Is it a sin to leave Mass early?

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leave Mass early
(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Question: I’m noticing that at every Mass I attend, there seem to be those few that approach the altar, accept the holy Eucharist, and instead of returning to their seats in grace or prayer, they simply walk toward one of the side doors, bless themselves, and leave. To me and others, this is disrespectful and wrong. Is it technically a sin?

K.F., Scottsdale, Arizona

Answer: Yes, it is certainly wrong to leave Mass before the dismissal, unless there is a serious reason. This was more common in the past than today; however, it is still done too often.

Since it is wrong, it is certainly a sin. How serious a sin will depend on the understanding of the person who leaves and the influence of culture. Many are poorly catechized as to the duty we have in justice to render praise and thanks to God. Many have come to see the Mass merely as a matter of personal enrichment. Hence, once they get what they came for, they think little of leaving. Perhaps, too, they are annoyed by announcements and other requests that are made at the end of Mass, which are part of community life. Whatever the cause, it remains sinfully wrong to leave before the dismissal. We don’t want God to cut corners with us, and we surely owe him a complete Mass. Some have humorously noted that at the first Mass (i.e. the Last Supper, cf. Jn 13:27), Judas left first. His example is surely not one to follow!

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at Send questions to