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From a reader:
A friend has Aspergers which is on the autism spectrum but they usually pass for relatively normal if slightly batty (she OK’s this description!) but she has the typical extreme social anxieties and other hyper sensitivities and when they pile up she doesn’t make it to Mass because she is afraid of a meltdown (another inconvenience of Aspergers). Does this fall under the health reasons for missing Mass or not?
I don’t know what to tell her because if she feels it coming, she will dump everything on her schedule and hole up for a day or so in order to recover her balance enough to make it to Mass, but she isn’t always tuned in enough to see it coming and finds herself on the edge Sunday morning, already dressed to go and having anxieties over not going. [Poor thing.]
I have no clue how to answer her question as to if this is something that is excusable for health reasons or if she should confess it?
I am not any sort of expert on Asperger’s Syndrome and its attendant problems, but from what I do know, I will say yes, it seems to me that that intense social anxiety would excuse a person from going to Mass on a day of precept, such as a Sunday.
When people are ill or have an injury or very difficult circumstances, even an affliction of some sort, which makes it very difficult or ill-advised or even dangerous to go to Mass, the person’s obligation is excused.
It could be that a good line of communication with the pastor of the parish would be helpful in these cases so that the person could explain your situation to the priest. Can. 1245 gives to pastors (in England “the parish priest”) the right to grant a dispensation from the obligation in individual cases or else he can commute the obligation to other pious works. For example, you could text Father (with his permission in advance of course, don’t bombard his phone)
“Me again. Worried about melt-down in front row during sermon. Can. 1245, plz?”
A pious work could be, maybe going to Mass twice during the next week, reciting the Office, or praying an entire Rosary, or praying the stations of the Cross, or reading the Gospel passage for that Sunday, etc.
From a different angle, could Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form be an option? You don’t have people gaping at you and shoving their sweaty hands at you during the hand-shake of peace.
The bottom line is: In my opinion you can tell your friend that her condition when it flares up into an anxiety or panic attack would be a reason to stay home from Mass.