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Rafael wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is it a mortal sin if someone arrives late to Mass or leaves after Holy Communion?



  { Is it a mortal sin if someone arrives late to Mass or leaves the Church after Holy Communion? }

Mike replied:

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 — 1861

IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose:

  1. object is grave matter
  2. which is also committed with full knowledge, and
  3. deliberate consent. (Reconciliatio et paenitentia 17 § 12 [95])

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. (Mark 10:19) 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 (cf. Mark 3:5-6; Luke 16:19-31) do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability 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 promptings 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.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of Hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

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, 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 or exits to the Sacristy 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 potty.

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, it's OK.

Leaving right after Holy Communion: Where we have just received the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, Our Lord, it is extremely disrespectful, 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 week.

  • 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 call, leaving Mass early, the Judas Shuffle, because Judas left the eleven immediately after the Last Supper.

On a second Side Note: 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 the Blessed Sacrament. Most, if not all, of the lyrics are:

Taste and See, Taste and See, the Goodness of the Lord.

  • What?

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 recommended!!

Hope this helps,


Mary Ann replied:


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 [from the] 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 sinful.

Mary Ann

Richard replied:

Rafael —

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 put it:

"Before Vatican II, moral theologians and canonists would talk about the three principal parts of Mass as the:

  1. Offertory
  2. Consecration, and
  3. Communion.

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.

— RC

August 2005

Questions Bishops are asked

By Bishop Kevin Manning, Catholic Outlook, August 2005

Attendance 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 to me.

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.

A Catholic priest celebrating Holy Mass
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. 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 obligation.

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 needs it.

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.

Denise Wood commented:

Hi, guys —

I have a comment on this answer about arriving late for Mass. The Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Inaestimabile Donum [Papal Encyclicals Online][New Advent], 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 concilium)

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 Mass.

God bless and keep up the good work.


Mike replied:

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 mine.

I wouldn't question any of the statements from Inaestimabile Donum [Papal Encyclicals Online] nor Sacrosanctum concilium that you have quoted. I agree with them. The original question was:

  • Is it a mortal sin if someone arrived late to Mass or leaves after Communion?

I laid out the criteria for mortal sin from the Catechism:

IV. The Gravity of Sin: Mortal and Venial Sin.

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose:

  1. object is grave matter
  2. which is also committed with full knowledge, and
  3. deliberate consent. (Reconciliatio et paenitentia 17 § 12 [95])

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 grave matter?

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, based on our other replies to his original question. 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 game."

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 six.

Side 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,


Denise replied:


I understand that under extreme circumstances 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.

  • Why?

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 fancy.

I am glad I found your site.

Blessings and Semper Fi,


Fr. Francis replied:


I just wanted to chime in on this one.

On occasion, a person might be delayed (for a number of reasons, even if regrettable) for Mass. I frankly cannot think of any good reason to leave Mass early, except for being very sick. So now the issue is:

  • 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 conscience.

Fr. Francis

Mike replied:

Hi Denise,

You said:
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.

  • Why?

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.

Take care,


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