OLDIE POLL: Should the US Bishops implement “meatless Fridays” during the whole year?

As the U.S. bishops prepare to meet in their autumn assembly, I represent this poll (originally HERE):

The bishops of England and Wales did this.

You can vote even if you are not registered here. Please give your reasons in the combox below, respecting always the people who make arguments other than your own.

Should the US Bishops have us return to obligatory "meatless Fridays" during the whole year and not just during Lent?

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  1. Lisa Graas says:

    I answered, “Yes and I think this is very important.”

  2. pmullane says:

    Yes! Yes , a hundred times yes!!

    And the faithful (the faithful ones) will embrace it. A brief example, I live in England, where the Bishops reinstated obligatory meatless Fridays last year. My family all live in Scotland where the bishops have not reinstated the practice. My mother and sister both living in Scotland have taken up the practice as an ‘extra’ offering to Jesus.

    Is it important? Yes I would say so. Its a rule of our faith, my wifes family (all secular) know that we dont eat meat on a friday, and so its a witness to them. Same with work colleagues etc. Also if you make a sacrifice for Christ it will not be wasted, I think there are a lot of Catholics who are perhaps on the cusp of either faithfulness or drifting away, who if they observed this rule would benefit from the grace and would be pulled closer to Christ.

  3. YES, YES, and YES!!!

    It is just one step – but a very important one – toward re-establishing Catholic Identity. And it is long overdue one!

    I say, put it in place immediately!

    Then follow it up, say next year, with having honest-to-God Holy Days of obligation i.e. celebrated on the ACTUAL DAY. Each traditional discipline should be brought back – step-by-step. These things did not just spring into being for no reason, they evolved in the first place because they HELPED US be good Catholics. The objective reality is that most of the Catholic population is never going to read or understand all of the encyclicals and historic teachings of the Church in depth, but keeping the traditional disciplines helps them keep perspective on who and what they are and how they fit in the world.

  4. cwillia1 says:

    It is premature to reinstate the obligatory Friday abstinence. What is needed is a recovery of the idea that fasting is an integral part of the Christian life. I think it would be better to restore abstinence on Wednesdays and also the Advent fast. These things should not be made mandatory except perhaps on those who are obliged to pray the office daily and on Catholic parishes and institutions. We need to signal that doing these fasts is important for anyone who takes his faith seriously and to teach people why this is so.

  5. Jim says:

    Yes it is very very important that return to obligatory “meatless Fridays” during the whole year and it is very very important that the Bishops make it obligatory.

    Here is one reason why it has to be obligatory. While today I try and do keep Fridays meatless, I sometimes think I am protestant (Pope Jim thinks Fridays should be meatless even when the Bishops don’t think it should be). That is one side of it.

    On the other side, it so very often happens that team lunches at work fall on Fridays. When I insist on meatless stuff, there are other Catholics who think I am nuts. After one or two such instances, I have given up. I do not know if that is exactly aiding the new evangelization. If we want to build a Catholic culture – we need help in the form of clear directions and I think that is why our Blessed Lord gave us shepherds.

    I wonder what exactly was the reason was , which made this not obligatory, especially considering that on an average we now have more food than ever before and therefore ?

  6. jhayes says:

    Pmullane wrote:

    I live in England, where the Bishops reinstated obligatory meatless Fridays last year.

    Have they said whether it is a mortal sin or a venial sin to eat meat on Friday?

  7. pmullane says:

    cwillia1, I appreciate your comment, but I think the mandatory reinstatement of Friday Fasts would make it abundantly clear that a) Fasting is a regular and integral part of the Christian life; and b) it is something expected of ALL people serious about their faith.

    Its too easy to give up something for lent that you wouldnt do anyway, however a real, proper, set in stone action that you are obliged to do every week (and that is objectively difficult-but-not impossible) would reintroduce serious Catholics to what ‘fasting’ really means. Some ‘Catholics’ will ignore it, but they are also the kind of ‘Catholics’ that ignore everything anyway, so another demand on them will either prick their concience as to how much they want to live their faith, or be another line crossed showing that they are Catholic in name only and that their Catholicity can be ignored by serious people.

  8. wmeyer says:

    I think the Friday abstinence should be reinstated without delay. It has not faded so far from memory that it will require a great deal of catechesis. However, I do think that, at the same time, catechesis should be seriously reinstated, with an approved corrected presentation, true to Church teaching. It would need to include an outright ban on the introduction of unapproved materials, such as essays from the various dissidents which seem to be an inevitable part of RCIA these days.

