Mass dispensation to be lifted June 5-6

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In March of 2020, in collaboration with the bishops in Kansas, and in response to the emerging Covid 19 pandemic and the potentially deadly effect it was likely to have, I decided to suspend public Masses in the Diocese of Wichita. At that time, a general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass was given to the laity. On May 6, 2020, public Masses were resumed with restrictions that have been monitored and modified since then. For those who needed it, the general dispensation has remained throughout this time.

Now, again in consultation with my brother bishops in Kansas, with my own leadership team, and with our priests, I announce that the general dispensation for the laity of the Diocese of Wichita will be lifted on the weekend of June 5-6, 2021, the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ.

While I understand that this decision will be met with some resistance and criticism, I believe the current positive trends in the pandemic warrant this action given the decreasing positivity rates, the increasing availability of the vaccines, the opening of other public places, and my own observance of many people resuming most if not all normal activities. In short, if you have resumed otherwise normal activity, it is important to return to in person participation in Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation, which is vital for our spiritual lives.

Jesus said, “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53. Because of this teaching, the church proclaims that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life.”

As Catholics, Sunday Mass is not only an obligation but a great privilege and should never be missed without good reason. The church places such great emphasis on the Sunday celebration of the Mass as our spiritual nourishment that she obliges us to be present unless we have a legitimate reason for being absent. We should all take to heart the church’s directives for us in this regard.

The Code of Canon Law states it this way: “Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.” “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.” CIC 1246-1247.

One of the priorities in the Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Wichita, as you may recall, is to renew parish and family life by reclaiming Sunday as the Day of the Lord, a day of worship and rest. Participating in the Mass on Sunday by as many of the faithful as possible helps us to fulfill this critical priority of our Plan.

Having said this, I do want to reassure you that those who are sick have no obligation to attend the Mass until they are well. Those who are not currently ill but who are at higher risk of infection and who are not yet able or ready to return to Mass may request an individual dispensation from their pastor, who has the authority to grant individual and temporary dispensations for just causes.

Canon 1245 of the Code of Canon Law states, “with due regard for the right of diocesan bishops, which is mentioned in can. 87, for a just reason and in accord with the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, the pastor in individual cases can dispense from the obligation to observe a feast day or a day of penance; or he can commute it to other pious works.”

I would ask our pastors to be generous in offering these dispensations for the good of the faithful and to consider the pastoral practice of commuting these obligations to pious works. I would also recommend that Masses continue to be live-streamed and that other options for Masses with more social distancing and requirement of masks, etc., be considered, so as to give the faithful as many options as possible. I leave all of this to the prudent judgment of our pastors.

We are blessed that the doors of our churches are open, that Masses and other services are being offered and that normal Catholic life has resumed. The pandemic, however, is not behind us and though we must remain vigilant in helping everyone stay healthy and at peace, these past months have shown that attending the Mass under our current guidelines is safe. With this confidence then, I invite, encourage and request the faithful, who are able and well and who have not already done so, to make their way back to in person participation in the Sunday celebration of the Mass.

Please know of my daily prayers and thoughts. God bless you.
+Bishop Carl Kemme