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McHugh and Callan on Excusing Causes from First Precept
McHugh and Callan, Moral Theology (Wagner, 1958), Vol. II, pp. 583-4
2584. Excuses from Observance of First Precept. — These reasons may be reduced to two classes, namely, external reasons (i.e., a dispensation or a lawful custom) and internal reasons (i.e., one’s own inability or necessity).
(a) External Reasons. — Dispensations may be given under certain conditions by local Ordinaries, by parish-priests, and by superiors of exempt clerical institutes (Canon 1215). Custom in certain places excuses from Mass for a month women who have just given birth to a child or who have lost their husband by death, and also—from the Mass in which their banns are to be proclaimed—those women who are about to marry. Custom further permits necessary labors, such as cooking, ordinary housecleaning, barbering, the work of railroad and garage men, etc.
(b) Internal Reasons — Impossibility or serious inconvenience excuses from hearing Mass (e.g., those who have to walk an hour’s journey to church or ride a two hours’ journey, regarding which, in terms of distance travelled, it has been suggested that the figures should be more than three miles each way if one must walk, more than thirty miles if a car is available and the roads are good; those who will suffer great detriment to health, honor, fortune, etc., if they go; those who are kept away by duties of charity or employment or office that cannot be omitted). Necessity or duty to others permits one to work on Sunday at least to some extent (e.g., those who must labor on a Sunday in order to live, or to keep out of serious trouble, or to perform services or works of charity that cannot easily be done at another time). To avoid self-deception the faithful should consult their pastor or other prudent person if there is doubt about the sufficiency of the excuse.
2585. Though the Church does not impose excessive Sabbatarianism, neither does she admit laxity in the important matter of the Lord’s Day.
(a) Hence, not every reason excuses from the church precept. Thus, those are guilty who unnecessarily place themselves in the impossibility of observing the law (e.g., by moving to a place where there is no church, by taking a position that requires work all Sunday morning, by starting on a vacation or auto trip to a churchless region), or whose excuses are frivolous (e.g., those who stay away from Mass because they dislike the priest, or who work on Sunday merely to keep busy).
(b) Reasons that excuse from part of the ecclesiastical precept do not excuse from all of it. Thus, those who are unable to hear Mass are not thereby justified in doing servile work, those who can hear the essential part of Mass (Consecration and Communion), but not the other parts, should hear the essential part those who can hear Mass only on one Sunday a year are not excused on that Sunday.
(c) Reasons that excuse from the ecclesiastical precept do not excuse from the divine precept (see 2575) of worshipping God. hence, those who are really obliged to work every Sunday should sanctify the Lord’s Day by whatever private prayer or devotion they can substitute. Some authors very rightly believe that those who can never go to Mass on Sunday are held by divine law to hear Mass on weekdays three or four times a year at least, when this is possible (see 2148, 2180).