old is an infant. Yes, I could have left her with her dad when he got home, but it seems that the point is l, I was not REQUIRED to do so per the catechism.

Isn’t that what the catechism is for anyway? So that ordinary Catholics can read it and interpret it as best we can in good faith without having to ask a priest every time we have a minor doctrinal question? Yes, I was looking for a reason to stay home that day, snuggle with baby and get a jump on some housework for the week. But I fail to see the passage in the catechism where it says that mothers are allowed to miss to care for infants ONLY if they feel wracked with regret about it. I think sometimes people on this site would require more than the Church itself, which can be frustrating for people coming to the site looking for actual Church teaching.

The Catechism is a summary of the faith. It does not, and cannot possibly treat every topic exhaustively. It gives a couple of “for instance” examples. It is still up to us to discern with our own well formed conscience whether or not we have cause to miss mass.

Tired mom, cranky baby, long day… All seem like reasons one might decide they are not up to mass on a particular day. Another person might make a different choice,

The Catechism is useful in forming our consciences. It is not, however, a rule book or an excuse book. The Church’s teaching is wider, broader and deeper than the two sentences in the catechism you are trying to stretch into a “catechism says so”. If care of infants was truly all there was to it, no one with children would need darken the doors of the church for years on end. And yet, we know that’s not quite right.

Yes and no. The catechism is actually written for bishops to assist in writing local catechism and in teaching the faith to the laity, Of course, we can read it too. But we should also read and study the bible, other a Church documents, and listen to the preaching and teaching of our pastors and to their counsel. Formation of conscience is a process.

This sounds like “looking for a reason not to go” rather than “can’t go”.

Again, if the mere existence of an infant were reason to not go to mass, there are families who would never darken the door. And yet we know that is NOT what God wants of us,

And some would require less,

Church teaching is to form and examine your conscience, and determine what your intent was together with the circumstances and action you chose. Those are the three fonts of morality,

If you were too tired, fine. If baby was cranky and you weren’t up to handling baby at mass, fine. If Dad wasn’t agreeable to handle baby while you went to mass, fine. If the day just unfolded badly, fine, If you just didn’t want to go to mass and were looking for a reason not to go and hit on “hey I have an infant so i don’t have to go”, probably not fine.

You’re the only one who really knows what your though process was. (And no, I don’t think it was the latter).

I see your point, but even if one were “looking for a reason not to go”, from the wording of the catechism, it doesn’t seem that one would need to, or even that “can’t go” would be a necessary condition for missing without committing a sin. No, this is not an exhaustive list of reasons to miss mass, but “care of infants” is one reason given, and with no qualifications.

I wasn’t really asking what everyone on the forum would do. I’ve actually read a thread on here where women proudly state that they “limped into church” 8 days after a c-section like it was a badge of honor. I think we know what most people on here would do. My real question (and I know I might take heat for even bringing this up) is what is the minimum that is required? If a tired momma stays home with her baby when she COULD just get up and go to mass, is she committing a mortal sin, or is that what this portion of the catechism allows for?

If that is the case, you aren’t missing mass to care for your infant. You are missing mass because you are tired.

You happen to be tired b/c you have an infant. Other people might be equally tired for other reasons without an infant.

You have to weigh: Are you really too tired? Does the baby need you to stay home? Can you leave the baby in the care of others? If you forego resting to go to Mass, is that going to impact your care of the baby later in the evening or overnight?

We can’t answer that. And some people might answer “yes” while others answer “no”.

Bottom line, lots of people are tired and don’t want to haul their cookies to mass for various reasons. Sometimes it’s a legitimate reason to miss mass and sometimes it’s not.

I see your point, but whatever the mother of an infant is doing, she is ALWAYS caring for that infant. It’s not like she would be home drinking wine and watching Sex and the City while the baby screams in the next room. It goes without saying that she is caring for her infant, even when she is cooking/cleaning/at mass/at the grocery store/trying to take a nap. When you have a baby, it’s 24/7.

To me, “care of infants” implies choosing to forego the stress of bringing a baby or very young child to mass and staying home with the child instead, otherwise, wouldn’t it have been worded differently?

Dear Trying Hard:

Thank you for your kind words. I am new to this site. I am retired now and thought that coming here daily and picking a question or two to answer would be an interesting way to help people who have questions.

Your question, as I read it, was interesting in the way you phrased it. It was presented as a young mother might ask it if she came to me after Mass and spoke simply about her life. And so I answered you in the same tone. What I wrote is exactly what I would have said.

I am glad you found it helpful. I stand by the answer as I wrote it. If you were my parishioner, I would resolve the issue in your mind completely – I would dispense you from the obligation and eliminate any ambiguity you have. Having taught for years, I am most comfortable with the assessment that I gave you: the law itself excuses you from the obligation in the situation you describe.

In terms of your additional question: this is the definition in Canon Law:

*Can. 97 §1 A person who has completed the eighteenth year of age, has attained majority; below this age, a person is a minor.

