A statement from Ohio’s Catholic bishops regarding the dispensation of Mass has created a small mass of confusion.

“We dispense the Catholic faithful who reside in Ohio and all other Catholics currently in Ohio from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass for the weekends of March 14-15, March 21-22 and March 28-29,” the bishops wrote.

Some have taken that to mean there will be no Masses, but that is not the case.

“Dispensation doesn’t mean we’re canceling Mass, it just means that the Sunday obligation is lifted and does not carry with it the penalty of mortal sin,” Jon Hay, pastoral associate for parish leadership at St. Wendelin Catholic Church said.

Members still need to discern whether or not they should attend, he said.

In addition, a letter is being issued to members advising them of how the church is responding to the coronavirus threat.

“We’ve chosen to err on the side of caution and really kind of forego anything that isn’t
absolutely necessary,” he said.

But determining what those things might be is not so simple.

“We have a lot of things that we do to help people grow in their spiritual walk and it is difficult. We have other groups here like the men’s AA, that gather and we’re really wrestling with whether or not that should be permitted because we also know the gravity of what can happen for someone who’s struggling with that addiction. So we’re trying to weigh all those things when making these decisions,” he said.