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July 19, 2006



Well, that's cool. No more mortal sin for missing mass for me! All I have to do is have one sniffle, a headache, or some other symptom and I get an automatic dispensation.

Thanks, Bishops Committee on the Liturgy.

Marty Helgesen

"Hands should be cleaned before" distributing Holy Communion. "Waterless alcohol-based hand gels may be used when soap is not available and hands are not visibly soiled." They, or anti-bacterial towelettes such as Wash'n Dri, should be available for use by Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who may be called from the congregation during Mass if they are needed to assist the priest or the Extraordinary Ministers already there.


At one parish I attended the EMHCs would all parade up to the sanctuary and use Purell to wash their hands before Communion. (I use the word "parade" because there was always an inordinate number of EMHCs.) The alcohol scent would waft through the entire church. It was rather distracting.


This is clearly out of context since the next sentence is, "during the time of the pandemic." Wikipedia: A pandemic (from Greek pan all + demos people) is an epidemic (an outbreak of an infectious disease) that spreads worldwide, or at least across a large region.

So yes, stay home if you have signs of suffering from symptoms of a pandemic. My hunch is you can use your best judgment if you "have a snifle or headache." But I'm not the expert apologist. I'd give a flu weak credit, but not the common cold.

Do note that the contrary is not true--attending mass if you don't feel very well doesn't seem to be a mortal sin, at least based on the excerpt. So if faced with weighing one's level of "symptoms" that will render a dispensation, I might err on the side of attending. Again, not the expert apologist though.

Brother Cadfael

Sorry, Jimmy, but I think you're wrong here, at least if your comments (including the original "Told Ya" post) are taken literally. Not all "contagious" diseases are equal, and simply having a contagious disease is not, by itself, a sufficient reason for missing Mass. One has to also take into account, among other things, the seriousness of the disease and the seriousness of the risk of transmission. During a pandemic, of course, the seriousness of both having and transmitting a common cold or flu is elevated. And although I have not read the newsletter in question, I do not believe that the onset of cold and flu season qualifies as a pandemic.


Medieval churches sometimes had Hagioscopes or lepers' windows, so that the contagious could fulfill the Sunday Obligation without risking others with disease. I know of quite a few clever young architects who could implement something like this today.



Last week I couldn't go to mass because of a rather bad case of the common cold. It has cleared up somewhat, but I still have a slight cough and other symptoms. So do you think that I should stay away from church on sunday?

Paul H

I have to agree with a couple of the previous comments above. The sentence that begins, "During the time of the pandemic, even if schools and public institutions are not closed..." seems to indicate that these instructions apply to a serious pandemic situation, such as the potential bird flu pandemic that we keep hearing about. There may be more context here that I am missing, but based on the sentence that I quoted, it doesn't sound like these instructions were meant to apply to the common cold and flu.

However, I do agree that it is a good idea to stay home from Mass if you have the flu, since there is a danger of transmitting the disease to elderly people or small children, for whom it could be more serious. I'm not convinced that you should stay home simply for the common cold though, unless of course you just don't feel well enough to go to Mass.

Ryan C


Is it really necessary to bash the bishops about this? Unless I'm missing the essential jest of your post.

Ed Peters

Not sure this helps, but if I felt bad enough to use a vacation day to stay home from work (not a sick day, mind you, that doesn't "cost" me anything), I could stay home from Mass.

Mia Storm

"Not sure this helps, but if I felt bad enough to use a vacation day to stay home from work (not a sick day, mind you, that doesn't 'cost' me anything), I could stay home from Mass."

I once asked a confessor for a rule of thumb about when I'd be sick enough to stay home from Mass. He said that if I was sick enough to stay home from work, I could consider myself sick enough to stay home from Mass.

I've found this rule of thumb very helpful, especially when I found myself sick over Christmas two years in a row and was feeling guilty for twice missing the Christmas holy day of obligation. I kept reminding myself, "I'd call into work sick, too!"

Ed Peters

yes, mia, but the sick day presumes a decent work ethic to begin with. the vacation day rule was likely to get a more "honest" reflection, or so i thought.


I actually changed my behavior after your first post. When I got a really bad cold I choose not to go to Mass. I felt guilty but at the same time I knew I was doing the right thing.

Holly W.

Goes out to be some more Germ-X. :P


Look, people. There's clearly a time for your mommy to hoick you out of bed and make you go to Mass even if you don't wanna. And clearly many people err on the side of attending St. Seven Sleepers.

But there's also a time when you have to realize that it isn't a good idea to walk to choir practice when the road is still blocked from a snowstorm. And if you do, you shouldn't be surprised or wounded if you get there and find out that the church doors are locked, 'cause nobody else was stupid enough to go.

Jesus does not want you to attend Mass so that you can breathe all over everybody else and spread your germs to the immunologically weak, while preening yourself on how virtuous you are. It does not give Him glory to have everybody sick the next week, and a couple of elderly parishioners sent home to Him early. Maybe before they could receive the viaticum. Boy, wouldn't that make you feel holy and virtuous.

