Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Do I Gotta Go?

Recently, a friend of mine sent my wife and I an email asking us what we thought about the necessity of attending church services on Sunday, as opposed to simply, informally, hanging out with Christian friends, and perhaps studying the Bible in small groups. I asked her if I could reprint her email, with my reply, on my blog, since it's a question I've gotten a lot over the years, and thus seems rather relevant. Since my friend is a Protestant, the first part of my answer addresses the question from a "mere Christianity" basis. From there, I go on to discuss why, as Catholics, we particularly believe in the importance of Mass attendance.

Hi Guys.
How are you? I have a question for you both about church. I think going to church on Sunday is an act of obedience to Christ, but my small group doesn't think so. They think church could be defined as just hanging out with Christians and studying together, i.e. going to small group. Apparently, I'm a little legalistic (which I'll admit I tend to lean towards that). I'm just not sure I buy going to small group as an alternative to going to church. I realize church is very "structured", but there's a reason the early church decided on including certain things in a service (I don't know what the word back then would have been). Structure doesn't have to be a bad thing. It sure beats chaos. Furthermore, there's something to be said for church family. Typically, protestants are drawn to small groups with people who think like them. You don't necessarily see eye to eye with everyone in your church family, but there's a reason we're all there. We're skilled in different areas, and we clash, but it forces us to work out our differences. It's also an opportunity to witness. Most people know that church is Sunday morning or Saturday night in our culture. Small groups are too easy to disguise as something else, i.e. someone in my small group calls it, "book club". I don't know. Maybe I am off my rocker, but it makes me sad to know that so many of my friends could care less about Sunday morning church. I miss seeing them there.
B.
Hey B!
I thought your question was fantastic, and the thoughts from your own perspective were really insightful. It's a question I've gotten a lot over the years--usually from Protestants, since when a Catholic asks, the short answer is "Because it's a Mortal Sin not to go!" :) For the record, I don't think you're one bit legalistic in thinking Church attendance is important, and even necessary.

I completely agree that attending Church is an act of obedience to Christ. While hanging out with Christian friends is certainly important, studying the Bible as a loose assortment of people is, I think, rather incomplete. As for why I think this, you yourself hit on some very good reasons: mainly, small group Bible Studies tend to be or become groups of like-minded individuals. Obviously, we should be like-minded in that we all share the mind of Christ, but I think when you and I say that a small group is full of like-minded people, we agree that that tends to mean that certain viewpoints are automatically assumed, and challenging the status quo with a different idea of things is a quick road to ostracisation. Moreover, in such an environment, how can growth occur when such new(er) ideas are presented? Those with like minds can tend to conclude they have all the answers figured out. Plus, as you said, the whole Church has members with different skills, giftings, and roles, that are likely to be absent with groups featuring only a handful of people. Again, as you point out, it can be more difficult to witness, since inviting a non-Christian to a small-group can be intimidating at times. They're very obviously the "new blood". (Though, conversely, the large church setting can be intimidating to some, as well. Small groups do have their place--it just isn't exclusive.) Further to the witnessing question, when Melissa and I were talking about it, she brought up the point that if the group isn't really growing in faith, especially if they think they have all the answers, then how can the new Christian continue to grow themselves? And what if they, as a new Christian, have a different perspective? Will they be embraced, or forced to seek out their own small group of like-minded new Christians?

As for structure being a good thing, it certainly is. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is all about structure in worship, from his detailing the rules of conduct around Holy Communion (ch 10-11), to his dealing with abuses of the Charismatic Gifts, like Tongues (ch 12-14), as well as other problems. He specifically states at one point, that God is a God of order and not of confusion (14:33). By the way, the Early Church called its services "Divine Liturgies", and they were, in fact, structured liturgical services very similar to the Catholic Church's liturgy. You can even read ancient documents outlining the service from within 100 years of Jesus.

Moreover, pertaining to the question of structure is the question of leadership. Who is the appointed leader and authority of a small group gathering of Christians? By what authority does that leader (if there is a leader) lead? The Bible very clearly discusses the hows and whos of leadership in the Church, mentioning the ordination and leadership of bishops, presbyters, and deacons (prominently in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, but in other places as well). No bishop, presbyter, or deacon appoints himself, but they were all ordained by those who were bishops before them, and they were ordained by, ultimately, the Apostles, who were themselves ordained by Christ. Without this ordained leadership, there is no church. And it is that ordained leadership that has the authority to teach the Gospel to the people, and to challenge them to live it. While we should all be challenging each other to live the Gospel, when we submit to the authorities put in place by Jesus Himself, we achieve three things: first, we act in humility by submitting to authority. Second, we are challenged to keep growing in the faith as our ministers grow and learn and then teach us (since it is their role and luxury to be able "devote [them]selves to prayer and to the service of the word" (Acts 6:4).

