Hi, guys —
- Is it a mortal sin if someone arrives
late to Mass or leaves after Holy Communion?
it a mortal sin if someone arrives late to
Mass or leaves the Church after Holy Communion? }
Hi, Rafael —
In a related question, I said
this, but to answer your question,
let's first remind ourselves what
the Catechism states:
RE: Criteria for a mortal sin from
the Catechism: CCC 1857 — 1860
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
1858 Grave matter is specified
by the Ten Commandments, corresponding
to the answer of Jesus to the
rich young man: "Do not kill,
Do not commit adultery, Do not
steal, Do not bear false witness,
Do not defraud, Honor your father
and your mother." The gravity
of sins is more or less great:
murder is graver than theft. One
must also take into account who
is wronged: violence against parents
is in itself graver than violence
against a stranger.
1859 Mortal sin requires full
knowledge and complete consent.
It presupposes knowledge of the
sinful character of the act, of
its opposition to God's law. It
also implies a consent sufficiently
deliberate to be a personal choice.
Feigned ignorance and hardness
of heart do not diminish, but
rather increase, the voluntary
character of a sin.
1860 Unintentional ignorance can
diminish or even remove the imputably
of a grave offense. But no one
is deemed to be ignorant of the
principles of the moral law, which
are written in the conscience
of every man. The prompting's
of feelings and passions can also
diminish the voluntary and free
character of the offense, as can
external pressures or pathological
disorders. Sin committed through
malice, by deliberate choice of
evil, is the gravest.
Whether one is living the single
or family life, the answer to your
question is No, because
it is not grave matter.
For the single individual, however,
the culpable responsibility is higher,
due to [his|her] state in life. Most
of the time, there is little to no
reason for a single person not to
show up for Holy Mass on time. As
far as leaving at the appropriate
time, there is little to no reason not to
wait until the priest has gone to
the back of the Church after the
Mass has ended.
Due to more complicated aspects of
family life, e.g., children of various
ages and other circumstances that
can enter in, the culpable responsibility
is lower. For example, a Father or
Mother's three year-old has to go
Side note: I forgot
where I heard this, but one of my
close acquaintances with the Benedictines,
where I received a lot of my spirituality,
told me that as long as you make
it to Mass before the first reading,
after Holy Communion: Where
we have just received the Body, Blood,
Soul and Divinity of Jesus, Our Lord,
and shows others you
may not believe in the Real
Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Led by the Father or Mother of the
family, all members should be encouraged
to set some time aside, immediately
after receiving the Eucharist, for
a prayer of thanksgiving and prayer
for help and assistance for the coming
- If you don't believe in the Eucharist,
do you really believe you can
call yourself a Catholic?
I've heard some of my Apologist-friends
Mass early, the Judas Shuffle,
because Judas left the eleven immediately
after the Last Supper.
Faith in the Eucharist is an ongoing
challenge to the Catholic Christian.
The world doesn't understand it.
We live in a world, preordained by
the Lord, of the senses. Nevertheless,
doctrines and dogmas of the Church
are not believed with the senses,
but with the intellect and faith.
I believe a sad problem in our Church
today is that many of our Holy Communion
songs can be perceived as intellectually heretical.
One example is a popular Communion
song that is sung while receiving
Blessed Sacrament. Most, if not all,
of the lyrics are:
Taste and See, Taste and See,
the Goodness of the Lord.
The Eucharist has nothing to
do with tasting, seeing or any of
the five senses. It is despite our
five sense of seeing, tasting, touching,
smelling, or hearing, that we believe, with
our intellect, the consecrated
host is Jesus!,
not because of the consecrated host's
taste, touch, smell, or appearance.
I brought this issue up on the Liturgy
commission I was participating on
and within a few months they changed
the words to:
Take and eat, take and eat,
the Goodness of the Lord.
Pardon the sermonette.
For short, the Judas Shuffle is not
Hope this helps,
Rafael's question was specific, and
the answer is No, not at all.
It may be a venial sin, under some
circumstances, to arrive late and
leave early. Never could it be a
mortal sin, as it is not grave matter.
(Unless some poor scrupulous soul
thought it was grave matter.)
The old rule was: Arrive before the
Gospel and leave after Communion,
and you have "heard" a "whole" Mass.
Another option was Offertory to "the
end of the Mass".
Now that the Liturgy of the Word
is re-emphasized, this theological
opinion schema has more or less disappeared
but I think it is useful for decisions
about when, if one is late, out of
negligence, one should stay for part
of the next Mass.
