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Dan wrote:

Hi, guys —

Our church has initiated a minimum 75% attendance at weekly Mass, tracked by envelope contributions. If we do not meet the attendance requirements then our children will not be able to receive the sacraments, such as First Communion or Confirmation.

  • Can they really deny someone sacraments based on Mass attendance?



  { Can they deny someone the sacraments based on Mass attendance? }

Paul replied:

Dear Dan,

I don't know if this rule is justifiable under canon law, but in my humble opinion I think 75% is too low. The reason I say this is simple logic. The authority of Christ through His Church obliges all Catholics to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation throughout the year.

  • Why would a parent want their child to be part the Church when they themselves don't attend Mass?
  • In other words why would a parent want their child to believe in something they themselves don't believe in?
  • Does it not seem like a contradiction?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2041-2042: “The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor.”

The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.

2179: A parish is a definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church; the pastoral care of the parish is entrusted to a pastor as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop." It is the place where all the faithful can be gathered together for the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration; it teaches Christ's saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love:

You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more:

  • the union of minds
  • the accord of souls
  • the bond of charity, and
  • the prayers of the priests.

(St. John Chrysostom)



Mike replied:

Hi, Dan —

My knee-jerk reaction to your question was: That's ridiculous.

Nevertheless, my colleague Paul makes a very good point; this is why it is important for practicing Catholics to financially support their local parish.

  • If 98% of Catholics at a given parish consider "going to Mass" as:

    slipping in the back door to pick up a weekly bulletin, then immediately leaving, who do they think they are fooling?

  • Do these people expect the parish to provide the money for training materials and personnel for these sacramental training programs, when they are the parish?
  • If their answer is "Someone else will provide for it." and everyone in that parish is saying the same thing, this is what you can get.
  • If their answer is "the Church is rich; they're loaded with money.", just a few years ago the Vatican was running a deficit plus each parish is financially responsible for their own stability, though they obviously work with the local bishop.

No one has the right to make sweeping statements about groups of parishioners at any given parish, but no parishioner, especially, one that doesn't practice the faith, has a right to complain about a parish they don't support.

To answer your question, from my view, No, the Church is commanded by Christ to teach, train and administer the sacraments to the faithful and has to provide them with a means of receiving the sacraments. These means, under certain circumstances, may require going to another parish temporarily to receive training, instruction and ultimately reception of the sacraments, but the parish has to provide some means.

In some situations, this is probably the norm because the Catholic population in some localities is very small.

Hope this helps,


Dan replied:

Thank you for your responses.

Based on your answers and how I phrased my question I can see how it may have appeared that I was complaining about going to church, but this is not the case. I am simply wondering if it is within the rules for a church to have such a requirement. Also, being realistic, I am sure a large percentage of parishioners in any parish do not attend Mass even 50% of the time.

Again, my debate isn't how frequent one should attend church but rather whether a church can legitimately withhold sacraments if you don't meet a minimum attendance requirement.

  • If it were based on actual church law, that you must attend every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation, then shouldn't there be 100% attendance?
  • Shouldn't every church have this rule?


Mike replied:

Hi, Dan —

No, to my knowledge, the Church cannot withhold sacraments for reasons based on Mass attendance alone. If the parish participation rate of the faithful among the sacramental ministries is low at a given parish, the pastor may have to make certain adjustments but ultimately these decisions are left to the pastor and his bishop.

Hope this helps,


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