As Catholics, Melissa and I have additional reasons why we feel attending Church is both important and vitally necessary. The first, as I've already mentioned, is that without a real reason for doing so, it's actually a Mortal Sin to miss Church on Sunday. According to Catholic teaching, a Mortal Sin is one that basically amounts to a person who commits it renouncing their covenant with God. In other words, by missing Church because we just don't feel like going, we're essentially telling God we don't need Him.

The reason why it is a Mortal Sin to miss Church for Catholics is the second reason why it's so necessary for Catholics to go: that is, we believe that at Mass, we receive Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist. Since He is our Living Bread (quite literally), missing Mass is like going hungry for a week! Worse, since it really is Jesus Himself present to commune with us, neglecting such an opportunity is like standing up an appointment with the King! It's saying to Jesus that we care so little about His sacrifice on the Cross that we can't even take one hour out of our week to spend with Him! And since consecrating the Eucharist is one of those roles that is bestowed through one's ordination, it's only the ordained leaders of the Church who can provide the Eucharist. We can't duplicate it as a small group of friends at Bible Study.

Finally, as Catholics, we believe that it's necessary to go to Mass in order to grow in our faith, and to be sure of true teaching. Since we believe that Jesus promised to preserve His Church from teaching error, we can be reasonably sure that, provided the priest is actually being obedient to the Church himself, and not making things up according to his own understanding, that we're getting the whole truth and nothing but. And if one does have a bad priest, there's recourse to the Bishop so that the priest can be disciplined and corrected. There's nothing like that in a small group Bible Study. At best, the most educated in theology is the leader, and just being educated doesn't mean they're right. And if one tries to correct the leader's misunderstanding, the most that can come of it is a discussion or debate of differing opinions.

So for all of these reasons, as well as the community aspect that you yourself pointed out--the Family of God being able to minister to each others' needs, I believe that Church is necessary. Incidentally, I saw the powerful effect of conversion that the Family of God can have for a person, at Easter. There was a Catholic woman in our church who married either a non-practising or a non-Christian husband, and they had five kids, none of whom were Christian. Well, this past year, their house burnt down, and they lost pretty much everything. Because of the love and generosity our parish had for this family in providing food and clothing and other blessings, this woman's husband and all five kids, and a cousin, all were baptised at the Easter Vigil Mass!

Anyway, for all these reasons, and more that I haven't thought of here, Church is both important and necessary. That's why the writer to the Hebrews wrote, "Do not absent yourself from your own assemblies, as some do, but encourage each other; the more so as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb 10:25).

God bless,
hope that helps.
Gregory

(Category: The Church: The Make-Up of the Church)

10 comments:

Christopher said...

Interesting question. Interesting article in response.

"...but I think when you and I say that a small group is full of like-minded people, we agree that that tends to mean that certain viewpoints are automatically assumed, and challenging the status quo with a different idea of things is a quick road to ostracisation."

Not to be too cheeky, but when I read this sentence, I couldn't help but insert certain other words. The effect was this: "...but I think when you and I say that 'Catholicism' is full of like-minded people, we agree that tends to mean that certain viewpoints are automatically assumed, and challenging the status quo with a different idea of things is a quick road to ostracisation."

While the reflections in your article are kindly and thoughtful, my friend, I can't help but wonder why there isn't a more organic picture of the 'church' being presented. You've argued well for the necessity of sitting in a pew receiving dictations from a collared elect. You've aptly stated the doctrinal case Catholicism puts forth. You've even extended a pedagogical hand to those of your readership who may be new to the faith, and in need of a clear, decisive voice on this subject. From where I sit, however, you've only touched on the visible, or militant church. There's really nothing in your article that deals with the wholistic nature of the church, the organic, living body of Christians united vertically and horizontally throughout the world. And its on this point that I would have to suggest that a true believer cannot not attend 'church' if s/he is thoroughly engrafted to Christ because of Christ.

