The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Cardinal Dolan implores Catholics to return to Sunday Mass

By Matt Hadro for CNA

Peter Zelasko/CNA

In a column for the archdiocesan newspaper on Wednesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York implored Catholics to return to Sunday Mass during the Easter Season.

“Yes, for the last year, we have prudently been able to decide that the emergency health crisis can allow us to excuse ourselves from that God-given obligation,” Cardinal Dolan wrote in a column for Catholic New York. Those vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the elderly, “can still excuse themselves, as has always been the case,” he wrote.

However, many other Catholics are already returning to public activities without attending Mass, and they should return to church, he said.

“But for the majority of us—are we going to restaurants? To the kids’ soccer and little league games? To the store? To the beauty parlor? To gatherings with family and friends?” Cardinal Dolan asked. “Well, then, it’s time to get back to Mass.”

In March 2020, all Catholic dioceses in the U.S. suspended public Masses due to the spread of COVID-19. While all dioceses have reopened churches since then, only a few have reinstated a modified Sunday obligation where Catholics who are not symptomatic and who are not at high risk from COVID-19 or caring for the sick must return to Sunday Mass.

The Archdiocese of New York suspended public Masses last spring, but churches began to reopen during the summer. Cardinal Dolan referenced last year’s closures in his column.

“We had no choice, since wise health guidelines required us to close our church buildings,” he wrote. Once the archdiocese reopened parishes for Mass, the parishes “rose to the occasion with scrupulous cleaning, sanitation, ventilation, distancing, and restrictions,” he wrote, noting that parishioners “gradually began to return.”

“No more gradual about it! It’s time to get back to Sunday Mass!” Cardinal Dolan wrote on Wednesday.

The recent Paschal Triduum emphasized the importance of the Mass, which itself is the renewal of the Triduum, he said.

“We recognize Jesus at Mass and Holy Communion. We enter again the eternal, infinite mystery of His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Every Sunday Mass is a renewal of the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.

A spokesman for the archdiocese clarified to CNA that the Sunday obligation, where Catholics are required by canon law to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation except in grave cases where they cannot, was never suspended in the archdiocese.

While public Masses were suspended by the archdiocese for several months due to the spread of COVID-19, the Sunday obligation was in place once churches reopened for Mass, the spokesman noted. However, the usual “grave” reasons for Catholics not to attend Sunday Mass – such as sickness or being in danger of the COVID-19 pandemic – still applied, and Catholics were free to decline to attend Mass for “a serious reason.”

“But, now that more and more people are being vaccinated, and people are engaging in more and more public activities, the Cardinal is reminding them of the sacred obligation to attend Sunday Mass,” the spokesman stated.

The archdiocese’s office of the vicar general in January and again in February reminded priests that the Sunday obligation was in place for Catholics.

“On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, Catholics are obliged to participate in the Mass and to refrain from unnecessary work and all spiritually-distracting activities in conformity with the code of canon law,” vicar general Fr. Joseph LaMorte wrote in a Jan. 18, 2021 letter to priests.

A February letter from the vicar general’s office stated that dispensation from the Sunday obligation for lay Catholics was “a recurring question from many priests.” Cardinal Dolan never lifted the Sunday obligation, the office clarified.

“The obligation for Sunday Mass is always there.  It’s a divine law.  We didn’t make it up and we can’t dispense from it,” the office instructed.

Rather, the pandemic was grave enough reason for Catholics to not attend Mass, the office said, but as more Catholics are “socializing” now, “we need to encourage them to come back.”

“We are facing the serious issue of Mass attendance which is at 50% of what it was a year ago,” the office stated, noting that pastors could consider including “catechetical bulletin inserts,” for evangelization, “handed out on Sunday and shared with those at home.”

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


  1. The secular woke atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, gender dysphoriacs, and “nones” that fill his now bankrupt and depopulated city will likely be quick to remind Dolan that “karma is hell”. Dolan as well as every other bishop in this country did not hesitate a nano-second a year ago to close, lock, and bar the doors of the churches, refusing the sacraments to the faithful and abandoning them without even a whimper of protest while big-box stores, grocery stores, liquor shops, and even marijuana dispensaries remained open, often to throngs of customers. So, now we hear the cry from Gotham City’s bat-cave chancery and episcopal residence that “Mass attendance is down 50%” which can be translated from AmChurch speak as “Show us the $$$! The collection baskets are empty”. And suddenly there is loud harrumphing from the same quarters about the solemn “divine law” and “canonical obligation” to attend Mass that strangely was completely forgotten only short months ago. With the braying guffaws now wiped off their faces, I would strongly recommend that these hirelings do what this priest did recently and beg the faithful for forgiveness for withholding the Eucharist during the lockdown:

  2. Given that some 70% of Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence, does anyone realistically think they will return? Will they return–those who cowered in fear against a virus which predominantly kills those 80+ years old? Those who fear what kills the body and not the soul–will they return?

