In many places, in-person Masses were paused indefinitely due to Covid-19 related government mandates which labeled certain services as 'essential' and others are 'non-essential'. Ones that were 'essential' continued to operate, those that were 'non-essential' did not - including in many places in-person Mass. My Bishop gave a dispensation to everyone in my diocese indefinitely.

Does the Catholic Church accept that in-person Mass is 'non-essential'?


3 Answers 3


Does the Catholic Church accept that Mass is not an “essential service”?

The short answer is somewhat ambiguous here: yes and no!

Even your question is ambiguous: Does the Catholic Church accept that Mass is not an “essential service”? versus Does the Catholic Church accept that in-person Mass is “non-essential”? Which is it?

No as the morally established authority dictates, but yes in the sense of what the Church teaches, in respect to it’s faith and teaching about the the Eucharist. The obligation to attend Mass may be lifted by proper and duly instituted ecclesiastical authority, in times of necessity! Priests however must still say Mass, regardless if they have a congregation or not.

Civil Authority is the moral power of command, supported (when need be) by physical coercion, which the State exercises over its members. - Catholic Encyclopedia

I strongly doubt that the lockdowns concerning this particular pandemic constitutes an act of tyranny. If someone can prove that, please let me know?

However the Catholic Church is under no obligation to accept that the Mass should not viewed as an “essential service” as defined by governments!

However the legally established government can declare it to be a non-essential service. One has to remember the practicing Catholics remains a minority in comparison to the general population. Alas we are out numbered! The government must deal with the safety of everyone, Catholic or otherwise.

Even St. Paul states that we should be submissive to the governing authority.

Submission to Governing Authorities

13 Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.

2 Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.

3 For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same.

4 For he is God's minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God's minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.

5 Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake.

6 For therefore also you pay tribute. For they are the ministers of God, serving unto this purpose.

7 Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honour, to whom honour. - Romans 13:1-7

Even St. Peter the Prince of the Apostles and first pope tells us to be submissive to earthly authority.

13 Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God's sake: whether it be to the king as excelling;

14 Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good:

15 For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

16 As free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God.

17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. - 1 Peter 2:13-17

Pope Francis urges for following COVID-19 lockdown amid church-state debate

Rome: Pope Francis waded into the church-state debate about virus-imposed lockdowns of religious services, calling on Tuesday for "prudence and obedience" to government protocols to prevent infections from surging again.

Francis' appeal came just two days after Italian bishops bitterly complained that the Italian government offered no provisions for Masses to resume in its plan to reopen Italian business, social and sporting life starting May 4.

While it wasn't clear if Francis intended to send a different message than the bishops, his appeal for obedience and prudence was in line with his previous calls to protect the most vulnerable, and for economic interests to take a back seat to shows of solidarity.

At the same time, Francis has certainly chafed at the lockdown, saying early on that he felt like he was in a "cage" and lamenting more recently that the church isn't really "Church" without a community of faithful present and the administration of sacraments.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte's government announced on Sunday that funerals could resume starting May 4, but there was no information on when the faithful could attend Mass. In response, the Italian bishops' conference expressed outrage that its proposals of safety protocols had apparently been ignored.

The bishops said that they "cannot accept that freedom of worship is compromised". They argued the government should have distinguished between its duty to provide health guidance and the church's right to "organize the life of the Christian community, respecting the measures but in full autonomy".

Conte's office hastily responded that it was working on protocols to allow the resumption of liturgical services as soon as possible but "in conditions of maximum security". Francis weighed in on the fraught issue Tuesday at the start of morning Mass celebrated alone in the chapel of the Vatican hotel where he lives.

The faithful would greatly rethink their opposition to government health rules if the Coronavirus produced symptoms similar to the Black Plague!

That said, the Catholic faith holds that the Sacred Mass is indeed an essential service, at least in the point of view that concerns the faith and the salvation of the world.

Personal attendance at Mass has been decreed as an obligation for Sundays, however the Church can lift this obligation for very serious reasons.

A Sunday obligation for the faithful to attend mass did not become an obligation until the fourth century.

Priests are still obliged to say Mass even without a congregation present. There are still extraordinary graces and benefits of a Mass without a congregation!

In Defense of Side Altars

In Defense of Side Altars

Pope St. Paul VI called the Mass the apex of our faith. If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is apex of our faith, it would seems logical that in-person mass attendance would be considered an essential service! The Church as of recent, not endorsed or refuted this modern concept as yet. Perhaps one day She will. The term (essential service) is a modern day usage which the Church does not employ as yet!

Perhaps the following articles may be of interest here:

Addendum: Catholics within the Archdiocese of Vancouver are morally obliged to go to Church on Sundays as of July 10, 2021. The provincial health officer declared the “state of emergency” due to Covid-19 over.

The Coronavirus is a communicable disease. Could governments acted otherwise? Sure! But would the faithful follow other rules put in place? Not all, that much, I am positively sure of!


