12 Reasons You Should Not go to Mass during the Pandemic

1. You do not need a grave reason to refrain from going to Mass on Sunday or on a holy day of obligation; you only need a just reason.

Before the pandemic, the faithful would be without sin if they declined to attend Mass on Sunday due to a cold or the flu, or because they had to care for a young child, a chronically ill or infirm person, or similar reasons. The faithful would be without sin if they did not attend Mass due to a snow storm or other bad weather. The reason is not that their lives would be in danger — although that is certainly more than sufficient as a reason as well. The reason is that you don’t have to endanger your health or life to fulfill the Mass obligation.

2. Infected persons are able to transmit the virus to others up to 14 days (or more) before they show symptoms [1].

Some persons at Mass may be seem healthy, yet they are infecting others with the disease, COVID-19. A priest who seems healthy may be infecting others for days before any symptoms show. Multiple persons attending Mass may be infectious, without knowing it.

3. Recovered persons may still be infectious for a couple of weeks.

One study found that after patients are discharged from the hospital, they may still have the virus in their system up to 13 days later [2]. The study authors stated: “These findings suggest that at least a proportion of recovered patients still may be virus carriers. [2]”

Some persons at Mass may be infectious, even though they seem to have recovered from the disease. This adds a second category to those who are infectious before they show symptoms.

4. Some infected persons have atypical symptoms, or no symptoms.

COVID-19 patients sometimes have symptoms very different from the most common ones.

“Major initial symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, muscular soreness, and dyspnea. Some patients showed atypical symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting. [3]”

“COVID-19 presents with asymptomatic infections, with potential to propagate and perpetuate this epidemic. [3]”

Some patients test positive for the virus (SARS-CoV-2), and are believed to be infectious, but they are asymptomatic [3]. Other patients have symptoms different from the majority of patients. These patients who are “asymptomatic or subclinically symptomatic,” meaning their symptoms are so mild they don’t realize they are sick, represent a danger of spreading the disease.

The point is that some persons might not realize they have the disease, as they have no symptoms, unusual symptoms, or very mild symptoms. Such persons might end up going to Mass, as they don’t think they have anything contagious. This represents a risk to the other persons at Mass and the priest.

5. The basic reproduction number of this disease is high.

The basic reproduction number is essentially the average number of persons who become infected for each person with the disease. Because the disease is contagious days before and days after the person has symptoms, it is spread to more persons than other diseases. One study found a basic reproduction number “as high as 26.5” [4].

So if you go to Mass, and you are contagious without realizing it, the odds of you spreading the disease to other persons at Mass are higher than for other diseases. If there are multiple infected persons at Mass, the danger to the uninfected persons is even greater.

6. The elderly and persons with chronic illnesses are at high risk of death.

Even if you are young or middle age and healthy, you might be contagious without knowing it. You might then spread the disease to someone elderly, like your priest or a long-time parishioner. And they might die.

And it is not a sufficient reply to this point to say that the elderly and chronically ill should stay home. If it is left to the judgment of each individual, some persons will decide badly! Some elderly persons will attend Mass, not realizing the danger. And you might be the person who unwittingly — witlessly, one might say — spreads the disease to them, causing their death.

So you are not being heroic, like the Saints during the plague (as one ill-advised article phrased it), by going to Mass. You are needlessly endangering the lives of other persons.

7. Most priests are elderly

The population of priests in the U.S. and other developed nations is generally on the higher end of the age range. Many priests are near retirement age or are actually working past retirement age. This disease kills the elderly at a high rate, possibly higher than 10%. And, yes, that is a high fatality rate for a disease.

Do you want to be the parishioner who killed your parish priest by insisting on your “right” to go to Mass? Do you want to risk your priests life by confessing a bunch of venial sins to him? And by the way, confessing venial sins is never necessary for salvation. But in cases of actual mortal sin, make an act of perfect contrition, and wait to go to confession when it is safe for both you and your confessor.

8. If you catch this disease at Mass, you are risking the lives of everyone you meet.

Do you think yourself to be heroic by attending Mass at the risk of catching this disease? You are not heroic. If you get sick, you might not realize you are sick and contagious for two weeks or more. You could spread this disease to your family, you spouse and children, and anyone else you meet in your daily life. You are risking their lives, so that you can go to Mass. That is not holiness.

