Sunday Mass obligation

Bishop Ricken issues decree lifting dispensation

ALLOUEZ — The Diocese of Green Bay has lifted the dispensation for Sunday Mass obligation. Beginning the weekend of Sept. 19 and 20, Catholics will again observe Sundays as a holy day of obligation.

Lifting of the dispensation was announced in a decree issued by Bishop David Ricken on Monday, Sept. 7. (Read the entire decree here.) “… the time has come for Catholics to return to worship God at Mass on Sundays,” Bishop Ricken wrote in the decree.

He explained that the dispensation for attending Sunday Mass was granted on March 13, and that public celebration of Mass was suspended on March 17. Even as resumption of limited public worship began in June, Bishop Ricken noted that “certain restrictions regarding the numbers in attendance have precluded the lifting of this dispensation.”

“Now, since the dispensation from the obligation to worship at Mass on Sunday is no longer strictly necessary, the faithful will once again be morally obligated to come to Mass on Sundays throughout the diocese,” he added.

Bishop Ricken noted that there are still occasions when the obligation to attend Sunday Mass does not apply.

“If individual Catholics struggle with serious health concerns or are physically or morally prevented from worshipping at Mass for a grave reason, this obligation does not apply,” he said. “Additionally, if individuals are frail due to illness or age or, in their well-formed conscience believe that going into public places — including Sunday worship at Mass ­— would place their health or the health of their loved ones in serious jeopardy, they too are not bound by this obligation.”

In addition to Bishop Ricken’s decree, the diocese issued guidelines for public Masses with the reinstatement of the Sunday obligation. (The guidelines can be found at It spells out the general provisions of returning to Mass, as well as conditions that would prohibit Catholics from attending.

The guidelines make clear that face masks are still required, and that, while restrictions will be lifted on the percentage of people, “the standards of social distancing (will still be) upheld.”

In his column for The Compass, “Transition time and the Lord’s day,” Bishop Ricken addressed the return to Mass and referred to the Third Commandment. “The Lord makes it very clear, ‘Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day,’” said Bishop Ricken. “One way we do that is by attending Mass, what we call the Sunday obligation.”