This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On the Sunday obligation

This week's Arlington Catholic Herald contains a piece on the Sunday obligation by Fr. William J. Byron, S.J. where he looks at the obligation in terms of the western movie term "much obliged" - in other words, that the obligation should be out of gratitude - primarily to God and also out of a shared part of the Eucharistic community. This essay was intended to explore the question of why such an obligation is necessary in light of the fact that most are not motivated to go out of a fear of damnation, which was more present in earlier times.

Father makes a good effort and I am certainly not one to begrudge the necessity of gratitude to spirituality. Indeed, it is the kind of spiritual anchor one would expect of a priest who follows the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola. Still, his analysis misses something that I reflected on a while back in a blog post I wrote in 2009 on my Christian Left blog on the first three Commandments. You can read it at

My essential point was that we worship not for God's sake, but for our own. A God that needs our worship is something less than divine. Indeed, given the quality of most worship, especially the congregational singing, it is essentially art on God's refrigerator. Even the worship of the angels, in comparison to the harmonies of the Blessed Trinity, is simply a better brand of refrigerator art. Indeed, the sin of Lucifer was the belief that his worship was essential to God - more essential than even the sacrifice of Jesus (who was also a creature). We know where that got him.

I say this not to deny the need for Sunday Mass, but merely to assert that it is our need as individuals and as community. God does not need or require it for Their own sake. The realization of that, however, is not why people stopped going to Mass. The reason many stopped really was Humanae Vitae, either because they were unwilling to pick and chose doctrine and therefore simply sever ties (a problem that readers note that I do not have) or because the arrogance of Rome in decreeing this, especially as both the American bishops and the panel advising the Pope on this issue were going the other way before Pope Paul VI relied on authority rather than what many saw as the obvious facts, both on married sexuality and the possibility that a blastocyst could be a person. The obligation to attend Mass goes hand in hand with the obligation by the Pope to listen to faithful. The perception that Paul VI and his successors were tone deaf to the concerns of married Catholics, whether true or not, is a valid explanation of why many have stopped attending - save to touch base on Christmas, Easter, and for weddings and funerals.

I urge those who have lapsed for this reason to come back and demand to be heard, especially as the bishops seem to be doubling down on the question of contraception again, this time in flirting with closing down services in response to how contraceptive copays are being handled in health care reform (coverage itself was required by EEOC since 2000, mostly without objection from the faithful). Demand to be heard. If you do not, they will speak for you anyway in a way you don't necessarily agree with. If the hierarchy truly is wrong on this issue, we owe it to our fellow Catholics who happen to be bishops to offer correction for their own sakes. If we let them persist in their error, than it is on us if we don't say something (including the error of acting in our name without asking us first).


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