Apostasy is a way out, for sure. But that, as you well know, is an utter, and complete rejection of Christ after a person has already known Him. That would put a person outside of the institution called 'church', and out of the body of Christ, which is also the 'church'. But, of course, we're not talking about that in your article. So I have to come back to my original concern: why, if a convinced Christian is definitionally part of the church, is refusing to be a pew-warmer now and then a 'mortal sin'? How can it be if a person is equally belonging to Christ on an individual level as all Christians are on a corporate level?

Okay. I'll leave things there for now. I'm interested in more of your thoughts.

Thank you for being brave enough to tackle such a loaded topic. And with such candor, too!

God bless you,
Christopher

Gregory said...

Hey Chris. You wrote:
Not to be too cheeky, but when I read this sentence, I couldn't help but insert certain other words. The effect was this: "...but I think when you and I say that 'Catholicism' is full of like-minded people, we agree that tends to mean that certain viewpoints are automatically assumed, and challenging the status quo with a different idea of things is a quick road to ostracisation."

There is an extent to which you are, indeed, quite correct. Of course, I would think that, depending on what idea one is challenging the status quo with, ostracisation (read: excommunication) is not only an appropriate response, but a specifically biblical one.

However, I think the difference between what I had in mind in my perhaps poorly-worded statement, and with your comparison to the Catholic Church (or, for that matter, any particular "institutionalised" denomination), is who, what, and how that ostracisation is carried out.

What I mean is, in a small group Bible Study, which typically amounts to a peer group, who has the authority to determine what ideas are "heretical", and can effect such a disciplinary process such as excommunication? Is there even a definitive way in which that could happen? Who invests that leader with such authority?
What leads to that decision? What sort of disagreement or degree of deviation can cause such ostracisation or excommunication in a small peer group?
How is one informed of such a decision? It seems to me that in an informal peer setting, there would be no sort of formal disciplinary process, no chance for defense, but what could potentially lead to the group giving the unwelcome party the cold shoulder.

How is this different from the institutional Church? First, who effects the discipline is the one who has been invested with such authority through ordination--which itself is the biblical rule. It typically is not a quick decision, but one that is taken with a many-layered process of discernment and attempts at correction.
What leads to it is, for the most part, a radical rejection or deviation from doctrine. Simply having an alternative opinion on the interpretation of a Scripture does not lead to excommunication. And even such faith-denying views that might, certainly do not lead in any sense to a "quick" ostracisation.
How, again, is a different, formalised process wherein one's opposing views are debated or put on trial to determine if they are, in fact, heterodox. If so, the person is shown his error and given the opportunity to recant. If he persists in his definite error, then he has himself chosen to excommunicate himself, and the Church really only resigns itself to that decision, rather than, as many see it, forcing that person out. Practically speaking, that person may feel he is in the right (which would be why he does not recant), and thus still should belong to the Church, and so it may appear to be a forcing out. But the Church, having a standing Tradition, does not bend or break it for a new idea.

Ultimately, the difference comes down to that of authority. If "church attendance" can be reduced to socialising with Christian friends and studying the Bible, who has the God-given authority of ordination necessary to lead, teach, and discipline the congregation (not to mention to celebrate the sacraments)?

Now, obviously, we disagree on the nature and necessity of authority, and perhaps even of ordination. That's a discussion that goes beyond your current question, though, and so this is where I stand, with the Catholic Church.

cont'd

Gregory said...

While the reflections in your article are kindly and thoughtful, my friend, I can't help but wonder why there isn't a more organic picture of the 'church' being presented.

The specific question asked of me was why a Christian should attend Sunday services, not, what is the social, spiritual, political, and institutional structure of the Church or Christianity as a whole. I gave my opinion, and what I believe is the Catholic Church's view of the matter, on the former question, and largely left the latter question untouched, as it was not asked of me.

So I have to come back to my original concern: why, if a convinced Christian is definitionally part of the church, is refusing to be a pew-warmer now and then a 'mortal sin'? How can it be if a person is equally belonging to Christ on an individual level as all Christians are on a corporate level?

The sinfulness of the decision to miss Church (specifically, Mass, for my comments about skipping Mass applied specifically to Catholics) depends both on the reasons why one is missing Church (there are, after all, various valid reasons) and one's understanding of the gravity of the sin. If one doesn't realise, genuinely, that it is sinful, it mitigates against the gravity of the actual sin of missing Church--however, it is one's duty to fully form his conscience.

