KENAI, AK - For the second consecutive weekend, Sr. Joyce Ross, RSM conducted a paraliturgical communion service in place of a Mass at a Catholic Church on the Peninsula, this time at Our Lady of the Angels parish on Saturday, May 30th, and Sunday, May 31st.
According to the church bulletin, the previous weekend saw Sr. Joyce "preside at Eucharistic Service" at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in nearby Soldotna. Fr. Tony Dummer, OMI and Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI both made personal remarks that Sr. Joyce's presence was necessary because of the absence of Fr. Joe Dowling, OMI, a fact which the bulletin neglects to mention.
While neither conducting nor attending a paraliturgical communion service is proscribed by Canon Law, a communion service does not fulfill the Church's mandate that the faithful should attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation as stated in canon 1247:
Cn. 1247 - On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.
Canon 1248 does suggests that, in the absence of a priest, the faithful may participate in a paraliturgical service, viz.
Cn. 1248 §2 - If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop...
However - and this is the crux of the argument - this "liturgy of the word" or "Eucharistic Service" are not "options" for fulfilling the Sunday obligation; rather, the obligation is void when it becomes impossible to fulfill. So the first question one should ask himself when a priest is absent is not "Is it permissible for me to attend this Eucharistic Service at my church?", but "Is it possible for me to attend Mass elsewhere?" This is, in fact, what the Congregation of Divine Worship stated in 1988:
¶18 - Whenever and wherever Mass cannot be celebrated on Sunday, the first thing to be ascertained is whether the faithful can go to a church in a place nearby to participate there in the eucharistic mystery.
Further on, this same letter warns of the abuse currently taught ex operatio in Kenai and Soldotna:
¶21 - It is imperative that the faithful be taught to see the substitutional character of these celebrations, which should not be regarded as the optimal solution to new difficulties nor as a surrender to mere convenience.
¶22 - Any confusion between this kind of assembly and a eucharistic celebration must be carefully avoided.
Now, in the past some have claimed that when Mass is celebrated in Kenai and not Soldotna, or vice versa, that the extra miles make fulfillment of the Sunday Mass obligation impossible. However, the distance between Our Lady of the Angels parish in Kenai and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Soldotna is just over 12 miles one way - a long distance to walk, but a relatively short distance to drive by Alaskan standards. Below are examples of longer and shorter commutes made by Catholics in the Archdiocese of Anchorage:
South Anchorage to Downtown Anchorage = 9 miles
Sterling to Soldotna = 11 miles
Sutton to Palmer = 13 miles
Eagle River to Downtown Anchorage = 15 miles
Anchor Point to Homer = 15 miles
Moose Pass to Seward = 28 miles
Wasilla/Palmer to Downtown Anchorage = 42 miles
As the table makes explicitly clear, many members of the Archdiocese travel about or more than 12 miles one way on a daily basis. Thus, to ask these same members to travel an extra 12 miles once a week in order to fulfill their Sunday obligation by participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not only possible, but entirely reasonable.
VERDICT: The People of God on the Kenai Peninsula continue to be malformed regarding the fulfillment of the Sunday obligation to attend Mass as proclaimed by Holy Mother Church in her Canon Law and Congregation for Divine Worship. In accord with the Second Vatican Council, which exhorted all bishops to promote and safeguard "the unity of the faith and the discipline common to the whole Church", it is the opinion of this blog that Archbishop Schwietz must correct and teach that unity and discipline which Our Lady of the Angels and Our Lady of Perpetual Help currently lack.
Please pray for Archbishop Schwietz, Sr. Joyce, and Frs. Tony, Andy, and Joe.