Do you know under what conditions you are dispensed from your Sunday obligation? Neither, it seems, does anyone else. That quandary sent Old Oligarch searching for the authoritative answer.
The Catechism appears to have the answer, but it’s vague.
“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” (CCC 2181)
So we have two examples, but that’s hardly definitive. How does one define an illness severe enough to dispense the obligation? What if you’re among the “walking wounded”, ambulatory but sick with the flu? Is it OK to endanger the elderly or infants you’ll encounter at Mass? And so on.
OO ends with the principles as elucidated by one moral theologian, which sound pretty good. They speak of seeking to do the maximum good, not just skate by on the minimum requirement. But they also have some solid suggestions of definite categories. Still, it’s not definitive and authoritative. So what do you think? Where do you draw the line? Where should others?
Update: Forgot to mention one intriguing acceptable excuse given in the Catechism and older moral manuals: the care of infants. In fact, I think they presuppose that those with very small children (as in newborns) would probably not bring them to Mass. I don’t think it means just infants who are sick, but all infants (as implied here).
Another manual, I think the one quoted by Old Oligarch, says Catholics should not vacation where Mass is not available. For some reason, when I read that I thought to myself, “Well, a good Catholic should never be on Survivor then.” After all, they’re away for 40-some days.
What was most surprising is the plethora of acceptable excuses.