  9. CatholicByChoice says:

    I have thought a lot about this lately. As vegetarians, my husband and I are “meatless” 7 days a week. It is not at all unusual to be vegetarian in this day and age, in fact it is quite common. I don’t think to give up meat one day a week is very much of a sacrifice, especially when people can gorge themselves on whatever other kinds of food they might enjoy. With all the “Meatless Monday” promotions, going meatless one day a week may not be viewed any longer as a Catholic practice, but as a common “green” practice promoted for the general public by some local governments. However I love the idea of substituting a day of fasting and prayer rather than giving up meat. To fast is to be hungry, at least to be “a little bit” hungry. And to be hungry most of the day is a wonderful, constant reminder that what we truly hunger for is God.

  10. bezell says:

    Yes, it is important. If Los Angeles city council can try to institute ‘Meatless Mondays’, then I think the U.S. Bishops should be able to reinstate the Friday abstinence for Catholics.

    ‘Meatless Mondays’: LA urges residents to turn vegetarian one day a week

    “Under a resolution unanimously approved by the city council this week, all future Mondays in the City of Angels have been declared ‘Meatless Mondays’. It’s part of an international campaign to cut down on meat consumption for health and environmental reasons.”

  11. Navarricano says:

    I vote “yes, and I think this is very important.” But it should not be instituted without prior catechesis on the necessity of doing penance, the place that abstinence has in the Catholic tradition and why the practice is being reinstated.

  12. jhayes says:

    I found the answer to my question. “Failure to abstain from meat on a particular Friday then would not constitute a sin”

    Q11. Are the Bishops placing a greater obligation on Catholics in England and Wales? Apart from the exceptions above, will it be a ‘sin’ to eat meat on a Friday after the Bishops’ decision takes effect in September?

    The obligation on Catholics in England and Wales to do penance on a Friday will be the same after Friday 16 September 2011 as it was before that date. The only change is that the Bishops have determined that the requirement by all the faithful to do penance on a Friday will be fulfilled by abstaining from meat. When asked a similar question to this, the Holy See replied that the ‘gravity’ of the obligation applies to our intention to observe penance as a regular and necessary part of our spiritual lives as a whole.

    Therefore, the ‘gravity’ of the obligation does not relate to observing the specific act of penance (abstaining from meat) prescribed by the Conference of Bishops. The ‘gravity’ of the obligation applies to the intention to do penance during the prescribed penitential days and seasons of the Church’s year. Failure to abstain from meat on a particular Friday then would not constitute a sin.


  13. Speravi says:

    I would really love to see the reinstatement of Friday abstinence! However, I must admit that I am a bit nervous about it being reinstated as a grave obligation. It is hard enough to convince people that they can lose their souls through skipping Sunday Mass.

    I really like cwillia1’s idea of at least making it fully obligatory for those bound to the Divine Office!!!

    But I am not sure whether or not it is time for the full restoration or not…but if not now, then when?

    However, on the other hand, it seems kind of silly to keep the current law. The Code of Canon law grants our Bishop’s Conference the authority to allow a different Friday penance than abstinence from meat and what do we get??? A mere SUGGESTION that everyone will surely want to do penance of their own free will.

    Finally, charity seems to suggest that we do SOMETHING!

    I would suggest that our technological age makes us even more prone to vice. That is, it makes us more prone to the “indulge every feeling immediately” mentality. Just consider the internet. Curiositas! We can just click, click, click, to indulge every curiosity which enters the mind. Just like a person who just eats whatever he feels like, whenever he feels like it. Pretty soon we will feel like sinning and, with this mentality, how will we resist?!?!

    Also, I am sure we each have plenty of temporal punishment for sins already forgiven that needs expiation! And the world around us could probably use some works of reparation too.

    That so many Catholics can go through life doing so little penance makes me very nervous.
    Leaving them in this position doesn’t strike me as a very loving thing to do.

    So I don’t know what…be we need to do SOMETHING…perhaps Friday abstinence is part of the answer.

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    Not sure, but if they do, it may provide a visible line of division between those intent on practicing their faith and those not intent on it. It’ll also provide more verifiable data about that than, say, asking people to self-report how often they go to Mass. This because restaurants will pick it up as a data point, large or small.

  15. Magash says:

    I have abstained from meat on Fridays for years. I believe that the practice should be reinstated. At the present time all Catholics are bound to engage in a penitential act on Fridays, a requirement that almost all Catholics in the United States ignore, or perhaps to be more accurate, are unaware of. A clear requirement that Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays will require those Catholics to make a choice. They can choose to obey their bishops or they can choose to ignore them. If they ignore them it is almost certain that they have made the decision not to observe penance as a regular and necessary part of their spiritual lives.
    So while failure to observe abstinence on a particular day may not be a sin, a rejection of the practice will indeed be a sin, because it is a rejection of a teaching of the Church which one is bound to accept through an act of will. Just forcing parish priests to have the conversation will be of immense help to Catholics.
    Also note that traditionally the Church has allowed for exceptions to Friday abstinence for certain people based on particular circumstances on specific Fridays, for example if traveling one was not required to choose skipping a meal because a meal with meat was all that was available. One will not go to Hell because they forget its Friday and down a hot dog.

