QUAERITUR: Dispensation for Americans to eat meat on Friday after Thanksgiving?

wishboneFrom a reader:

The folks at Rorate Caeli have posted that Pius XII granted an indult
for Americans to eat meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Is this
indult still in effect?

I don’t know.  Probably not.  Also, it doesn’t make any difference if in the 40’s or 50’s Pius XII gave some sort of dispensation.

Under the present law of the Church Catholics can substitute other forms of penance in place of abstaining from eating flesh.

Keep in mind also that no one is required to eat meat the day after Thanksgiving just because there are a lot of left-overs.   Most people have pretty good refrigerators these days.  Many Americans had them in the time of Pius XII, too.

If from piety you do not want to eat meat on Friday, then don’t.

If you are considering how to observe Friday as a day of penance but want to use those left-overs – perhaps you have a lot of guests to feed and it would not be good for your budget to provide other things – consider doing something other than avoiding meat during meals.

  • Cut back on the amount you eat.
  • Give alms.
  • Don’t shop.
  • Don’t turn on the radio, TV, computer.
  • Don’t text or use your mobile.
  • Don’t listen to music.
  • Pick something by which you can gain an indulgence.
  • Figure out some other sacrifice of your time for the sake of others.

Be creative.

That said, I am curious to see that document, if it exists.  Anyone have concrete information?  Perhaps we can find it in the AAS.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    “Don’t turn on the…computer”…What? NO WDTPRS? Are you kidding?

  2. murtheol says:

    A non-starter. The medical consensus today is that less meat is indicated. It is hardly a penance to do less of what one should be doing less of to begin with. A true paradigm shift. Instead of no meat on Friday, how about no media on Friday; a much more difficult penance, for sure.

  3. Rachel Pineda says:

    Murtheol & Father Z are right! ?Cut back on the amount you eat.
    ?Give alms.
    ?Don’t shop.
    ?Don’t turn on the radio, TV, computer.
    ?Don’t text or use your mobile.
    ?Don’t listen to music.
    ?Pick something by which you can gain an indulgence.
    ?Figure out some other sacrifice of your time for the sake of others.
    “Be creative.”
    Oh I do love a challenge! Great suggestions.

  4. priests wife says:

    I loathe seeing all the people out shopping for a holy day that they won’t celebrate (Christmas)- so it is not a sacrifice to forgo shopping the day after Thanksgiving- going media-free would be a good sacrifice

  5. Titus says:

    The medical consensus today is that less meat is indicated.

    Well, let me get right on that. Present medical consensuses are always my guide to moral conduct and personal piety.

  6. Joe in Canada says:

    On the other hand, to try to live according to the constant tradition of the Church until the 1960s might help renew the Church. I don’t question the legitimacy of the Church’s new legislation, but I always encourage people to give what was always done a try.

  7. Harper MacDonald says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t feel right eating meat on a Friday for any reason. Even if I was going to do some other sort of penance, it would be in addition to fasting–besides, abstaining from meat is definitely a penance for me (I’m Scottish, and therefore somewhat of a carnivore–though I’m also quite fond of fish and potatoes.)

  8. The Egyptian says:

    Are we allowed Mystic Monk or would that be too worldly? :>}

  9. Lori Pieper says:

    “Most people have pretty good refrigerators these days. Many Americans had them in the time of Pius XII, too.”

    Well, when I was growing up (60’s and 70’s) we had a huge family (9 kids, tons of aunts, uncles and cousins) and a good, but very small, refrigerator. Plus tons and tons of food. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we had to put the pumpkin pies and on occasion the leftover turkey (or turkeys) and other food out on the back porch and pray it would be close to freezing out.

    Maybe a good papal indult would have been “all large but poor families must be given a discount at Sears to buy a new refrigerator at Thanksgiving.” But no go, huh?

  10. lucy says:

    It’s funny that you should mention this today. I was just reading the parish bulletin at the closest FSSP church in Sacramento. In their bulletin it states that, “….the day after Thanksgiving, a Friday, by long established Church custom, is NOT a day of fast or abstinence.”

    Where does this come from then ?

  11. skysix says:

    I remember in the early 1960’s when our pastor would announce this dispensation from Friday abstinence after Thanksgiving. But I question whether Pius XII granted the indult. Perhaps he did but I was of the belief that the local pastor had such authority even back then.

    Regardless, any suggestions for alternate forms of penance are welcome!

  12. beez says:

    This doesn’t work so well in the spring or fall, but when I was a summer seminarian and was being invited to someone’s home for dinner on a Friday, I would go to the gym in the afternoon, roll up the windows and not use the A/C for the 15 minute drive as a penance.

    In the winter, I drive without the heat and the windows cracked.

    A little physical mortification as a penance.

  13. Tim Ferguson says:

    I have often heard, too, of this apparent dispensation granted by Pius XII to Catholics in the US from abstinence on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year, I did a little research. I was unable to come up with anything, either in AAS or in Canon Law Digest from Pius XII.

    However, I did find (in the aforementioned Canon Law Digest, vol. 1) that in 1931, Pius XI granted to the US Bishops the faculty to dispense the faithful from the obligation to fast and/or abstain on penitential days that were civic holidays. So, if July Fourth fell on a Friday, the bishop could grant a dispensation to permit the faithful to enjoy a hot dog (presuming that hot dogs actually have meat within them, a subject that calls for a traditional Dominican-v-Jesuit debate, I think) with their neighbors. This faculty was granted for a five-year period, and appears to have been renewed every five years up until the time of the Council, when the quinquennial faculties were dropped.

