The Sunday Obligation


The Lord Jesus appeared to the Apostles on Easter Sunday. Then He appeared to them again on the following Sunday. We can read something into this.

If believers are not to be overwhelmed, they must be able to count on the support of the Christian community. This is why they must be convinced that it is crucially important for the life of faith that they should come together with others on Sundays to celebrate the Passover of the Lord in the sacrament of the New Covenant. (Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini 48)

I think we can all feel the page turning on the coronavirus. Praise God. Which means that all of us Catholics must now consider again the duty of attending Mass on Sundays.


On the one hand…

The Last Supper did in fact happen. The God-man Jesus Christ did in fact establish the Most Holy Eucharist and the sacred priesthood. He did offer His Body and Blood for us on the cross; He did die; He did rise again, and then ascend into heaven. He does abide with His people in the Holy Mass celebrated by ordained priests on our Catholic altars.

None of this involves a conspiracy of disinformation. These are all solid facts that anyone can take to the bank. The Holy Mass is–at its invisible, burning core–Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ living, loving, gathering, sustaining, carrying us to heaven.

Christians need each other. Christians need the grace of the sacraments. Sunday Mass gives us hope, support, and the chance to love our brothers and sisters, and to be loved. We need it.

On the other hand…

How can self-respecting, conscientious people participate in the rituals of an institution that so manifestly lacks integrity? Doesn’t that make me an accessory to the crime?

Theodore McCarrick stood in front of the cameras on behalf of the American bishops, precisely when the credibility of the institution hung completely in the balance, in AD 2002. He lied through his teeth.

McCarrick NBC screen shot

Popes and fellow Cardinals knew it. For decades they did what they always try to do: sweep the criminal case under the rug. Sixteen years later, the truth came to light, no thanks to the Church mafiosi who knew about it before then.

The Vatican then produced a “report” that exonerates every living Catholic official of any responsibility. The worst betrayal of trust by Church leaders since the sixteenth century occurred right before our eyes. But according to the Vatican, no one is really responsible for it.

McCarrick’s victims still have pending cases. The victims of thousands of other priest pederasts still have pending cases. Dioceses routinely conduct “reconciliation programs,” then declare bankruptcy–all for one reason: to keep the criminal cases safely under the rug. All this continues apace.

The Boston Globe did its Spotlight investigation–which itself came over a decade after an earlier investigation in Louisiana. Then, over a decade after the Globe reports, they made a movie about it, which won the Best-Picture Oscar. Now, a half a decade after that–well over a generation since this problem emerged–nothing in our lost and clueless Church has really changed.

Yes, we have criminal background checks for everyone who works or volunteers at our parishes. Yes, we have on-going “safe environment” education. But where the rubber actually meets the road, in the adjudication of actual individual criminal cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, things have not gotten better. If anything, they have gotten worse.

Sacrificed Chris O'LearyIn the “old days,” the bishop would deal with you personally to orchestrate the cover-up of crimes committed against you. Now, the lawyers run the whole show, and the bishop treats you as if you don’t exist.

Meanwhile, the pope sends carefully crafted communiques to conferences and symposiums. He makes promise after promise. And criminal cases by the hundred languish, under the rug–where the pope himself clearly believes they belong.

Seminarians say, “We want to be part of the solution.” Brothers: that’s what we said. Twenty years ago. The mitered mafia was living a lie then, and they are living a lie now, too. Don’t comfort yourselves with the idea that things will be better in twenty years. I comforted myself with that idea, too.

…How can a decent person be a party to all this? Isn’t it actually more religious, more genuinely honest, to disassociate oneself from this perpetually benighted Catholic mess?

I find myself in an unusual situation, when it comes to confronting this question of conscience. Because of the bishop’s decree, the only way I can participate in Mass is to celebrate by myself.

I’m like a husband whose wife has been taken away from him by some cruel twist of fate. I keep living our married life, but alone. I come to the table, but my companion is no longer there.

I don’t say, “The Lord be with you,” when I celebrate the Eucharist. Because there’s no one there to say, “And with your spirit.”

I don’t pretend to have the answer to the “being Catholic now” dilemma. But I think we can eliminate these two possible solutions:

1. “Screw the Catholic Church. It’s just an empty cult, fit only for sex-abuse enablers.”

No. It’s the religion of Jesus.

2. “The institutional problems in the Church are above my pay-grade. I’ll just live my little Catholic life, in my personal spiritual cocoon.”

No. The Church belongs, above all, to Christians of conscience who live in solidarity with the desperate. The Church doesn’t belong to chancery bureaucrats, or Vatican bureaucrats, either. It belongs to the brokenhearted souls who cling to Christ for dear life, and love Him in the wounded neighbor.

We have to act. We have to lead. We have to own this screwed-up situation and do our best to improve it.

9 thoughts on “The Sunday Obligation

  1. Thank God there is little else they can do to you for having the temerity in saying that the Church is screwed up. Once again you have hit the proverbial nail on the head.

  2. Thank you, Father White, for, once again, hitting the mail on the head.

    I, too, feel this dilemma about going back to St. Andrews, with all that has happened. So far, I am happy to watch Mass at home.

    I find that I am not comfortable with all the man-made rules. Jesus never said there was a Sunday obligation to attend Mass under a church roof or it would be a mortal sin.

    Jesus never said a couple must be married within the walls of a church or they could not be married in the Catholic faith, but that is what my daughters were told.

    Jesus said, “Where two or more are gathered, there I am in their midst.” It doesn’t have to be inside a brick and mortar church building.

