St. Louis, Mo., Mar 30, 2023 / 09:00 am
The results of a new study from the Pew Research Center show that in-person Mass attendance among Catholics has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, and only about 4 in 10 U.S. Catholics say they attend Mass in person as often as they did before the pandemic. A quarter of all Catholics say they now attend less often.
The self-reported Mass attendance numbers in the Pew study combine those Catholics who say they attend in person, virtually, or both. The drop in in-person attendance is accompanied by a 14% rise in the number of Catholics who say they attend Mass more frequently online now than they did before the pandemic. The Pew researchers suggest that participation in Mass among U.S. Catholics remained relatively stable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but only if virtual attendance is taken into account.
The Catholic Church teaches that Catholics are obliged to go to Mass every Sunday, “unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor” (or bishop).
When virtually every U.S. diocese shuttered churches during the COVID-19 pandemic, many bishops issued dispensations from Catholics’ Sunday Mass obligation, leading to a rise in virtual worship for many. Bishops began lifting those dispensations later in 2020, with a few bishops holding out until 2022 before lifting the dispensation and inviting Catholics back to Mass in person.