    Then, for Catholics who believe in the Real Presence, the actions of current Church leadership surely caused us to question the Church when its leaders bowed to: 1) secular science (which bends any way the scientist who practices it); 2) dictates of civil authorities rather than the Word of God and His commandments; 3) convenience of cold hard technology for Mass. Watching a lone priest say Mass served only to enhance the distance among the members of the Body of Christ.

    Observing the Church during the pandemic, members of the Body of Christ realized the severity of its disease as being more terminal than COVID. Its leaders led without courage, perhaps without faith, love, and justice due God. The laity were excused. Dispensed. “We had no choice,” the excellency exclaims. Let the excellencies say so, then act upon their knees for a bit of faith and a lot of hope. Look to the devout laity for example…but look to the laity who listen to God, not wimps.

  3. P.S.: COVID has been said to spread by respiratory droplets. Why, then, don’t Church leaders consider the worthiness of silent worship? Perhaps Church leaders do not know, but participants in the TLM speak very little. Even the priest prays silently more than he does aloud. The NO’s high level of verbal participation surely puts its participants at great risk of inhaling airborne respiratory droplets. Have masks been definitively proven to prevent 100% inhalation of such particles? Doubtful.

    God’s TLM has many virtues and graces which modernist Church leaders seem not to know or acknowledge. They choose to ‘have no choice.’

    • Meiron, so true!

      Before covid, “active participation” were the buzzwords. Sacred silence was considered outmoded. Now, these same folks are happy to advocate sacred silence to “keep us all safe.” The covid guidelines are the new rubrics for these folks.

  4. After they ran Fr. Rutler out of St. Michael’s last November, some bishop stepped in and told me to my face that it was my “Christian duty” to wear a mask in a gigantic cathedral that had, at most, 20 people at its busiest Mass. He also told the parish that in Brooklyn, where I was from, people were dying of Covid. He knew this because his parish, he said, was near a morgue and “you could see the trucks going by.”

    Call me a skeptic. I’ll never forget the icy stare of his intense blue eyes as he demanded I wear a mask next time, compelling that his will be done. There never was a next time.

    I have never trusted Dolan. I didn’t trust him when he waltzed into New York City from Milwaukee, proclaiming himself a Yankees fan. I trusted him less when I read his letters, dutifully published in the Parish bulletins during the Obamacare legislative charade, admonishing the faithful whose representatives in Congress (allegedly) had still to vote on the matter, that “the Church has been advocating for socialized medicine for over a hundred years,” as if that was a good (and true) thing.

    I trusted him less when I learned that, after a meeting at 1011 1st Ave. with Obama himself, they had arrived at some sort of agreement to exempt the Church as an employer from the onerous and evil requirements to support contraception and abortion that everyone else in the nation would be forced to support, undoubtedly in exchange for his promise of promoting the legislation. I trusted him less when I learned that his “pro-life strategy” was to “meet halfway” with abortion supporters by working to make abortion “safe and rare.” In my estimation, Dolan is a politician – albeit a very capable one – and while I appreciate diplomacy, I do not appreciate duplicity. I have never trusted him, and I never will.

    I loved you very much, NYC and St. Michael’s. What have you done with Father Rutler, Cardinal Dolan?

    • Obama promised that mandate would not be in ObamaScare but he lied to the Bishops and left it in. Obama was one of the worst politicians in recent memory.

      Your story of the bullying of parishioners by bishops, parish priests and even ushers has played out across the country too many times in the past year. There is a story out there of a devout Catholic mother of 7 in Illinois who was told by the parish priest she’d be arrested:”Catholic priest threatens mother of seven with arrest if she enters church without a mask”

      We appear to have “Karens” in our church, just like the maskless chasers in the secular stores who have too much time on their hands.

      I don’t attend mass to worship the prelate of the diocese.

      The abandonment of the faithful in their various hours of need was and still is wimpy Christianity.

      • My parish has a designated Mass where people are required to wear masks, and two where they are not. Which seems to me to reasonable. Nobody is forced to wear a mask, and nobody is forced to go to a Mass where people aren’t masked.

  5. The Bishop’s are still mostly silent on Catholic politician pro abortion stance. The lack of courage seeps through the Church, making many wonder if their faith is real or just part of a job description.

  6. The least that Catholic churches can do is to lift the mask requirements. Quite a number of studies available over the Internet shows that masks serve no constructive purpose, and are uncomfortable. Get rid of them.

  7. I got thrown out of my church for not wearing a mask even though socially distanced. Have finally found a church where I can go unmasked, three mornings a week, and a Latin Mass where you are not policed.

    How can we worship “in sincerity and truth” if we have to wear ineffectual and positively harmful masks? We are human beings, in imago dei, and if not sick have a right to worship *and* to receive Holy Communion on the tongue.

    Lord, please send us shepherds who actually believe in the Resurrection and are not afraid of anything but final judgment.

  8. What! We were never excused from going to mass all along?! The Cardinal should man up and declare that all are required to go to mass and not leave it up to a spokesman.

  9. The Joliet Diocese of Illinois is mandating masks with the veracity of Nazi Germany. Socialism and junk science have entered the Catholic Church. Unhealthy oxygen blocking Mask Mandates are the elephant in the room.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.