I advised a friend that Catholics are either to abstain from meat on Fridays or to substitute another form of prayer, good work, or abstinence; and that she should confess if she failed to do this. In the confessional, the priest sharply rebuked her and told her it was absolutely done away with. Is there a document that I can refer her to that vindicates this position? And should we be confessing when we omit the abstinence or act of charity/prayer
The country is not identified, so let’s confine this to these United States of America.
I refer you to the U.S. Bishops’ 1966 document called On Penance and Abstinence. This document, following Paul VI’s changes in the matter, still has force. It was not abrogated by can. 6 of the 1983 Code or by subsequent legislation. On Penance and Abstinence did away with the obligation to abstain on Fridays under pain of sin.
The bishops urged Catholics to continue to do penance by abstaining from eating meat, or to substitute some other form of penance, but they did not legislate any penance, under pain of sin.
These norms still have the approval of the Holy See. Until the law is changed, Catholics these United States are not bound, under pain of sin, to do anything penitential on Fridays. We are merely “strongly urged” to do so!
At this point let’s reflect collectively on Luke 17:10 on doing only do what is absolutely expected of us. What was it the Lord said of those types? Something about “unprofitable servants”?
At the same time, it is reprehensible that any confessor would sharply rebuke a penitent for confessing something she thought was a sin.
Sinners should be treated kindly by their confessors.
If someone thinks some act or omission is sinful and does it or fails to do it, there is definitely some element of sin. A good confessor, it seems to me, would explain the situation and educate, form the penitent’s conscience.
This is why it is important that seminarians be taught well what the Church’s law really says. The law can put people at ease, comfort them.
Let us pray that the U.S. bishops will soon clarify the issue of Friday abstinence by reasserting the traditional practice and the universal law. Let us urge them to take concrete steps to do so, and swiftly.