EWTN Catholic Q&A
Church Attendance Philosophy
Question from Paul on 08-18-2013:

It is predominately believed among American Catholics, that they are obligated to attend Mass and Confession once a year. As a matter of fact, in the Canon Law it specifically states: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to assist at Mass". "Not" obligated but obliged and in today's secular world obliged is construed as "Not" obligated. In addition according to Canon Law it states: "You shall confess your sins at least once a year". In today's secular world "Shall and At Least"is construed as "Maybe and Never". Why, doesn't the Catholic Church change it's philosophy to attract more than 10% of the American Catholic Population to Mass and Confession every Sunday??

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 10-20-2013:

Dear Paul,

The Church, Christ's teacher on earth, says that a good Catholic must at the minimum devote one hour a week to attending Mass and go to confession and Holy Communion at least once a year. This is not an excessive demand considering that there are seven days a week and three hundred and sixty days to the year. After all, honoring Christ and his Mothers and following their example is the whole point in living a life. Thus there would be no point to the Church lessening these precepts. To do so would sanction the prevalent idea today that the practice of religion is optional, a thing one does according to his or her own inclinations. This is not the message the Church wants to deliver. She considers her flock, clergy and lay folk alike, to be all sinners in danger of losing their souls. Lessening these minimum precepts would make it easier to go to hell. It would make it easier for everybody else to go to hell. Since the Church is designed for the salvation of the whole world, she will stick to her principles. This procedure does not meaning hammering the point all day and everyday. Pope Francis has pointed out that Catholics lead with their hearts in being warm to those being crushed at the bottom of society. Christ prevented the woman caught in sin from being stoned. At the same time he told her to sin no more. We can imagine being touched in the heart by the pity of Christ before she took to heart the command to sin no more. Christ is our model in relating to the world. Warmth and pity precede precepts and discipline. Both are necessary.

Dr. Geraghty