“Ask a Priest: Is it a sin if I miss Sunday Mass while on a cruise?”

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Q: I have been invited to go on a cruise with my family. If there is not a priest on board, I will miss Sunday Mass. I attend Mass daily. May I do this without committing sin? I am 80 years old, and will be with my daughter, her husband and two grandchildren over 18. -T.A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The ideal would be to find a cruise line that ensures a priest’s presence on Sundays and holy days of obligation. But many moral theologians would say in this case the obligation is not binding.

Church documents give guidance in this case. The Catechism in No. 2181 says that “the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.”

That sentence in the Catechism cites No. 1245 of the Code of Canon Law. This canon says that “for a just cause and according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop, a pastor can grant in individual cases a dispensation from the obligation of observing a feast day or a day of penance or can grant a commutation of the obligation into other pious works.”

If you want to rest easy, you could follow the spirit of that canon, which implies that your pastor could dispense you from Mass in this case. Of course, if the ship stops in a port town where Sunday Mass is available, you should try to attend the Mass. I hope this helps. God bless.

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