This particular announcement is not some cool new way to avoid the Mass obligation. This is a prudent measure which is supposed to make individual judgement in time of pandemic easier -- and save the congregation from being distracted at the consecration by a cough, that raises the fear that they and all their children have been doomed to die before next Sunday.

But at all times, we are supposed to be charitable and prudent. If you wouldn't fash yourself over missing Mass because you were busy saving somebody's life, then don't fash yourself over missing Mass to save others from having to miss it.

And offer it up, since it makes you sad and frustrated. Make a spiritual communion. But resign yourself to what God has given you, as there are a lot worse things that could happen. Like not getting to go to God's house FOREVER.


Hmm.. is that you, Cardinal Arinze?


Ryan C

Now that's some plain commen sense, plain spoken.


I was going to say something, but I can't add to Maureen's comments.

Well Done!


I agree Maureen. In our parish there are a large number of the elderly and quite frail.

Ironically enough, I missed mass just 2 weeks ago because of a really nasty flu that I got from one of those elderly people at mass who came out when they hadn't gotten over it yet. I'm only 49 and that bug knocked me right off my feet. Even got a sinus infection that required the same anti-biotics we used to give to cows 20 years ago. Felt like an ice-pick running up into the back of my eye.

I couldn't have focussed on the liturgy anyway. My prayers that weekend were pretty simple. Lord Jesus help me!

One question. What's "fash"? That's a new word for me.


Perhaps it was an attempt to be humorous (ala Joan Rivers?) but no, actually Maureen has spoken very rudely and presumptuously; it's just that Americans generally don't even notice anymore because they encounter it now from First Grade on up. Envision Mary speaking of the matter, and see if you miss the smackdown.

Sifu Jones

What? You don't think Mary ever laid the smack down? What mother hasn't at some point? Remember that whole "lost in the temple" thing?

Heck, even Jesus Himself opened up on people occasionally. I believe a whipping was in order once. Not that we should go about whipping each other with cords; I'm just saying a good "mother's tongue" can be helpful sometimes.

Hoorah, Maureen.


Maureen, You were neither rude nor presumptious. You engaged in plain speaking, which I appreciate. Keep it up!


1. I don't see how being sick as a dispensation is anything new or controversial.
2. As the homily we heard last Sunday discussed, I don't understand why Americans are so afraid of getting sick and dying. Everything is "keep me away from Heaven as long as possible and I'll come up with some excuse as to why it's Christian, and keep that guy in the wheelchair away from me, because I don't want to catch what he has."
3. If people who are coughing shouldn't come to Mass (and according to VIRTUS program, they shouldn't under penalty of lawsuit), does that apply to asthmatics or people with severe allergies?


I think JC that the point is more about contagion that disturbing the mass, which in most cases of asthmatics and allergy sufferers can be controlled.

Speaking for myself, it's not that I'm so afraid of getting sick and dying, it's that I would rather not be the one responsible for giving my disease to someone weaker who might then die of it.

It's all about respect.


By that logic, JC, what's the argument against murder and suicide?

What you must avoid doing intentionally, you must also avoid doing through negligence, if feasible.


OK, so should a person with a genetic disorder have sex?


Mary, Technically I offered no logic, just viewpoints. But, following your and Mr. Akin's "logic", abortion and contraception are OK if you're preventing someone else from getting disease.
Sick and tired of hearing this garbage about the moral obligation to "prevent disease," and seeing it attributed to Msgr. Suaudeau at the Pontifical Academy for Life, I wrote to him last year.
He wrote back and said, "There is no such thing as a moral obligation to prevent disease."

Sins of operation and omission are one thing. What you're talking about is the remote possibility that Person A *might* spread contagion to Person B, who *might* possibly have a fatal reaction to the virus which he or she would probably have contracted somewhere else, anyway.

It's like when the non-childbearing family tell the childbearing relatives not to bring their kids to grandma's in the worry that grandma migth catch something from them, and grandma says, "Why can't I see my grandchildren?"

I am constantly sniffling. I never know when it's allergies or a virus. According to Mr. Akin (and the VIRTUS people), I should never go to Mass or volunteer for the Church.

Sorry for "posting at length," Mr. Akin, but you are dead wrong on this (and the vaccine issue).


You're right, JC. Go to mass with a communicable disease. So what if there are elderly people or children who might be very susceptible! @#$%&* them!

(Sorry for the repeat post from the other thread).


My point is that you don't necessarily know you have a communicable disease. My point is that to 99% of the ignoramuses in this country, including most Catholics I've known, being disabled is a "communicable disease."
I have a "disease" that is "communicable" by my genes. It's called Marfan syndrome. I will die from it. It has a 50% chance of being passed on to my children. Those who get it, including my oldest daughter, will die from it.

How do you respond to *me*? I guess I don't love my children, then. I guess I shouldn't reproduce. I should probably abort or contracept them, right?
Because physical health always overries morality. That's plain as day in the Gospel.


I know an interesting corollary to the "sick day from work? stay home from Mass" recommendation: You wouldn't dress that way to go to work (assuming most people work in an office--gimme a break!), why do you dress that way to go to Mass?" And sorry, since I know this will get a whole new set of comments going. Sorry!

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