  16. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Friday abstinence is part of the answer. And yes, it’s not supposed to be punishingly hard. It’s supposed to be aaaaaabstinence, not a prison sentence accompanied by bread and water. The discipline of not doing something is the hard part. It’s also traditional that, whenever things are going bad, the Church should institute more penitential practices.

    For those who already are vegetarian all week, there’s nothing stopping you from instituting extra penitential practices on your own. (And yes, doing something extra on your own is more difficult than having something instituted upon the entire Church. That’s also part of the point.)

  17. sirlouis says:

    To our bishops: just do it. Most Catholics are not going to get the idea of penance until they actually practice it. Please help them.

    And let’s not shilly-shally by allowing that it’s not a sin to eat meat on a Friday here and there. It is always a sin not to follow an established precept. HOWEVER, eating meat on Friday is not so grave a matter as is, for example, missing Mass on Sunday. For a sufficiently weighty reason one can be excused from an obligation; excusing from Friday abstinence requires less grave reason than does excusing from Sunday Mass. If there is good excuse, then there is not sin. But without excuse, there is sin, no matter how infrequently it happens.

    My wife and I have always abstained from meat on Fridays. The precept was never abrogated in our house or in our family. Perhaps the most important effect is that it identifies us as Catholics … to ourselves!

  18. Cantor says:

    There’s a reality here of which we must be cognizant. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association pointed out that the movement to have an eco-friendly “National Meatless Monday” (referenced above by @bezell) would cost cattlemen 15% of their sales. If implemented by the 25% of Americans who claim to be Catholics, that’s still 4% of the ranchers’ sales and income.

    Doesn’t sound like much? Great. Add 4% more of your gross income to your weekly church donation and see how easy it is. Our well-to-do suburban parishioners donate less than $4 per week per family. An additional 4% of gross would REALLY be something!

    You want Americans to sacrifice without costing somebody else? How about a one mile walk penance each Friday instead. Perhaps led by the diocesan bishop. It would bring Catholics together in a public forum, be (for most of us couch potatoes) a serious penance, and serve to keep the individual temples God gave us in better shape.

  19. CatholicByChoice says:

    My observation is that practicing Catholics are for the most part already demonstrating penance as a standard part of their spiritual life. In other words, are we just preaching to the choir? I suggest that the bigger problem is that the Catholic Church is too focused on being a “Big Tent.” I fear that we are now experiencing the ripened fruit of the Big Tent Tree. What we are experiencing in America is a big tent that stands for nothing, and stands for everything. We have a Church that views two adults getting a divorce to be a worse sin than aborting a baby. Maybe the Bishops should worry less about whether we should eat meat on Fridays and more about how to make being Catholic mean something in particular. I think the “meatless Friday” proposal is intended to create a distraction – to distract the lay Catholics who are for the most part fed up with the Bishops lack of leadership, and to fool us into thinking that now we are truly seeing grand and brave leadership. We should not be diverted by these gestures that are most likely meaningless to “Catholics” who don’t go to Mass as it is. The challenge we face is to pursuade those fallen-away Catholics to come back, to strive to be upright and moral in their personal decisions.

  20. Adam Welp says:

    I say bring it on! I’m young, well not as young as some here, and have never “known” the pre-council Church but sought out and attended Low Mass before. I’m not the only one my age that would like to see a return to the “bells and smells” of the Catholic Church.

    Bring on the meatless Fridays! Bring on the Latin in Mass! And who’s with me for having a bonfire/weenie roast/s’mores party using every hymnal containing songs by Haugen, Hass, et. al.!

  21. SonofMonica says:

    Adam Welp: I’m with you!

    I voted no the last time this poll came up for the reason that I thought we needed to make it easier to be Catholic at this point in time. But I’m hereby recanting. The piddle-paddling hasn’t been working. It’s time for serious Catholics to get serious, because the leftists and pseudo-protestants are clearly doing what they want anyway.

    I vote yes!

  22. TMKent says:

    I was with you on the “Big Tent comments, but you lost me when you said the Church thinks its a “worse sin” to get a divorce than to abort a baby. That is by no means Church teaching and never have I gotten that impression from anyone representing the Church. It seems a bit of projection perhaps based on the misguided reaction of some individual to a specific situation.
    As for meatless Friday – it’s not a “gesture” on the part of the Bishops – it their call to penance (that’s their job) on the part of all the faithful. Penance is both a virtue and a Sacrament. Individually and collectively our country needs the grace of repenting desperately!

  23. APX says:

    I don’t think to give up meat one day a week is very much of a sacrifice,

    It is when you’re young and your friends want to go out for wings Friday night, and all you get is the stinkin’ vegetable tray. My goodness! I have been to restaurants that don’t even have meatless salads!

