ASK FATHER: If Mass is being streamed to a hall for overflow attendance, are those people at Mass?

From a reader…


I’m an usher at my parish. Because of the scamdemic, the bishop wants spacing enforced. For Sunday Mass, I’m being asked to sit “overflow” in the parish hall, though in reality, there is plenty of space. While Mass is being streamed in there, if people can’t physically hear or see the priest, are they really attending Mass? I’m coming to the point where I’m thinking of refusing to sit people outside the chapel.

I think the layout of the place makes a difference.

For example, if the overflow space is continuous with the church space, and there are screens, I think that is attendance. Even if the people are outside because of the overflow, surely they are present even though they are inside. They are morally present in the church.

However, if the overflow space is not continuous with the church space, if the hall or place where overflow is expected to be is in a different part of the building or in another building, I think those people are not attending Mass. They are attending the transmission of a Mass. They are not morally present in the place where Mass is being said.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Joy1985 says:

    PLEASE “From a reader…”before you refer to it as a “scamdemic” think of those who have gotten very sick from this and also especially those who have died from it and their families.

  2. Stepheno says:

    I second Joy1985. There are many aspects we have a right to question and challenge. But the suffering and death is not a scam. Ask the designated priests in Boston who have given countless last rights to patients. Whatever one thinks of the political hacks have done…

    [This is not the topic of the post. I’m closing the rabbit hole for good.]

  3. Rob83 says:

    This is a tough one, although it’s pretty similar to what we had when the churches were all closed – through no fault of your own you are not able to be morally present at Mass, though at the same time it would seem that making the attempt to be present if possible, even if not successful, is better than not making the attempt at all.

    The one location that seems like it should count is the church basement where it is the same consecrated building and the priest is able to provide communion to those in the basement without leaving the premises.

  4. sinner333 says:

    Every Sunday we sit in the community room across the aisle from the main body of the church with our four youngest children with severe adhd who are too young for medication. We can hear the priest very clearly on the speakers and are morally present. Father, why should attendance at mass not count for certain people just because the designers of the church didn’t bother to include a cry room in their blueprint? There is not another Latin mass around us for around 40 miles and even there the room we would be in would not be contiguous with the church… This would mean because we chose to have children instead of using birth control we could only be morally present at a novus ordo mass for the next few years. I don’t understand that.

  5. JonPatrick says:

    There is a similar situation in my son’s parish where because of the silly one-size-fits-all rule of a maximum of 50 people a basilica church (the one pictured in my avatar) that can hold 2000 people pre-COVID-1984 now only allows 50 so another 50 sit in the basement chapel where they see the mass on TV screens.

  6. ArthurH says:

    A data point. Our parish was one of the first, if not THE first, to open for Mass when the Governor then the Abp said “Go” a couple of months ago. Our ever-ready pastor had a plan in place to go as soon as that whistle blew. Other pastors began their planning some time after that whistle and opened weeks later.

    Creatively, he also took our parish hall beneath the Church– which qualifies as a separate facility according to the civil edict– and turned it into an overflow Church, doubling the number of people who could attend Mass, besides his ADDING Masses to ensure the every parishioner could attend Sunday Mass. Mass in the hall is viewed on large screens with sound and Communion is brought down usually by the deacon, or an EM if he is absent. This is not different from the routine use of a school gym across the street from our cathedral when an overflow Mass occurs– e.g priestly ordination, chrism Mass, etc.– and our most orthodox/traditional Abp has not questioned it.

  7. hwriggles4 says:

    Several parishes in my diocese along with the one closest to where I live set up monitors in the Narthex. What I like about this is if parishioners have to take little children out, they can still visualize and follow the Mass. Some even put some benches or pews in the Narthex for such use. Basically, it can serve a purpose as a baby room, and Catholics can receive Eucharist by walking into the sanctuary at the Agnus Dei.

    On occasions like Christmas, this parish sets up extra chairs for overflow in the Narthex. Years ago I used to usher at a parish and we would specifically mark off a section of back rows for families with small children, in case they had to wander in and out.

  8. tzabiega says:

    I remember growing up in Poland where many a time there was not enough room in the Church (and I mean people were packed inside like sardines) or when attending one of Pope John Paul II’s Masses when he visited Poland. Some churches had a speaker outside, some didn’t. If they had TV screens outside the church, that would have been great. No one thought they were not attending Mass even if they didn’t hear or see a thing. In the U.S., where people have to have somewhere to sit during Mass and churches almost never even reach there fire hazard capacity (not to mention real capacity scrunched together), this is difficult to understand. Thank you Father Z. for a great explanation, which makes complete sense even if contiguous (like at the Saint Pope’s Masses) may have been half a mile away from the altar.

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