Bishop Ricken lifts dispensation for Sunday Mass attendance

‘Greater health’ following pandemic allows return, says bishop

ALLOUEZ — Bishop David Ricken has announced that he is lifting the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. The obligation will return on Sunday, Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven.

In his column, Bishop Ricken stated that while the COVID-19 pandemic “brought great sufferings of illness and loss of life among our families, … we now find greater health returning to our communities.”

“Since we are experiencing greater health in our communities and our parishes, after much discernment and consultation, I have decided to lift the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass,” he wrote.

Bishop Ricken first granted the dispensation on March 13, 2020, as the spread of the COVID-19 virus grew throughout northeast Wisconsin. The initial dispensation was granted for the last three Sundays of March. Four days later, he announced that the dispensation would be extended “for the next four to eight weeks.”

On Aug. 31, 2020, the bishops of Wisconsin issued a statement announcing plans for an end to the dispensation in all five dioceses. Bishop Ricken reinstated the Sunday Mass obligation the weekend of Sept. 19 and 20. However, a decree issued Oct. 2 reversed the decision due to a “dramatic and dangerous increase of the COVID-19 virus within the 16 counties.”

The dioceses of La Crosse and Superior also reinstated their dispensation last October, while Milwaukee and Madison did not. Last month, Superior (June 5-6) and La Crosse (June 26-27) lifted their general dispensations.

In anticipation of the dispensation’s lifting on Aug. 15, Bishop Ricken reminded Catholics of the importance of fulfilling the Sunday Mass obligation.

It “fulfills, in part, the basic moral obligation which God has given us in the third commandment — to “Keep holy the Sabbath,” he wrote. “As Catholics, we believe that to miss Mass on any given Sunday without a serious reason is a serious and grave sin.”

Not only does missing Mass violate one of the Ten Commandments, “it can give a clear indication that our relationship with God is not really that important to us,” said Bishop Ricken.

Bishop Ricken has repeatedly stated that the dispensation for Sunday Mass is always in place if Catholics face serious health issues.

“If individuals are frail due to illness or age and in their well-formed consciences believe that going into public places — including Sunday worship at Mass — would place their health in ‘serious jeopardy,’ they, too, are not bound by this obligation,” Bishop Ricken wrote in his July 16 column. “Anyone in those types of situations should adhere to the third commandment ‘To Keep Holy the Lord’s Day’ by spending time in prayer, reading the Scriptures and taking part in acts of charity from home.”

In addition, those unable to attend Sunday Mass for health reasons can still tune into the televised Mass on WFRV Local 5, celebrated by Bishop Ricken every Sunday at 10:30 a.m.