    The other issue I run into is when I go home to visit. My parents don’t believe me about Friday abstinence or substituting another suitable penance, so they will purposefully make T-bone steak with all the fixings for supper when I get home, and eat it in front of me while mocking me and calling me “Mother Teresa”.

  24. rodin says:

    This got my “yes” vote some time ago. In fact, I never stopped the practice begun under parental tutelage. Now in my 80s, it probably does not count as a real penance since I have, after all these years, learned to like fish, sort of. Meal planning is a chore though.

  25. rodin says:

    P.S. to APX–think of all the extra points you are earning where it counts. You are to be commended for sticking with it.

  26. acardnal says:

    I believe the vast majority of Americans are NOT observing Fridays throughout the year as days of penance. It’s just another day in the week. By returning to Fridays as meatless days, it will be a concrete step reminding Catholics that Jesus Christ our Savior died on a Friday out of love for us. The least we can do in return is sacrifice one Big Mac.

  27. pelerin says:

    The 545 readers who voted for ‘I don’t care’ surprised me.

  28. Proofwell says:

    I know families and individuals who abstain from meat on Fridays by choice. My mother tells me of the times when she was growing up (1930s/40s) when it seemed to her as if you ate meat on Friday, you were going to Hell. Then, 20 years later they changed that? I don’t really care one way or the other. I think we have far more important issues for the church to spend its energy on. I would just ask a very important question: shouldn’t vegans and vegetarians have to abstain from something on Friday, too?

  29. Michelle F says:

    I said “Yes, and I think this is very important” because we need to recapture our Catholic identity, both as individuals and as a group. Meatless Fridays (or “Fish on Friday”), along with saying the Rosary and making the sign of the Cross, is one of the practices for which Catholics are best known by non-Catholics in the United States.

    Restaurant chains today such as Bob Evans and McDonalds promote fish dinners and sandwiches on Fridays during Lent, and they and others had fish specials every Friday of the year during the 1980s and earlier, so this really is something for which Catholics are known for doing.

  30. Will D. says:

    When this poll was first posted, I voted “yes, I guess so.” It didn’t strike me as a big deal either way. Sometime later, I decided to give meatless Fridays a spin, and have kept it up. It is a small penance, but it does remind me every week of The Cross, which is important. And it has been a small way of evangelizing, because my lunch companions have asked about it from time to time.
    So, I would now vote “Yes, and I think it’s very important.”

  31. APX says:

    McDonald’s fish sandwich actually came to be because they lost so much business on Friday’s when Catholics wouldn’t eat meat. In order to accommodate the catholic market on Fridays and to avoid going out of business, some guy came up with the “fillet-o-fish” which gives new meaning to Friday penance. Last Lent they introduced the “double fillet-o-fish” for those Catholics who want to double their penance.

  32. amsjj1002 says:

    I had a Fillet-o-fish this week, first one in a long while; for myself it is somewhat penitential!

    Actually around my neck of the woods, I do see the fast food places put up those Friday signs, it’s a secular symbol of Lent for me.

  33. redselchie says:

    When I attended my first Latin Mass as a non-Catholic, a few years ago, one of the many things that impressed me was the sense of “unity” that permeated through the congregation; it was palpable, and one of the many reasons why I decided to become a Catholic – I wanted to be part of that family.

    Families suffer together. And from the love they have for each other, they make sacrifices for the betterment of the whole. As I was going through RCIA, I started the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays, because it pleased me to think that Catholics all over the world, were also abstaining, and it was helping me to learn how to become part of the family.

    I think all Catholics need to start learning how to be part of the family again, and abstaining from meat on Fridays would be a good way to start doing that. It’s OK to “do without” one day of the week, nobody is going to starve from it, and as Fr. Z is always quick to point out – penance is good for the soul.

  34. ndmom says:

    No. I do not think this is very important, or even important at all.

    Look, most self-described Catholics can’t be bothered to observe the far more important requirement of attending Sunday Mass. Even fewer are going to confession on a regular, or even annual, basis. The reason that so many nominal Catholics voted for Obama is not because they are failing to observe a Friday penitential practice, but because they are failing to observe ANY of the basic teachings of the Church. And while there is plenty of individual blame to go around, many of our bishops and priests will have some ‘splaining to do come Judgment Day. There would have been no need for the bishops to get into a lather about the HHS mandate, to take just one example, if they had been teaching and preaching on the contraception issue for lo these many decades instead of ignoring it in favor of Grave Statements on the economy, capital punishment, the environment, nuclear war, and other topics on which they have no expertise but which get them salutations in the marketplace and choice seats at the banquets in Washington.