    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven”. He didn’t say, we must have Mass go over by fifteen or twenty minutes each week so the children are always late to their religion classes. Father Segerblom said, “It is the liturgy of the Lord!” when I approached him on this, nor was he willing to alter the time of the class and one of the Masses by fifteen minutes to allow the children more time and not always be late.

    Jesus would have put the children first.

    So, yes, what to do?

  3. Well, I meant “hit the nail on the head” not “hit the mail in the head”. Sheesh!

  4. The St. Andrews masses are interminable—and they are boring. Everybody speaks very slowly and solemnly, as though such speech makes them reverent. But hearing the Gospel read like that puts a person to sleep. When Jesus spoke, people listened. We can be pretty sure he didn’t speak in the churchy drone you hear at St. Andrews.
    Ann White

  5. Everything in life has a price. Those who fight to bring the Catholic faith “back” to being the faith that Christ taught and preached, who fight against the tyranny that rules the church under the guise of “obedience,” who speak out about sinful practices being allowed by those who are supposed to be leaders…everyone must expect to pay a price. Not just the priests, but the laity…all those who refuse to “roll over and play dead.” May God give us all strength to defend the faith, to speak up for what is right. May we not be found “wanting” in our faith and in our resolution to do what needs to be done. Amen.
    Judy R.

  6. I am so sorry for the terrible pain you are enduring. Please know that your bride, the church, has not abandoned you. She has been bound in chains to be kept from you. Stay strong, remember and trust that God’s specialty is to bring the greatest good even from the darkest evil.
    “Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
    You will be in my prayers.

  7. Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” That is non-negotiable, as is “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Non-negotiable.

    Failing to uphold the Sunday obligation is a sin in the Catholic Church. Failing to be present and active in the liturgy of the Holy Mass is a sin. Refusing to repent of sin deliberately and willingly is blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ founded a Church and nearly two thousand years of Christian truths through Apostolic succession, and it cannot be changed through a Protestant interpretation of scripture that is flawed and inaccurate. You are either in communion or you are not.

    Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life. Non-negotiable. Jesus Christ established a hierarchy in the Church that was carried on through the Apostles. Non-negotiable.

    We will ALL be judged by our own sinful natures. God is not going to weigh my sin against another’s sin. Every sinful act YOU do and I do has a price. Regardless of the sins of brothers and sisters, we are called to LOVE. Perfection relies on this law. It is a hard road and one I fail at consistently and miserably. It is necessary if we are going to reach that summit and see the glorious face of our Lord! Thank God for Confession and Reconciliation!

    Our world is falling apart due to a lack of Christian LOVE, especially in the United States where personal ideologies are drowning out the beauty of a life in Jesus Christ. Racism, abortion, hate of our neighbors, anger, conspiracies, lies, political idolatry, lust, plastic surgery, pornography, perversions, envy, and greed dominate not only our society, but Churches and false prophets who pervert truths and lie for power. They hate our Holy Father. They hate their brothers and sisters. They hate, they spread hate, and infect others with their hate. This is a not a fruit of the Holy Spirit, but traits of the Evil One. We must not allow ourselves to succumb to this evil! We must love our neighbor, even with those we disagree.

    Fr. Kevin Segerblom is a wonderful Priest. No, he is not perfect, and he would tell you that himself. His homilies are thought-provoking, well researched, personal, touching and meant to elevate the word of God and the Magisterium in truths. His is not a larger than life, false personality. Fr. Kevin is a soothing, kind, warm, cerebral and sober Shepherd, as a father should be. He is not a foul-mouthed clown or the ring leader of a circus show to grab attention for personal profit. The gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident in Fr. Kevin, especially in his fortitude.

    The Holy Mass at St. Andrew’s is glorious, thoughtful, edifying, and elevates the soul towards God and Heaven. This past Holy week left me with a healing I so desperately needed within the Church from wounds past outside of this Diocese. For those of you who did not participate in Holy Week at St. Andrew’s, you missed God, your neighbor, and something of pure beauty.

    I continue to pray for you to come home Fr. White. Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday. Outside of Easter and Holy Thursday, this is one of my favorite days in our Church! God’s mercy is for all of us! All we have to do is seek Him in truth.

    Please feel free to join us at St. Andrews to experience the love and mercy of our Lord! We will be praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet after the 10 a.m. Mass. It will be joyful, beautiful and centered around loving God and neighbor. Happy Easter!

  8. Hi Father Mark,
    I find the most telling words in this blog are “my own spiritual cocoon.” A story recently came out here in New Orleans with the archbishop saying that, “the people are beginning to return to the church following the coronavirus pandemic.” The pandemic was not criminal in nature, it has no religion, no political views, no sexual orientation, and no emotions. It is simply a virus, a thing, under the grammatical definition of a noun. The idea that people are returning to the church following the thing offers more evidence that the church leadership is deflecting the abuse crisis…again! How convenient and patronizing these words are, almost stating that people don’t care about the abuse crisis, which is right in front of them, but they will come out of their cocoon when the virus is history. The virus will mess you up for a week. The abuse has taken away my life. Thanks as always for your insightful words, Father Mark. Much peace brother!

  9. Father Mark, as always, I agree with you that a change needs to commence immediately. Thank God for your honesty! Thank God for calling you to become a Priest and giving you the courage to stand up for these poor people who have been abused and have had no one to speak for them. You are by far the best Priest I have ever listened to! I pray for you and for a change of heart in the Bishop and Pope so that you may once again preach God’s words to some lucky congregation.

    Peace and Love,


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