From a reader…
Someone told me that I am bound to attend mass at my territorial parish, even though it is a rule that is not followed by many people. I was told this as reason for why I should not be attending the TLM at a church about 30 minutes away from my house. Is this true? Am I required to attend mass only at my territorial parish church?
In the 1983 Code of Canon Law we find that on Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass (can. 1247). We also find that, “a person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.(can. 1248 §1).
Hence, you can go to Mass anywhere, so long as it is a Catholic Mass.
In the older Code, now superseded by the 1983 Code, there was a stronger obligation to attend one’s local parish.
Keep in mind also that there are different kinds of parishes. Some are territorial and some are personal. An example of a personal parish is my home parish in St. Paul, St. Agnes, which founded within the boundaries of a territorial parish but for immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and German speakers. Some parishes today are for certain ethnic or immigrant groups or even TLM parishes for those who want tradition.
But it you don’t belong to one of these personal parishes, then you are probably under the jurisdiction of the pastor of the local territorial parish. You are not obliged to attend Mass there, but the local pastor can still have a say in your life, when it comes to sacraments. Say, for example, you live in one territorial parish, but you are attend Mass in a different territorial parish. You get involved, find a gal, and want to get married. Your true, local territorial pastor must give permission to the other territorial pastor.
Many people find a parish across town which they prefer. They “register” in the parish. That doesn’t make you a member (unless, for example, there are “personal parish” issues). Registration helps for when you need some service, but you are not thereby a member.
Keep in mind that, out of justice, if you are receiving services from a parish, you should be supporting the parish financially (or an equivalent) as well.
Ironically, were pastors of parishes to follow the prescripts of law that outlines what their duties are, fewer people would want to escape to another place. If pastors insist on their prerogatives outlined by law, then lay people should do the same.