§2 A minor who has not completed the seventh year of age is called an infant and is considered incapable of personal responsibility; on completion of the seventh year, however, the minor is presumed to have the use of reason. *
In this instance, however, one would need to interpret what the Catechism is saying according to the norms of reason and common sense. As babies mature differently, you as the mother would be best positioned to prudentially gauge when the needs and care of the baby are such that you do not need to avail yourself of the excuse from the obligation. Frankly, from what you write, it is apparent to me that you will err on the side of being observant rather than laxed. This is demonstrated by your “9/10 times” comment.

As to the commenters who attack the veracity of my priesthood: I find your statements insulting in the extreme.

I think, for example, of the many times over the years that I have been in an airport, on a flight, in transit – or visiting a museum or other public place or even on a sick call to a hospital or home for the aged – and had someone whom I did not know and had never met come to me, ask if I were a Catholic priest, and then ask me a question, present a problem, ask a blessing for themselves or an object of piety, or for some other exercise of my ministry.

Never once, in all those years, did someone say, my having answered the question, “I doubt you are a priest”…I presume because from my appearance and my words and my action, it was plausible to them that I am truly a priest.

HOWEVER, we are not even talking at that level in this instance. What was done here is the equivalent of my engaging with that person who came up to me at the airport and then for a fellow traveler seated nearby to say to the person speaking with me: “He may not be a real priest. Who knows? You should not listen to him. You should find a real priest or you should go to your own pastor rather than talk to him.”

Granted I am new to this forum and to this type of thing on the Internet but if such as what you have said in your posts were to happen to me in person, I would frankly look upon the one who did it as most certainly rude, perhaps mentally disturbed, and assuredly someone whose company is to be shunned.

I have given my answer to the situation as it was presented by the original poster. I have neither the time nor the interest to engage in some sort of debate with other people commenting, above all when their declarations are statements that are, most charitably, of dubious provenance.

I will add that I am thankful that certain commenters here were not in my classroom or my parish. May God’s blessing be upon the bishop(s) and priests who have the care of your souls, if you are toward them as was your comment regarding me.

I would, however, have been delighted to have you in my parish, Trying Hard. I assure you of my prayers for you and your family.

Don Ruggero

PS to Trying Hard: The Catechism of the Catholic Church was promulgated by Pope Saint John Paul II with an apostolic constitution addressed to all the People of God. He did that consciously and deliberately as various people were, even then and in the months leading up to its publication, saying this was not a resource the “ordinary lay people in the parish” should be possessing, reading, and interpreting. For the Pope, it was something everyone should have and read.

These are his words in the apostolic constitution Fidei Depositum: "I ask all the Church’s Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life. This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms. It is also offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation.

I do not know you nor do I know the other people posting here. From what I have read in the comments, Trying Hard, I have more confidence in your ability to understand the text as plainly written rather than the interpretations and opinions others are attempting to advance as authoritative. God’s blessing be upon you in your journey of life and in your vocation as wife and mother.

Of course up young children need 24/7 care, but not all mothers are caring for their children solo.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I actually ended up missing mass today as well. My son has a cough and I didn’t want him infecting anyone at church, so I stayed home with him while my husband took my other son across town to see his grandpa. Hubby went to 5 pm mass by himself while I stayed home with the kids. There is a 7pm mass somewhere in town but that hour is not a great time for baby to be out (fussy and ready for dinner and bed), and to be honest, by 7 pm I’m beat too AND we have a guest who just came into town tonight. I do feel terrible missing 2 weeks in a row, which is highly unusual for me!

Anyway, thank you so much for keeping me in your prayers. I truly appreciate it. And welcome to this site! I too find it a bit bizarre that the veracity of your claim to be a priest has been questioned here. I know people on the Internet can do some strange things, but I would be very surprised if someone with your level of knowledge about the catechism and canon law was spending his time and energy constructing a fake identity to mess with people on a Carholic website.

There are plenty of really great and well-meaning people here and also some pretty, um, intense people here as well who are quite rigorous in their practice of the faith and who can really be aggravating to those of us who struggle with some scruples. There are also many scrupulous people on here as I am sure you will see!

Anyway, thank you so much for your kindness and your very detailed explanation! My prayers are with you as well :slight_smile:

Then why are you here if you already made up your mind? I think your conscience was bothering you because you knew you were looking for an excuse. Having an infant doesn’t give you an excuse to miss Mass unless it is ill. I raised 7 infants and took them with me and most of the time with my older kids we didn’t have a cry room. Missing Mass is not a minor Doctrinal matter.God bless, Memaw

Actually I had not already made up my mind, but hearing a merciful answer from a priest vs. being castigated by a group of people who think I should have left a sleepy, fussy infant home to cry while I went to mass does make one tend to think the priest is probably correct, especially given the provision for such in the catechism. And well done raising 7 kids and bringing them all to church every Sunday-it sounds like you went above and beyond!

I don’t believe anyone castigated you or suggested what you propose above.

I think the general answer has been “it depends” and “you are the one who has to make the decision based your circumstances”.

True, but someone did suggested that she take the sleepy, fussy infant to Mass. In fact, someone suggested that the only reason to miss Mass with an infant is if said infant is sick.

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