I think "so", there have been interruptions in history for various reasons. In fact, you may want to look at this one in the end it shows how serious it is seen to interrupt the holy mass. But as Catholics, we should take the theological rules rather than the "linguistic" ones, i.e. it's better to be orthodox in your belief, that going to church is essential not because being in the building is paramount but because of all the blessings, thanksgiving and savings coming from Christ but also for non-spiritual/religious reasons such as participating in the church (again not the building but the people and groups such as family, friends, etc... I recall that info coming from the pope I found this but it's 5 am in the morning and I can't read all of this article POPE’S MESSAGE | Family is a domestic Church where faith grows.

I saw this video which was nice, although the video isn't aimed at Catholics there are very few differences theologically between orthodox Christians and Catholic ones as the schism was over things that aren't mentioned on the video

Also here's every dogma on the Catholic church (i.e. the rules that were deemed and although I didn't read every single one) I've never heard about mass being a thing that couldn't be temporarily interrupted.


Now for the direct question: many priests protested or were disgruntled by governments policies, honestly if you'd ask me, governments worldwide aren't very fond of Catholicism, apart from a few, as they see it as a "secular" religion i.e. one that can be toyed around and none of its beliefs are "mandatory", which is kind of infuriating, but it's because of what I believe it to be the non-dogmatic view of the rules on paper. Unlike Muslims who say under no circumstance one should drink alcohol, Sikhs on their rules of wearing Kirpan, or even other Christians that don't allow blood transfusion even if it's to the detriment of the child's life. Catholics don't have any of this except very obscure rules like not being able to kill animals by hanging them or drinking an uncooked animal's blood, although I've never heard about these rules in my "Catholic life" instead learned them from a random trivia about Catholics on YouTube so take the last ones with a pinch of salt.

It's not really a case of if the Catholic church sees in-person mass as necessary as that is very dependent on the circumstances. It's more of a case of how governments see us.

But as a Portuguese, and living near Fatima, I can say for example that the holy place was closed on the same day schools closed but even then had an atheist "friend" complaining about it. And in America, I heard that things like Apple repair shops were seen as "essential" which for me is preposterous even if you say "oh but I need my laptop to work" (and I could go in-depth here but this answer is already going everywhere).

TL;DR: I believe, and for the actions of my diocese, that in-person meetings in mass are essential, although in the current status, not meeting in person is not an "inconvenience to our bureaucratic saving of our soul" by Jesus and we shouldn't see it going to the building as a dogma.

Also here are some pictures I took recently that show how precocious the Fatima holy site became https://media.discordapp.net/attachments/626893306697089056/864719541207302144/IMG_20210711_192812.jpg?width=405&height=539 The dotted lines are meant to cram a family of 4 tops into a circle, its spray painted which is a odd thing since the corona virus is a temporary thing.

  • Catholics do have a set of rules. The precepts of the Church: attending to Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of obligation is one of them. Receiving the Eucharist and going to Confession at least once a year are another. See 2041 in the Catechism
    – Peter Turner
    Jul 16, 2021 at 17:44

The Catholic Church doesn't compel her members to do many things, but one of the things she does compel them to do is to attend mass

The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.

CCC 2042

So since Catholics are supposed to gather together to celebrate the Eucharist. It's reasonable to say that having the in person Mass available is an essential service. It's not unreasonable to think that the rules that are in place confounding the ability of the laity to attend Mass in person are in an abundance of caution.

I was going to say, if the Church is flooded, it doesn't make sense for the laity to come celebrate the mass, but last year, during a flood, during the pandemic, Mass was celebrated in the Phillipenes.

Bishop Donald Hying of the Diocese of Madison wrote:

Watching Mass online is a good, pious practice for those who cannot attend in person, but it is no substitute for being there.

The Eucharist is not a virtual event; we cannot receive the sacrament virtually; we need the ministry of the priest and the grace of the gathered assembly to fully experience the gifts which the Lord wants to give us in the Eucharist.

Mass is the most essential action of our lives, uniting us to the Lord, offering us forgiveness and grace, literally filling us with God’s presence and life.


and he specifically mandated that everyone who is able should come back to Mass as far back as last September. So it's definitely not universal that bishops are uniformly considering Mass a non-essential service and there's no evidence that the health outcomes parishioners of of opened Catholic churches vs closed ones were any different during the pandemic.

My purely anecdotal evidence as a person who has gone to Mass nearly every week (we still don't go if we're remotely sick out of love of neighbor, in a way we might not if we were not in the midst of a pandemic) and never worn a mask and always received communion on my tongue since last Pentecost, is that either God's grace is keeping us from getting sick at Mass or Mass is just not a place where you're likely to get sick in the first place and this is the kind of information we need to be giving to our bishops who are afraid to reopen or compel the Catholic faithful to do their duty to attend Mass.

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