The reasons why it is such a grave sin are, first, that we do not, as Catholics, believe that one can remain "equally belonging to Christ on an individual level" without also participating with the worship and life of His Church in a communal level.

Second, refusing to attend Mass for invalid reasons is essentially, as I stated in the article, a slap in the Face of Jesus Himself, who has deigned to dwell among us personally and intimately in the Blessed Sacrament. Since it is the very sacrament through which we grow in communion, through which we abide in Christ, neglecting so great a gift is literally neglect of Christ Himself. How is that not a grave sin?

I hope that helps answer your questions and objections, Chris.

God bless
Gregory

Christopher said...

Gregory,

I'm going to take the time to think a little more on the first part of your answers. You have gone into some detail, and I don't want to diminish your efforts by simply banging out a quick letter in response.

In the meanwhile, you wrote this:

"The reasons why it is such a grave sin are, first, that we do not, as Catholics, believe that one can remain "equally belonging to Christ on an individual level" without also participating with the worship and life of His Church in a communal level."

Right. I get this on a presentation level. That is, a level where church attendence is observed through physical presense in a common meeting place.

However, the church, as I know you know, is not bonded by physical meetings alone, but by Christ Himself. Church is largely a metaphysical reality comprised of physical people. That being the case, an individual Christian is still part of the metaphysical reality of the Church because s/he is still an inheritor of Christ.

And this leads us to your point that "...refusing to attend Mass for invalid reasons is essentially, as I stated in the article, a slap in the Face of Jesus Himself, who has deigned to dwell among us personally and intimately in the Blessed Sacrament."

I need you to define what an "invalid reason" is, and who determines the invalidity of such-and-such a reason. If we say that person A does not attend Mass because s/he forgot what day of the week it was (something I'm quite familiar with doing, and regularly, too!), would that constitute an "invalid" reason? I would see it as quite legitimate, personally: who can ascribe fault or blame on an innocent aspect of our human condition? (And I'm not talking about the ontology of sin here, lest we get distracted by that line of thought.)

If we start citing outside sources like the Catechism, or the Pope and his Bishops, or T/tradition then we run into problems with what gives those things dictatorial rights over my personhood, the circumstances of my life, events out of my control, etc. Unless those outside authorities are willing to take responsibility for the mudane details of my life that might cause me to miss Mass, then there is no reason why I should be accountable to them such that I would be sinning by their declaration.

And this brings to light a core problem of fundamentalist thinking: it reasons in binary logic, and sets of a self-confirming system. If Catholic fundamentalist dogma (which I consider this to be) suggests that missing Mass is equivalent to mortal sin (0), and only the assertions of the church authorities can determine this (1), then any validity I may have in missing mass (1) is ipso facto overruled (0), thereby confirming the system of rules and not the individual the rules apply to (1, 0).

In my mind, this seems disingenuous, authoritarian, and irreverent of human dignity and autonomy.

As to slapping Christ in the face by missing Mass, that seems a little unreasonable: Christ is present with the believer even when the believer isn't present with other believers, or even when a believer hasn't received the host (e.g., the thief on the cross; or the thousands of other Christ followers that never supped at the table with Christ before he was crucified; or the thousands of Christians that have gone anonymous throughout the centuries -- we can't confirm whether they've received the Eucharist or not, or even attended a sacrosanct building to publicly justify their faith. Are all these people guilty of mortal sin because they didn't, or couldn't attend mass? And who determines the in/validity in those scenarios?)

God bless you, too.
Christopher

Gregory said...

I guess the key to your objections does, in fact, revolve around defining what constitutes an invalid reason for missing Mass.

An invalid reason, as far as I've understood, is one where I, by a personal choice, choose to not attend Mass even though I am fully capable (or should be fully capable) of so doing.

While I cannot give a hard and fast rule of what absolutely connotes an invalid reason (because contrary to your assertion, Catholics are not fundamentalists), some possible examples would be things like sleeping in, choosing to go to the beach or some other activity instead of Mass, being too hung over because of irresponsible partying the previous night, would all be likely invalid reasons for missing Mass.