    Meatless Fridays are no longer a real sacrifice for most Americans, and reinstating them would be a bad idea. If your flock isn’t even coming to Mass, exhorting them to eat fish on Friday strikes me as a peculiar way to save their souls.

  35. JordanH says:

    I voted “Yes, I guess so.” I abstain on Fridays already and find it a very light thing. I do appreciate the reminder of Christ and his Passion.

    If Friday abstinence is not reestablished, I would be greatly encouraged if Priests would preach on the the requirement that we either abstain or perform a penitential act. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Priest mention this.

  36. acardnal says:

    I remind some readers that “meatless Fridays” does NOT mean necessarily eating fish!! There are countless alternatives.

  37. kat says:

    An interesting anecdote: just two weeks ago Friday I ran into McDonald’s for a fish fillet on my way to work. There was a, presumably new, older lady working, and she commented to others (before I gave my orders), “I can’t believe how many fish fillets we are selling!” Other employees spoke up saying “we always sell a lot more fish fillets on Friday.” She asked why, and they told her there are Catholics who still don’t eat meat on Fridays. I spoke up and said “that’s why I’m here today, ordering one. I don’t eat meat on Friday.” She said she was going to have to ask her daughter if she does that, because she is a “strict Catholic” too. (I got the impression she herself was not one.) Another anecdotal story: YEARS ago a priest asked, also at a McDonald’s, if they sold more fish fillets on Friday. They told him yes. So, there still are people who for whatever reason, choose to eat the fish on Friday more than other days!

  38. bookworm says:

    “If Friday abstinence is not reestablished, I would be greatly encouraged if Priests would preach on the the requirement that we either abstain or perform a penitential act.”

    I think that’s the way to go. Personally I’d recommend that Friday be made a day on which one must EITHER fast OR abstain (though one can certainly do both, only one would be enough to fulfill the precept). This would allow for some flexibility according to one’s situation — for example, say you have a family reunion dinner on a Friday night with family members who are mostly not Catholic, and you know meat will be served; you can fast earlier in the day and make the reunion dinner your main meal instead of having to skip it. I know the idea of eating meat on a fast day sounds strange but time was (my mom told me about it) when there were fast days (e.g. weekdays during Lent) that were not abstinence days and one could eat meat at the main meal.

    Or, make it the rule that you can be excused from Friday abstinence on a particular day only if you perform some significant act of charity or sacrifice on that day, with specific examples listed — one I would personally place on the list would be donating blood. Other possibilities: working at least one hour in direct service to the poor at a soup kitchen, food pantry, etc.; performing volunteer service at a hospital, prison, or nursing home; praying outside an abortuary or volunteering at a pro-life resource center; providing an essential medical, transportation, or other service to someone who is homebound. I would suggest that the act of charity or sacrifice require at least one hour to complete and that it NOT involve something done in the course of one’s usual vocation or employment — it has to be a conscious sacrifice of time and effort.

  39. Dave N. says:

    Great idea; I only have two reservations. The first is that Catholics and the general public might equate this to “Meatless Monday,” as a number of people have already mentioned. The second is that it short-circuits a common Lenten discipline.

  40. ByzCath08 says:

    I like how the Orthodox churches treat the weekly fasts. They fast on Wednesday & Friday because Christ was betrayed on Wednesday & died on Friday. As a Byzantine Catholic, I have adopted this practice and found it to be a great practice. In addition, we are now coming upon the Pre-Nativity fast period which runs from 11/15 to 12/25. During that period we are called on to abstain from dairy and meat. In addition to the fasting, we are called to increase our charity and attend the services offered by the Church during the season. To fully appreciate the feast that we are looking forward to, we must fast to prepare ourselves.

    I hope the Latin Church brings back the day of fast throughout the year. It is a very good thing to do.

  41. Stephen Matthew says:

    To do this the right way, I would suggest the following:

    1. Request (later require) it of all clergy and religious, and all Catholic institutions, with provision for an alternate fast or penance in appropriate circumstances. The bishops must personally lead the way on doing this in their own lives and in the institutions they have authority over.

    2. Request it of the laity, after the “leaders” of the Church have taken it back up themselves, with some clear alternate provided for appropriate circumstances, while teaching about the meaning and necessity of penance.

    3. Eventually, perhaps, make it a matter of obligation.

    4. Don’t make this into the return of Friday fish, make it clear this is an abstaining from meat, an opportunity for penance, sacrifice, fasting. (With the fine print noting that fish may be permitted.)

    5. Feel free to use solidarity with the poor, stewardship of the earth, etc. as public arguments in favor. Maybe we can even get a larger consensus to form on a meatless day.

    6. In our own lives, we must be mindful of the Friday penance, and make certain we do in fact do some sort of penance, both now under the current norms, and any future norms. Thus do not be legalistic person who enjoys a feast of finest seafood and calls it penance, nor should those who choose some other penance be discouraged. (I know of several who pray the stations every Friday, or fast completely from one meal, which may be more significant than replacing the Friday night beef steak with a salmon steak.)

