From a reader:
I am currently in attendance at a law enforcement academy in order to become certified as a State Trooper. It runs until January of next year, is a live-in facility, and is structured in a very paramilitary format.
I’ve recently reviewed our schedule and have discovered that we will be having to go to class on certain Saturdays and Sundays in December. I am under the initial impression that no accommodation will be made permitting us to leave for Mass or other Sunday services during those particular weekends. Would I need to request a dispensation under these circumstances? What is the process? I had supposed that in the future, as a Trooper, I would time my break to attend Mass. I am very stressed out about not being able to attend, and plan on speaking with the class’
In the 13th century, Pope Gregory IX had St. Raymond of Penyafort collect important canonical legislation. Building on the important work done a century earlier by Gratian, this collection became known as the Decretals. Gregory’s successors, especially Dante’s nemesis Boniface VIII, added to and revised the Decretals. These collections were the primary reference source for canon law until the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law.
Book VI of the Decretals is called the Regulae Iuris (on Wikipedia for your edification and light evening reading), published by the aforementioned Boniface in 1298. Though these 88 Rules are not found explicitly in the current, 1983 Code of Canon Law, they still have significant moral force. Many of the Rules provide the basis of modern law.
“But Father! But Father!”, you are saying by now….
Regulae Iuris 6 states: Nemo potest ad impossibile obligari… No one can be obliged to the impossible.
This principle still applies today.
The Church will not impose a burden on someone that is impossible for that person to fulfill. If it is impossible for someone to get to Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation, the obligation ceases.
It is salubrious for someone who, examining the circumstances, foresees that he will be unable to hear Holy Mass on a day of precept (which includes all Sundays) to approach his pastor for advice and counsel in order to determine if there truly is no reasonable solution. This pastor may grant a dispensation or a commutation (e.g. altering the obligation to hear Mass on Sunday to some other pious work, such as praying a rosary, or even hearing Mass on some other day) in order to lighten the conscience of the one who will have to miss Mass. Alternatively, the pastor could simply note that, since attendance at Mass is impossible, the obligation is lifted.
Lastly, most police forces have Catholic chaplains. You could check and see if there is a Catholic chaplain attached to the academy or to the State Police, and seek his input. It is likely that you are not the only person to face this situation.
I made this long and detailed by I have a soft spot for cops.