In Europe, it is easy, as one Mass
follows the other right away. Here
in the US, it is more problematic.
Habitual and purposeful omission
of the Liturgy of the Word, if one
knows it is wrong, is sinful, to
the degree that the person's conscience
believes it is sinful. Leaving after
Communion is rude, but not seriously
The old rule of thumb was that if
one had to arrive late, one should
arrive before the priest began the
Offertory Rite, and if one must leave
early, one should stay at least until
the priest's Communion. Otherwise,
one hasn't fulfilled the Sunday obligation. As
a columnist for a Catholic magazine
"Before Vatican II, moral
theologians and canonists would
talk about the three principal
parts of Mass as the:
- Consecration, and
If you missed any one of those
parts, they wrote, you would not
have fulfilled the obligation
of hearing Mass."
A bishop in Australia wrote a good
answer about this below.
Bishops are asked
By Bishop Kevin Manning,
Catholic Outlook, August 2005
at Sunday Mass
For reasons of respect, both for
God and neighbor, I was always
taught to be early for Mass and
I have trained my children to
do the same. However, latecomers
to Mass have become a major irritant
I feel I would be better
off not going to Mass than to have
antipathy towards them. And it always
seems to be the same ones who come
late. Surely, they are committing
sin by their attitude to the Sunday
obligation, if not from a lack of
charity, at least disrespect to the
Mass. Is their situation sinful?
I sense your frustration and would
lose my reputation as a kind and
gentle Bishop if I was to elaborate
my own feelings towards those
who insensitively come late to
Mass and disturb the Christian
assembly, without regard for God,
or fellow worshipper.
Second Vatican Council
called the Sunday
Mass the "summit
and the font" from
which we derive our
strength to live our
lives and make our
world a better place.
Photo: Hamilton Lund.
Taking part in Sunday
Mass is not only an important obligation,
as the Catechism of the Catholic
Church teaches (n. 1389), but first
and foremost a profound need of every
member of the faithful. Those who
deliberately fail in the obligation,
of course, commit a grave sin. However,
we have to be careful in apportioning
sin to their actions, for we rarely
know their motivation or circumstances.
Firstly, it is important
that they be at Mass. Pope John Paul
II in his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini
said: "It is crucially important
that all the faithful should be convinced
that they cannot live their faith
or share fully in the life of the
Christian community unless they take
part regularly in the Sunday Eucharistic
Assembly." (n. 81)
The Second Vatican Council
called the Sunday Mass the "summit
and the font" from which we
derive our strength to live our lives
and make our world a better place.
I imagine if people
had this understanding, this same
sense of obligation and love of God,
they would always be on time for
Mass, participate as well as they
could in the prayers and the hymns
and would stay after Mass to make
a good, sincere thanksgiving.
At the same time, they
should be thinking about how they
are going to pass on the "Good
News" in the following week.
Because attendance at
the Sunday Mass is so important for
our spiritual good, I can only wonder
why people would quibble whether
it is an obligation or not.
However, is only for
a very good reason that people would
be excused from the Sunday obligation.
It boils down to this: if you can
attend Sunday Mass you must attend
Sunday Mass. If you can't, and you
have a good reason, then you don't
have to do the impossible.
In the past there were
distinctions made about being present
for the Offertory, Consecration and
Communion and if you were there for
those three you satisfied the Sunday
Today, it is much more
simple; you have an obligation to
attend the Sunday Mass. If you want
to start quibbling about being there
for important parts, have a good
talk to your Confessor - your soul
Some of the reasons
that would excuse from the Sunday
obligation are: sickness, distance,
or having to care for the children.
It is logical to assume that if any
of those take away the obligation
to attend Sunday Mass entirely, they
would also be a legitimate reason
for arriving late, or leaving early.
But, it does not mean
that the same people are excused
for coming late every Sunday, they
might be obligated to do a course
in child management.
To summarize: one day,
we are all going to be judged and
made to answer for our conduct. I
imagine the question of Sunday Mass
attendance would be less concerned
with attendance, non-attendance,
or lateness, than it will be whether
we really believed, understood and
loved the Eucharist to the point
that we would never, in any way,
show disrespect to this great Mystery.