Forgetting what day it is because of a hectic schedule such as your own (both in your work and your home life), I do not believe constitutes an invalid reason, for a mortal sin can only be committed by full consent of your will. Obviously, one does not choose to forget something. However, that being said, due diligence should be used in remembering when Mass is, when possible.

As far as who determines the validity or invalidity of one's reasons, that is up to God alone, who alone knows the reasons of our hearts, and who, when we are willing to examine our conscience, will bring those reasons and their sinfulness to mind, or, on the other hand, will vindicate us. That the Church's Magisterium has the responsibility for defining what, as a rule, constitutes such reasons is a part of its God-given role of "binding and loosing" (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). Again, they do not judge the "mundane details" of your life that might cause you to miss Mass. They provide a warning against purposefully placing yourself in a position that keeps you from Mass. There is a rather large difference.

Finally, when a person is fully capable of attending Mass, it is a sin not to. When a person legitimately is not able to, there is no sin in not. The Thief on the Cross obviously does not qualify as a way out, Chris, for three reasons. Obviously, liturgical church services hadn't come about yet, so he couldn't have gone if he had wanted to. Having his arms nailed to a piece of wood would certainly constitute a legitimate reason why he couldn't. And finally, he was himself in the very presence of Christ, so your point is completely irrelevant. The rest of your "hard cases" are equally irrelevant again for the reasons that inability does not make a sin. Neglected ability or purposeful refusal make the sin; and second, we do not judge others' reasons. We can only judge the sinfulness of our own.

But I come back to the assertion that it is the Eucharist through which Jesus has chosen to come into us and to dwell with, in, and among us. Refusing, purposefully, to participate in that Communion is indeed a slap in the face to the One who has so humbled Himself in order to be with us, that He makes Himself available in the Bread and Wine.

My wife may always be with me in our married life, but if she makes a special arrangement of cooking a romantic dinner for me to celebrate our love and marriage, and I blow her off to hang out with friends, I may still love her, we may still be married, but I have essentially slapped her in the face and sinned against her. It is no different with our neglect of Mass and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

Christopher said...

So, Gregory, do you see Hebrews 10:25 and an absolutist command? That is, there is no other option than to attend an established charitable, incorporated business called the 'Church'?

Or do you see it as more flexible: wherever two or three are gathered, and all that?

And about the Eucharist specifically, do you think that the spirit is literally weaker, impoverished, and malnourished if a person does not receive the Host? And if a person willingly absents his/herself from Mass, are they therefore, literally, in a spiritual starvation mode? Will they undergo some sort of spiritual scurvy until the following week, just ipso facto?

Christopher said...

Errata: So, Gregory, do you see Hebrews 10:25 as (not 'and') an absolutist command?

Sorry about that.

Gregory said...

Chris, you wrote:
So, Gregory, do you see Hebrews 10:25 [as] an absolutist command? That is, there is no other option than to attend an established charitable, incorporated business called the 'Church'?

I do believe that Hebrews 10:25 is a command. I believe it is 'absolutist' if we take the American Heritage Dictionary's second definition of the term, "An absolute doctrine, principle, or standard" for the definition of 'absolutist'. Otherwise, I haven't really any understanding of what you mean by that word. Taking the AHD's definition given above, though, I would think that if the Bible clearly commands something, it would be an absolutist command. I have a feeling your word choice, however, will simply lead down a rabbit trail, so I'll move on.

Specifically, I'll move to your use of other words, those being the rather loaded words which you use to describe a church: "an established charitable, incorporated business". That is not the definition of "Church". None of those descriptors are in any way essential to the nature of a church. That you would choose to describe "church" in that fashion seems to indicate your own cynical bias to a North American cultural phenomenon (namely, the freedom of religion which leads to tax exemption for charitable institutions being applied to religious bodies meeting a particular criteria).

Since the rule for Sunday attendance at Mass is a universal one throughout the Catholic Church, defining "church" in the way you have simply confuses the issue.

After all, there are many countries in the world who do not afford to churches the right of being "established charitable, incorporated business[es]", or, in many others, even the right to exist. If we defined "Church" the way you have above, then an affirmative answer to your question regarding whether Hebrews 10:25 applies only to such an entity is absurd.

On the other hand, I very greatly disagree that it applies simply to a "where two or three are gathered in My name" scenario, either. Your question, positing either a charitable, incorportated business or a bunch of Christian friends hanging out dichotomy, suffers from the fallacy of the excluded middle. Since that is a fallacy you have pointed out many times in the writings of others, I'm surprised you're allowing yourself to fall into it. Either that, or you're rhetorically suggesting it in order to confirm your previous accusation that I'm a binary-thinking fundamentalist.

