How going to Mass can be sinful

How going to Mass can be sinful

Canon lawyer Ed Peters explains, in light of the St. Stanislaus in St. Louis situation, how going to Mass can be sinful.

Archbishop Raymond Burke said Mass celebrated at the schismatic parish by Fr. Marek Bozek would be “valid but illicit,” so Ed explains what that means.

There are, as it happens, a number of restrictions on when and where and by whom Masses may be celebrated. To take just one example, the celebration of Holy Mass is prohibited on Good Friday. But suppose some priest decides that he knows more about the Church’s prayer life than does the Church herself and announces his intention to celebrate Mass on Good Friday. Now, Jesus does not take away the power of confecting the Eucharist from priests even when they are going to abuse His sublime gifts, so a priest’s celebration of Mass on Good Friday would be, in one sense, “valid”. But celebrating Mass on Good Friday would constitute a serious violation of Church law and hence would be gravely “illicit”. A priest acting thus would be sinning gravely.

And what about those who attend such a renegade Mass? Well, assuming they knew that Good Friday Masses were forbidden but they nevertheless attended as a way to show their own disagreement with the Church’s prohibition of Good Friday Masses, they would be cooperators in the priest’s illegal action and would share in his offense.

As Ed says, if this can be so with liturgical law, how much more so would it apply to this situation? Archbishop Burke has issued a valid and moral order that is completely within his rights to do as apostolic successor in St. Louis and rightful bishop of the archdiocese. Some can claim that bishops often overstep their bounds or don’t carry out the duties of their office properly, but that’s a generalization. In this specific case, based on what we’ve seen, Burke is well within his authority.

(Incidentally, Ed has upgraded his blog and it’s a big improvement. Good job, Ed.)

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Oh, I thought this might be about how the Christmas music at one’s parish might drive one to sins against charity, among others . . . ;^) . . . not that that affected me personally . . .

  • There’s 1500 people in St. Louis and thereabouts I wouldn’t trade places with.

    I can’t imagine but I’m reading that people came from all over the country to attend.  News media hype?  I don’t know.  But I hope the Vatican hears it on the news—-it’s on the big news today.

  • Just what we need, a Canon lawyer demanding more authority for the hierarchy.  Rather than sensibly resolving this dispute, it has been radicalized to a point of schism, and Ed Peters throws fuel to the fire.

    Not handing over your assets to an Archbishop doesn’t sound like much of a sin to me.  Violating the 8th commandment sounds like a pretty clear sin.  If the Archdiocese of St. Louis would manage their own assets properly, they certainly would not need the assets of St. Stans.


  • John,

    You keep asserting things which others have told you are patently not true. The archdiocese is not trying to take their assets. The archdiocese has negotiated in good faith. The board sought a definitive answer from Rome, promising to obey it (when they thought it come down in their favor), and then rejecting it when it didn’t go their way.

    I think your own predilection against authority is coloring your view of the situation. As I said before (and which didn’t answer), it appears your libertarian politics is coloring your ecclesiology.

  • Hi Dom,

    Yes, I have read what others have written. However, this is not what the Archdiocese of St Louis has listed on their webpage as to the sequence of events, and the offer on the table.

    Quite often I read of the infallibilty of the hierarchy on temporal matters and I just don’t buy it.  How about some scrutiny before excommunication? 


  • “How about some scrutiny before excommunication?”


    They’ve been going back and forth for some time now, have they not?  Exactly how long must one deliberate before you would be satisfied?  Or are you a charter member of the Neville Chamberlain school of negotiation?

    Why is it that you give complete credence to the position of the board of directors of St. Stanislaus Parish, and absolutely none to what Abp. Burke has said?

    At some point, the medicine must be applied if the doctor wants the patient to recover.  Those who say the patient must not be forced to take the medicine must also accept that a likely consequence of such a decision is that the patient will die.

  • “Exactly how long must one deliberate before you would be satisfied?”
    With adult negotiators, this should take an hour or two.  With the current team in their, you can see where it is at.

    “Why is it that you give complete credence to the position of the board of directors of St. Stanislaus Parish, and absolutely none to what Abp. Burke has said?”

    I have spent a lot of time with Archdiosocean and Parish finance people over the last 4 years.  I never believe the Parishes; I never believe the Chancery.  In this case I also believe neither, but don’t see the Parish trying to excommunicate ArchBsp Burke.

    Observer, if you must kill the patient first to cure him, it is not much of a cure.


  • Powers, you idiot—the PATIENT killed the patient!  Thankfully, Christ can restore the patient to life—but ONLY Christ!

    You don’t see the parish trying to excommunicate the archbishop?  What are you looking at?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re intentionally thick; you don’t deserve a logical discourse.  Count me as one of your conquests, if it makes you feel like a little man.

  • observer,

    I have been called an idiot by much smarter people than you.  Your unpleasant nature seems well suited to condemning vast groups of faithful Catholics.


  • In this case, I’m not condemning vast groups, nor for that matter faithful Catholics.  Just you . . .

    And while there are definitely much smarter people than I, you have no way of knowing that, do you?

    And finally, if all the smart ones are calling you an idiot, is it possible that there’s something to it?

    Continue to toss your bombs, John, if it makes you feel smarter than all those smart people.