A friend of mine just informed me that the Solemnity of Mary isn’t [wasn’t] a Holy Day of Obligation in the whole state of California. What ecclesiastical body has the authority to grant such dispensations?
In light of can. 87 of the 1983 Code for the Latin Church, a diocesan bishop can dispense from the obligation of a particular Sunday or Holy Day.
I suppose one might wonder when such a move would be appropriate. Off the top of my head, I can imagine a scenario wherein a major earthquake has devastated a city of the diocese. In that case, the people can simply can’t get to Mass are relieved of the obligation anyway, but there may be marginal cases that are harder to decide.
On a related point, another person asks…
My wife and I will be traveling to Los Angeles on New Years Day and were flabbergasted to learn that Jan 1st is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the Archdiocese of LA. We have a very busy day on the 1st and were hoping to find a church with a early Mass time. This is proving impossible (many of the churches in the area we will be staying in are even closed that day)!
If you travel to a place where the obligation to attend Mass has been lifted or dispensed, you do not have an obligation to hear Mass.
You are free to lament the zeitgeist that has so confused the liturgical calendar such that Holy Days are regularly moved, suppressed, or ignored, and that has twisted the calendar so far that, for example this year, the Three Kings arrive, not on the Twelfth Night, but on the Tenth Night … therefore lifting the obligation placed on true loves from sending Ladies Dancing and Lords a’Leaping to their sweethearts this year.
But, in those places where the obligation has been legitimately lifted by the authorities who have the power to do so, there is/was no obligation.