Hurricane “dispensation” exemplifies Catholicism’s salvation-by-merit system

After being pounded by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Southeast portion of the country is feeling the effects of Hurricane Nate this weekend. I see from the latest news reports that Nate has officially been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, but it’s still doing damage.

Catholics in the affected area are in a quandary. Their church teaches that members who do not attend mass on Sundays commit grave sin and doom their soul to hell for eternity unless the sin is confessed to as priest.

What to do, what to do?

Catholics in Louisiana can relax because New Orleans archbishop, Gregory Aymond (see photo), issued a formal dispensation on Friday excusing all members impacted by the storm from attending mandatory mass.

Aymond states in his declaration, “Regarding the Sunday obligation for Catholics, if a person cannot get to church for Mass or if traveling causes danger he/she is dispensed from the obligation to celebrate Mass.”

Hmm. Not so fast. It seems to me that this type of declaration is wide open to personal interpretation. How dangerous does travel to church have to be? Must the route be blocked with downed power lines, flooded streets, or fallen tree limbs to be considered dangerous? We must be precise because it’s the difference between Heaven and hell. I anticipate that many unscrupulous Catholics living on the periphery or even outside of the storm’s path will take advantage of the declaration as an excuse to stay home and watch ESPN’s NFL Sunday Countdown this morning. They will all surely pick up a mortal sin and go to hell. But what is the exact dividing line on this? What are the precise dangerous conditions that will allow a Catholic to stay home from church today without committing mortal sin? Catholics need to know!!! There’s even more complications. Aymond’s stay-home declaration applies to the Catholics in his archdiocese, but what about those living outside of his jurisdiction who are impacted by the storm? Must they consult their own bishop? What if their own bishop hasn’t issued a dispensation, but they have been impacted by the storm? What about Catholics who are traveling in and out of impacted areas on Sunday? What is their exact obligation?

Of course, there are no good answers to any of these questions. It’s all legalistic nonsense. But Catholicism is full of such exactingly vague formulas. Accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone. You cannot obey your way into Heaven.

Catholics may skip Mass if Tropical Storm Nate poses threat, archbishop says

7 thoughts on “Hurricane “dispensation” exemplifies Catholicism’s salvation-by-merit system

    1. Thanks, Beth! Of course, the vast majority of Catholics don’t bother with going to Sunday mass these days, storm or no storm. But there’s still a scrupulous minority who attempt to merit their salvation exactly according to church rules. But when a person really examines these rules they are found to be endless rabbit holes.

      Liked by 1 person

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