  42. Bea says:

    We grow “soft” when we do no penance.
    Most of us have to have it forced on us because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
    Many of us have not done it on our own. It needs to be a requirement.
    That is part of the reason Catholics have gotten so “soft” on fighting temptations.
    If we do not learn to say NO to ourselves, our giving in to “YESes” is a sure way to hell.

  43. ChasCM says:

    I answered “No, this is a bad idea.” This used to be a “grave obligation,” one of the commandments of the church. Eat meat on Friday and you go to hell. I don’t think God is exactly that way. I avoid meat on Friday myself, even though there is no obligation. Don’t put the obligation back in and send me to hell when meat is the option I am given by the circumstances. It is misdirected nostalgia.

  44. pmullane says:

    I agree, and its amazing how much easier it is to fast when everyone knows that ‘Catholics dont eat meat on a friday’. Since it was reintroduced in England it has become so much easier to plan meals etc.

    I dont think this requires many layers of introduction and months of prior catechesis in order to be introduced. All that needs to be done is for the Bishops to issue a pastoral letter, and to say ‘Sunday is a special day where we commemorate the resurrection of the Lord, and because of this we are obliged to attend Holy Mass. Similarly, Friday is a day when we commemorate Our Lords passion and death, and because of this we are bound to make an act of penance and reparation. In earlier times, Catholics were obliged to abstain from eating meat on a Friday in order to fulfil this penance. In order to renew our commitment to the lord in this year of Faith and build our identity as Catholics, we would like to reintroduce this practice of a weekly fasting from meat on fridays’. I reckon that most Church going Catholics would understand this.

    I appreciate that there are many ‘Catholics’ who do not live by the teaching of the Church, attend Mass, or generally conform their lives to the teaching of Christ, and the bishops have a responsibility to try and re-evangelise those. That does not abrogate their responsibility to those of us that do attend Mass and try to conform ourselves to Christ. Indeed the way in which we will win souls to heaven is by making ourselves more holy. It is not just a case of the bishops saying ‘dont eat meat on a friday’, its a case of the Church helping us to get to heaven. On good Friday, the Lord suffered and died that we may be saved, and so on Fridays we, as a sacrifice, abstain from a luxuary (meat) in order to: remind ourselves of our lords sacrifice; make penance for our sins which necessitated our Lords Sacrifice and bring that penance into the rhythm of our lives, and be a visible sign to others that we love our Lord and are willing to deny ourselves a luxuary for the love of him. When so called ‘Cathlolics’ decide that they will not abstain on a friday, or attend Mass on a Sunday, or they vote for a guy who murders babies and persecutes the Church but who gives them free stuff, what they are saying is that they dont love him enough to make those sacrifices, or at least they dont love him enough yet. That’ll help us see who needs our help, support and prayers to be guided into (or back into) hsi Church.

  45. Daniel says:

    “Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
    Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
    Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.”

    Meatless Fridays are already part of the Universal Church rule that the national conference can opt out of by some substitution. So if it is not meatless Fridays, what have they suggested in its place? Whatever it is, it is obviously too vague as very few seem aware of it.

  46. ndmom says:

    “Indeed the way in which we will win souls to heaven is by making ourselves more holy.”

    Could not agree more. Where we part ways is the notion that requiring Catholics to abstain from meat on Friday will achieve that goal. For reasons too depressing to recount, the bishops have lost much of their moral credibility over the past decades. They should not waste what little remains on restoring a largely pointless and superficial disciplinary practice, any benefits of which will be washed away by the tidal wave of ignorance and hostility that mainstream culture attaches to anything Catholic. When most Catholics don’t go to Mass, and even those who do attend regularly don’t understand the basic teachings on the Real Presence or the necessity of confession, focusing on what people eat on Fridays seems absurd. We live in a food- and health-obsessed culture in which abstaining from meat is no longer a penitential statement.

    Like the rest of us, bishops need to pick their battles. Far better for bishops to do their jobs, starting with the insistence that priests expand their time in the confessionals to more than an hour on Saturday afternoon.

  47. pmullane says:


    Catholics are required to do penance on a Friday. The question is whether setting an objective (minimum) standard for that penance will help people to do that penance and therefore make them more holy. I say yes it will. I say that from personal experience of having lived where no penance was prescribed, and then having it introduced. Its good because in being reintroduced it reminds catholics that they are obliged to do penance, its good because it sets a penance which is easy to remember, visible, which is easy to keep but which will be noticable in our lives.
    You say:

    “They should not waste what little remains on restoring a largely pointless and superficial disciplinary practice”

    Im sorry, but its not a pointless and superficial disciplinary practice. We do penance to give reparation to our Lord who died naked and in agony in order that our sins do not condemn us to damnation forever, but gives us the oppertunity to share with him the joys of eternal happiness. Neither pointless nor superficial.