Early Christian martyrs
thought it important enough to die
to ensure their attendance at Mass,
far be it from us to use the excuse
that we are tired, clock less, or
unable to discipline children as
a reason for non- or partial attendance
at the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Hi, guys —
I have a comment on this answer about
arriving late for Mass. The Instruction
Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic
Donum, prepared by the Sacred
Congregation for the Sacraments and
Divine Worship; approved and confirmed
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
April 17, 1980 states:
a) The Mass 1. "Two parts
which in a sense go to make up
the Mass, namely the Liturgy of
the Word and the Eucharistic liturgy,
are so closely connected that
they form but one single
act of worship."
This portion of the instruction
references Vatican II: Constitution
on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum
No. 56. A person should not approach
the table of the bread of the
Lord without having first been
at the Table of his Word.
If you don't bother to get to Mass
before the readings, you may not
go to Holy Communion. These are the
Pope's words, not mine. If you cannot
receive Communion, then there is
more than venial sin involved. You
cannot say, you have attended Mass
if you miss the Liturgy of the Word.
Missing Mass is a mortal sin. If
you do miss Mass in this way, without
a grave reason, you must attend another
God bless and keep up the good work.
Hi, Denise —
Thanks for replying and striving
to keep the orthodoxy of our answers
in check. I've sent your reply to
the others that answered this question,
along with some priests friends of
I wouldn't question any of the statements
from Inaestimabile Donum nor Sacrosanctum Concilium that you have
quoted. I agree with them. The original
- Is it a mortal sin if someone
arrived late to Mass or leaves
I laid out the criteria for mortal
sin from the Catechism:
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."
I agree with what you said: Missing
(Sunday) Mass is a mortal sin, but:
Was it done with full
knowledge that missing
the Mass is a mortal sin?
Was it done with a deliberate
consent of missing
Holy Mass; and finally,
Did the person know missing
Mass was a
Example, A family of four has issues
that arise in the household five
minutes before the start of Mass.
They had the intent of going to Mass
on time, but other family issues
have arose. If they arrive at the
beginning or the middle of the readings,
this is not a mortal sin; deliberate
consent is missing.
You'll probably reply: "Well,
how late can they arrive?"
My answer: I'd say
a prayerful discernment and honesty
from the parents, the primary
educators of their children,
is needed so they can decide if they
arrived early enough for the 9:00am
Mass, or if they are too late. If
they believe they have arrived too
late, they have to re-schedule the
family to go to the 10:00am or 11:00am
Sunday Mass on that same day. If
a parent has an attitude to:
"get this out of the way,
so I can watch my Sunday football
I believe that parent, like many
of us in the Church,
needs better catechesis. Our bodies,
both men and women, were created
to glorify God in the secular
world for six days, and to give
thanks on the seventh for what
we were able to do on the previous
note: This question and
answer applies to Sunday Mass only.
My younger brother, Mark and
I were brought up with an appreciation
of going to daily Mass as well as
Sunday Mass. Missing daily Mass is
not a mortal sin, under
any condition, unless it is a Holy
Day of Obligation.
Hope this helps,
I understand that under extreme circumstances
that one is not under the pain of
mortal sin if they are late for Mass.
If you really stop and think about
it though, most people could leave
earlier and not be late at all unless
they, ran out of gas, had a flat,
etc. I bet most people aren't late
for a movie.
Because they leave in plenty of time
to get there with the kids and get
a good seat.
I just wanted to ensure all
aspects of that question were covered
for all visitors. Some people out
there will put a spin on answers
and find wiggle room to suit their
I am glad I found your site.
Blessings and Semper Fi,
Fr. Francis replied:
Michael. I just wanted to chime in
on this one.
a person might be delayed (for
a number of reasons, even if regrettable)
I frankly cannot think of any good
reason to leave Mass early, except
for being very sick. So now the issue
- Is the
particular reason for being
late, a real reason or not?
If one has
not organized their time, well
— that is not a good reason.
A fire blocking a major thoroughfare
on the way to church, exceptional
traffic, or even hazardous weather
(worse than one realized) could be.
My real point is that in cases like
this, the questioner should be referred
to their local parish priest and
or confessor. They need guidance
and training in a mature Catholic
really stop and think about it though,
most people could leave earlier and
not be late at all unless they, ran
out of gas, had a flat, etc. I bet
most people aren't late for a movie.
Because they leave
in plenty of time to get there with
the kids and get a good seat.
I don't deny
you have a point here. Nevertheless,
we are a Church with different
members who are at different levels
of faith and maturity. If they
are trying to
be a holy person, and following
the Church's teachings, we should
encourage their efforts.