    It seems that, in many jurisdictions (Texas, Florida and Minnesota spring immediately to mind), the Friday after Thanksgiving is a civic holiday (and perhaps was a civic holiday “back in the day”). In those jurisdictions, the local bishops could have dispensed their flock from observation of the rule of Friday abstinence to clean up that turkey carcass.

    Since the 1966 decree Paenitemini, and the allowance for local bishops’ conferences to allow other penances in place of abstinence, as our erudite host indicates, this is somewhat of a moot point. Perhaps for many, reheating leftover turkey might be a more penitential exercise than grilling a nice salmon steak.

  14. My usual day after Thanksgiving penance is to visit family. There is nothing more humbling than a continual reminder of your shortcomings.

  15. The Cobbler says:

    Mr. MacDonald–
    According to almost everyone I know, the proper formulation is that you are male, therefore you are more than a bit of a carnivore. 8^) But that could just be what I get for knowing lots of current college students. (And it’s not to say there aren’t girls who love meat too, either.)

  16. “presuming that hot dogs actually have meat within them, a subject that calls for a traditional Dominican-v-Jesuit debate, I think”

    LOL!!! I LOVE this blog and its readers!!!

  17. Random Friar says:

    Dominican debater:Jesuit debater::Anyone Else:the Lions at Thanksgiving.

  18. cpaulitz says:

    I’d like to take a minute to explain my post today on Rorate Caeli.

    First, although I’ve searched, I don’t have the official dispensation from Pius XII (and since nothing exisits in most Romans minds before Vatican II, I bet I never find it without paying a Catholic private investigator).

    But I know from Catholics who lived under his reign, as well as from good sources such as Fisheaters.com, all the calendars of the SSPX, the FSSP as Lucy mentions above and others that the indult was in effect at the time — and many good Catholic minds tell me it still is in effect because it was never suppressed.

    More importantly, however, is understanding our audience. Our audience is traditional Catholics, not the lukewarm. Our audience’s first inclination is to never, ever eat meat on Friday — knowing full well that the modern Church, much like everything else, has all but done away with this rule (even if it is still mildly in effect in law, in practice it is null and void). Basically, the difference between the law “as written” and the law “as received.”

    Therefore, to give traditional Catholics a break, and let them know they can indeed eat meat on Friday and not have to give up anything else, I posted it on our site.

    What’s humerous is we’re usually — as are most traditional Catholics — chastised for being “too rigid.”

    Now, when we’re actually telling folks to relax and enjoy themselves, we’re being criticized by the same people who say we’re too strict.

    Either way, thanks for paying attention! I mean that sincerely. With incredible sites like WDTPRS, with it’s non-stop news and great opinions, I’m just glad some are finding time to spend with us.

  19. Federico says:

    Fr. Z: “Under the present law of the Church Catholics can substitute other forms of penance in place of abstaining from eating flesh.”

    Almost. Canons 1251 and 1253 together establish the standard of abstinence from meat on Friday, but give the conferences of bishops latitude to shift the obligation to abstinence from other foods (c. 1251) or to set-out alternative penance options (c. 1253, to include self-directed penance).

    This last option has been adopted by most conferences of bishops around the world, but I’m not sure it’s universal and, well, Fr. Z your blog is read world-wide!

    Also worth reminding that non-Latin Catholics should follow the law of their own Churches sui iuris (CCEO c. 882).

  20. Harper MacDonald says:

    Cobbler– Um. . . Actually, I’m a girl myself. (So, should that be addressed, ‘Miss MacDonald’?)

  21. The Cobbler says:

    Darn, now I don’t know whether to be embarassed or amused. (One thing I’m certain of is that I need to brush up on my knowledge of Names I Don’t Hear Every Day.) No offense, I hope; I’m quite the clueless geek.

  22. Harper MacDonald says:

    Cobbler–no offence taken. (Actually, I started laughing when I read your comment.)

  23. Supertradmum says:

    The Canon Law of 1983 states that the obligation is only for Lenten Fridays. Unless your particular bishop states otherwise, meat on Friday is ok. Many of us actually hardly eat any meat at all, because of food prices, or large familie,s or poverty. It seems to me that unless the diocese states otherwise, a person can use common sense and do penance, or better yet, accept the penances God sends cheerfully, such as illness, poverty, unemployment, underemployment or persecution for one’s faith.

    I eat what is given to me, as I am underemployed and not on food stamps. That is penance.

  24. Federico says:

    Supertradmum, you are mistaken.

    This is the translation of canon 1251 of the 1983 code (emphasis mine):

    “Can. 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on every Friday of the year unless a Friday occurs on a day listed as a solemnity. Abstinence and fasting, however, are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.”

    For whatever it’s worth, it’s a common error and part of the loss our Catholic identity. I even had to correct a confessor once, who accused me of excessive scruples for confessing skipping Friday penance.


  25. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks for the correction. But, I do know that the dioceses react differently to this, and in my former diocese, the bishop insisted on this, but in this diocese, it is not the case. One is given the choice. As to the Conference of Bishops, as I understand it, this body only makes statements on this point in some cases and leaves the rest to the local bishop.

  26. cpaulitz says:

    Super(un)tradmum, your ordinary can’t let you out of all Friday pennance or there would be no point to Canon Law.

  27. Federico: Thanks for the good reminder about our global footprint! And thanks for the help with the law!

  28. Panterina says:

    We resolved the Friday-after-Thanksgiving dilemma by having cioppino for Thanksgiving dinner. We made a big pot so that the Friday leftovers would be a non-issue.

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