    You say:

    “any benefits of which will be washed away by the tidal wave of ignorance and hostility that mainstream culture attaches to anything Catholic”

    Not so. When someone asks you for a meal on Friday and you specify that you cannot eat meat on that day as you are a Catholic and Catholics, as a penance for his agony and death on the cross, refrain from eating meat on a Friday, the day of his passion and death, you give witness to your Catholic faith. Some will shrug, some will laugh at you behind your back, some will mock you and think your crazy. So what, they are wounded sinful people. Jesus did things that were washed away in a tidal wave of ignorance and hostility, so much so they beat him bloody and nailed him to a cross till he was dead. Did that stop him from doing them? Some people might see you living what you believe, respecting you for it, and been drawn towards christ through you. For that, I can handle a little ignorance and hostility.

    I agree that bishops need to pick their battles. By why would this be a battle? Nobody is going to stop anyone from eating meat on a Friday, the same as nobody is going to stop them from having a lie in on a Sunday Morning, or going to communion when they’ve not been to confesson for 20 years, or voting for the culture of death. Nobody is going to stop them from going to hell either, but the job of the bishops is to help you to get to heaven. The only consideration whether to reintroduce Friday Abstainance from meat is that, will it help sould get to heaven. I say yes, so I think it should be reinstated.

  48. lydia says:

    Yes , bring back meatless Fridays. Keep it just that simple. I turn down invites for lunch and dinners on Fridays unless it’s at a resturant where I can order fish. Please bring back as many Catholic traditions as possible including holy days of obligation on their proper days. Our Church becoming Catholic lite has not enhanced the Church or filled the pews. Faithful Catholics will follow and become even stronger and that alone is not a bad thing.

  49. APX says:

    Those doubtful about the non-faithful actually doing penance on Friday, I have noticed that even many Christmas and Easter Catholics still avoid eating meat on Fridays in Lent. Peculiar, in a sense, but it also makes some sense as it’s still part of them. The same way they feel obligated to baptize their babies, even if they aren’t practicing. That’s a real problem, though. It’s like it’s ingrained into them that they know what they’re supposed to do, but just too lazy/stubborn/whatever to actually do it on a full time basis.

  50. ndmom says:

    “Some people might see you living what you believe, respecting you for it, and been drawn towards christ through you. For that, I can handle a little ignorance and hostility.”

    I must respectfully disagree. First, most people just aren’t going to ask what you are eating or why, because they don’t really care, especially if your response to their innocent question is a long and pompous one (whether about Jesus dying in agony or a PETA line about animal suffering). So, when you order your vegetarian burrito or margherita pizza for lunch, no one will bat an eye, and you will not be drawing anyone closer to Christ. Unless you make a point of explaining your abstinence.

    Second, a return to the meatless Friday rule gives the spiritually proud something to feel spiritually proud about, and the scrupulous something to scruple over (was there any chicken broth in that black bean soup????), without necessarily drawing either group closer to Christ.

    Most of us could do with a great deal more mortification in our lives, but mortification of an interior, even invisible sort. The smile for that annoying colleague. The refusal to join in the gossip over Petrauas around the water cooler. The effort to get to Mass in time for proper preparation. The decision to forgo that second glass of wine, or dessert. The resolution to spend part of one’s commuting time praying the rosary before turning on the music. The cheerful agreement to watch a boring documentary with one’s spouse. Etc.

    The bishops need to pick their battles because the laity will only give them a limited amount of attention before tuning them out. They should not waste that precious time on meatless Fridays.

  51. pmullane says:

    NDmom, fair enough. Perhaps it’s because we live on different cultures, but where I am I’ve had plenty of opportunities to explain why I don’t eat meat on a Friday. And yes, I was indulging in a spot of hyperbole with my suggested answer, but some people have been genuinely interested in the reason why Catholics don’t eat meat on a Friday. Similarly, some people have dismissed me and my wife as being ‘god bods’, and most likely ridiculed us behind put backs. Ho hum, I’m a big boy and I can take it. All I’m saying is that it has given me a chance to be Catholic in front of others that I didn’t have before, and that its been a good thing.

    Either fasting is a good thing or it isn’t, the spiritually proud will be spiritually proud about whatever fast they make, and the scrupulous will be scrupulous as well. These are things to be worked out with a spiritual director or a confessor, however I would say having an objective standard of fast would reduce the chances of either pride or scrupulosity. Either way I don’t think either are a good reason to not reinstate Friday abstinence.

