Radio Show

Dispensation and the Ten Commandments


A listener named Robert asks if the Ten Commandments are considered dogma, and if so, how bishops can give a dispensation for the obligation to attend Sunday Mass due to the pandemic

Father Dave responds, “The Commandments are certainly from God. That is clear dogma and doctrine.” 

We have to remember as a Church that we believe that Jesus Christ gave the authority of heaven and earth to Peter, who was the first pope and represents the institutional Church. Therefore, popes that succeed him and the bishops do have authority in the Church, much more authority than you would imagine. 

RELATED: What Does It Mean to Say That the Pope Is Infallible? 

Jesus says, ‘I give you the authority in heaven and earth. What you declare to be bound on earth is bound in heaven.’ God the Father, Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ; they’re running the whole thing, but they’ve delegated this authority to the Pope, and the Pope delegates authority locally and geographically to bishops. With certain obvious caveats and limitations, a bishop pretty much has ultimate authority in his diocese.”

Father Dave points out that just because bishops have authority, it does not mean that everything they say is infallible. “If a bishop were to say, ‘I declare in my diocese that murder is okay. We will get rid of that commandment.’ Actions would be taken against that bishop. But it’s different when we are talking about a dispensation from the Sunday obligation. A bishop is not saying, ‘I’m declaring that commandment number three didn’t really come from God.’ So there’s a whole bunch of red tape in between there and the Catechism that nicely spells this out and explains it.”

RELATED: Mass on TV: Tips for Transforming the Couch Into a Pew

Father Dave explains that fulfilling our Sunday obligation means attending Mass, but points out paragraph 2183 of the Catechism that states, “If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the Liturgy of the Word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families.” Father Dave points out that the Catechism delegates this to the local bishop.

“Particularly for something like this, when there is consensus of all of the bishops that something is grave, we remember the authority Jesus gave to the Church… The commandments are from God and yes, a bishop can dispense from that when there is some sort of exception of the law.”