9. The elderly and persons with chronic illnesses are not the only ones who might die.

Some young persons, even some children, are dying. Even though the odds of dying are lower for that age range, they are still in danger from this disease, as are young and middle age adults. The risk of death is not only for the elderly or infirm, so they are not the only ones who should refrain from going to Mass. And if you get sick, you might infect a child who later dies.

10. Doctors aren’t sure yet how to treat this disease

Many treatments being used by doctors at hospitals do not seem to be working. Persons hospitalized with COVID-19 are still dying. There are disagreements among researchers as to which studies to believe. Not enough clinical studies have been done to determine, definitively, what the right treatment might be.

So if you go to Mass, you risk giving a disease to someone, or getting the disease yourself, when hospitals are not sure which treatments to use.

11. When they do decide how to treat this disease, there will not be enough medicine for the whole planet.

This disease threatens the population of every nation on earth. When they do decide what medication works, everyone will want some, if only to prevent themselves from getting sick. No matter how common the medication may be, there will not be enough to go around. That makes this disease much more dangerous than other common diseases.

12. Your right to the Sacraments and the Mass does not include endangering the lives of others.

It is not moral for you to go to Mass when you might unknowingly be infectious with a highly-contagious frequently-deadly disease, or when you might contract the disease and later spread it to others. Stay home.

Conclusion

It is entirely moral and faithful to refrain from going to Mass during this pandemic. It may well be immoral to attend Mass, as you are risking the lives of other persons, including the priest. Stay home. You are not sinning by avoiding Mass and confession during the pandemic.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

[1] Aguilar, Jacob B., and Juan B. Gutierrez. “Investigating the Impact of Asymptomatic Carriers on COVID-19 Transmission.” medRxiv (2020).

Click to access 2020.03.18.20037994.full.pdf

[2] Lan, Lan, et al. “Positive RT-PCR test results in patients recovered from COVID-19.” Jama (2020).
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2762452

[3] Sun, Jiumeng, et al. “COVID-19: epidemiology, evolution, and cross-disciplinary perspectives.” Trends in Molecular Medicine (2020).
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471491420300654

[4] Aguilar, Jacob B., and Juan B. Gutierrez. “Investigating the Impact of Asymptomatic Carriers on COVID-19 Transmission.” medRxiv (2020).

Click to access 2020.03.18.20037994.full.pdf

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6 Responses to 12 Reasons You Should Not go to Mass during the Pandemic

  1. Joshua says:

    Mr. Conte, I appreciate your work and your great concern for the health and well being of priests and parishioners alike. However, I would have to disagree with you about not attending Mass during this difficult time. Now I am not a health professional, but … [deleted by RLCJ] And of course, those with compromised immune systems (including some elderly) and people who are experiencing flu like symptoms should stay home. This whole Wuhan Flu pandemic is being blown out of proportion. I don’t remember this level of hysteria during SARS 1 or the Swine Flu. God will protect His people. And in times of crisis, we must think like God, and not like men.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I deleted the misinformation in your comment. This disease is highly contagious. See the studies I cited. It has a basic reproduction number of 26.5 [see footnote 4]. That’s a high number. It means the disease is highly contagious, and you can get it from just standing close to someone, or from being in a crowd of people, several of whom might be infected and contagious without knowing it.

  2. SC says:

    Hi Ron,
    Allow me to voice appreciation for your information efforts in these confusiing times.
    Let’s hope that as the weeks of absence from attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass turn into months, Christianity in particular regains the ‘longing for God’ that is sown deeply in the human heart.
    Yes, may the Heart of Jesus, the Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist be praised and loved until the end of time…

  3. Thomas Mazanec says:

    Sars and Mers and Swine Flu did not have the potential to kill scores of million of people, Joshua.
    I stopped going to daily Mass about a week before my Diocese closed them.

  4. King Robert the Bruce says:

    I agree stay away from mass, yesterday I myself decided to self isolate from my job things are just getting too dangerous and God willing we will all come through this thing at the other side.

  5. Maria Dolores says:

    Last time I went to mass was on Ash Wednesday (I’m living in Spain). Then we just had a handful of positive cases, but somehow I sensed how hazardous the fact of attending mass would become, considering that my parents are 84 and 85, and I nurse them on a daily basis. Since then I’m abstaining from the Sacraments. I placed it all in the hands of the Lord, in prayer, and without scruples. I attend Holy Mass online and only realized my hunger of God is growing, my desire for Him and his presence, so this is indeed a grace for me. This is the time when the Bridegroom is taken away from us, so we have to fast and wait for the Lord with our lamps full of love and adoration.

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