Gregory said...

That said, let's move on once more: the injunction of Hebrews 10:25 occurs in a specific context (as so often is the case with passages of Scripture), and I believe that the specific context in which the author gives the command serves to confirm my own statements about the importance of weekly Mass attendance--especially the Eucharist.

I don't think that this comment box is the most appropriate place for a lengthly exposition of Hebrews 10--though you have inspired me to write a new post to that effect, so that's now "coming soon"--, but I'll sum up by pointing out that in the Apostle's discussion of Christ's superceding the Old Covenant, he describes our participation in the New Covenant in sacrificial, liturgical, and ultimately Eucharistic terms. The specific terms in which the author to the Hebrews describes our participation in the Sacrifice of Christ cannot be achieved through a simple "where two or three are gathered" loose affiliation of peers who happen to share the same creed regarding Jesus Christ.

This is why he exhorts us not to forsake our assemblies, and then, immediately after, enters into a discussion regarding apostasy. Specifically, in that discussion, he warns against committing deliberate sins, trampling on the Son of God, and treating the blood of the covenant as if it were not holy (vv. 26-29), saying that those who do so will be punished severely.

It is this Blood of the Covenant which Christ gave us at the institution of the Eucharist. The warning echoes St. Paul's warning against receiving the Eucharist unworthily, not discerning our Lord's Body (1 Cor 11:27-29). On the one hand, receiving the Eucharist in a state of deliberate, mortal sin is a profanation of Christ; on the other, to deliberately neglect receiving Him is to trample upon Him and to treat that saving Blood as something profane. In either situation, we demonstrate that we either do not believe, or do not care, that Christ is truly Present to us in the Sacrament, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Gregory said...

This then leads us to the second part of your comment:

And about the Eucharist specifically, do you think that the spirit is literally weaker, impoverished, and malnourished if a person does not receive the Host?

Absolutely it is. This, it seems to me, should go without saying. Or rather, Jesus Himself has already said so:

"In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53).

And if a person willingly absents his/herself from Mass, are they therefore, literally, in a spiritual starvation mode? Will they undergo some sort of spiritual scurvy until the following week, just ipso facto?

If a person, through no fault of their own, must be absent from Mass, and cannot have the Eucharist brought to them, then yes, they will be in rather a spiritual starvation mode. They will indeed undergo a "spiritual scurvy"--that is, they will have a grace deficiency much akin to a vitamin C deficiency. Their spiritual immune system will be weakened against the effects of concupiscence which lingers in their soul due to original sin. They will find it easier to slip into temptation, and harder to escape from it. And if they still manage to avoid mortal sin throughout that week, then yes, their reception of Jesus in the Eucharist will remedy their weakness. Of course, one need not wait an entire week, for Mass is offered daily in the Catholic Church. While Sunday is the only day of the week that is mandatory, the grace received in the Sacrament is available every day. In fact, it is said that there is never a moment on earth where the Eucharist is not being celebrated somewhere.

On the other hand, my answer does not in fact address your question as asked. You asked, if someone willingly absents themselves from the Mass, will they undergo this spiritual starvation?

My answer, simply, is no, they will not. Perhaps that surprises you. But think of it: Does a dead body undergo starvation? No, for starvation is a process of dying. Since a dead person cannot die, for the simple reason that they already are dead, they cannot starve. Thus, the person who willingly absents himself from the Mass, having committed a mortal sin in so doing, is now spiritually dead--that is, he has rejected the Covenant of Christ and is now outside of Grace--for that is what a Mortal Sin does--it kills the life of grace within the soul.

Moreover, this spiritual death cannot be remedied simply by receiving Jesus the following week. Doing so will only compound the sinfulness, being itself a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin, and reap even greater condemnation. The only remedy for such a state, then, is Sacramental Confession--in which the life of grace is, as it were, resurrected in the soul, and the person is reinstated into the Covenant.

And yes, I would say that each of these scenarios is an ipso facto scenario.

Anyway, I hope that sufficiently answers your question. It's now waaay past my bed-time, so I apologise if anything seems unclear or uncharitable. Ze brain, he is fried.

God bless,
Gregory