    Your also right that we could use more mortification, I know I certainly could, but a relatively easy mortification is a good baseline or bare minimum to use as a starting point. We can always do more, but I think it’s a good thing that people have an objective measure of what they have to do, and they can go from there. An analogy, I could do with more prayer, especially interior prayer, offering my daily life to Jesus. Just because if that doesn’t mean that we should do away with the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and days of precept, a very public form of prayer.

    Finally, I just don’t see where this would be a ‘battle’. Again perhaps it’s because we live in very different cultures, but I feel and have experienced this, proper Catholics who attend Mass love Jesus and have a proper respect and love for their bishops and their authority will thank them for the opportunity and join them in fast, and will benefit from it. Cafeteria Catholics, malformed Catholics, and Catholics in name only will continue eating meat as before, and nobody but them and jesus will know about it. But these will be the Catholics who have already violated any number of teachings and obligations of the church, so no big news there. I seriously doubt that it would cause a schism anywhere.

  52. MarylandBill says:

    I voted yes and I think it is very important. Here are my reasons.

    1. The need to do some sort of penance on Fridays has been forgotten by too many faithful Catholics, and I have to admit even I omit far more often than I admit. Restoring abstinence makes the penance concrete.

    2. It provides, in a sense, a visible mark for faithful Catholics. Obviously if you are invited to a dinner party and have to either explain your dietary limitation or abstain from the main course, it will invite conversation that might enlighten others to Catholic beliefs and practices.

    3. Perhaps it help Catholics escape the very real problem of celebrating on a day that should be fairly solemn. For a long time, meatless Fridays had little impact on many peasants in Europe since meat was at best a sometimes food. What it did do was enforce the notion that Fridays were different than other days and not days of celebration (when meat was most likely to be served).

    Now I want to address a few of the other comments I saw here.

    1. I actually kind of like the Filet-o-Fish. Yeah, its not great, but hey…

    2. Yes, seafood can be even more of a luxury than meat, but the idea here is to separate Friday’s from other days of the week. Also, I wouldn’t complain if seafood other than perhaps plain fish was limited as well. Perhaps even strike seafood all together and eat a simple vegetarian meal.

    3. It might be easy to argue about the impact on Ranchers in this country, but I suspect that the argument might over-state the harm done. Even now, many people don’t eat meat at every meal, every day. Friday Abstinence might simply result in a shift of the days when meat is eaten, not an actual reduction.

  53. ndmom says:

    “Again perhaps it’s because we live in very different cultures, but I feel and have experienced this, proper Catholics who attend Mass love Jesus and have a proper respect and love for their bishops and their authority will thank them for the opportunity and join them in fast, and will benefit from it.”

    These Catholics don’t NEED the bishops to require them to observe a particular penitential practice. They already know that Fridays are supposed to be penitential, and many of them already observe either a meatless Friday or some other penance. They go to confession regularly, and perhaps daily Mass when they can manage it. They are the people who read and comment on this blog.

    The bishops need to reach the rest of the Catholics. Turning cafeteria Catholics into “culinary” Catholics who eat fish on Friday but otherwise continue to miss Mass, skip confession, disregard teachings on premarital sex and contraception, and vote for Obama does not strike me as a victory.

  54. pmullane says:

    Ndmom I suspect we may be talking past one another here, but in my experience yes, faithful mass attending Catholics do need the bishops to provide a particular practise, for the reasons I’ve already outlined. Again I’ll admit that experience may be different depending on where we live, but for the most part Catholics of my acquaintance either think that we used to fast on Fridays but don’t do it any more, or a very few have heard somewhere that we are supposed to do some penance, but no one does it and people are busy and despite best intentions it’s been sidelined or forgotten. These people would benefit from an objective standard that they can keep to with their penance. The Church is the best judge of human nature, and knowing nature as she does she instituted Friday abstinence to help the faithful. Again, reinstating the fast would help souls get to heaven, and therefore it should be reinstated.

  55. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Doing just one healthy thing for your bodily health can be a big deal.

    Doing just one intellectual thing for your intellectual development can be a big deal.

    So why all this discouragement of instituting one small spiritual practice?

  56. ndmom says:

    Because if you want to pick just ONE small spiritual practice, and use what remains of the prestige/influence of the bishops to encourage it, year-round meatless Fridays would be well down the list.

    That’s all.

    But it’s easy to see why the bishops would jump on something like meatless Fridays. It energizes the base and requires absolutely no effort or sacrifice on their part.

    Would much rather see the bishops encourage Catholics to turn off their electronic devices for ten minutes each day, and use that time for silent prayer. Now THAT would be a real mortification for many people, would not mortify others, and would bear real spiritual fruit.

  57. CatholicByChoice says:

    I think this proposal is little more than an attempt to distract us from our overall disappointment with Cardinal Dolan’s “get out the Obama vote” effort. The renewal of meatless Friday could have taken place at any time…why not last year or the year before that? Why this year, and immediately following Cardinal Dolan’s support of Obama? Because this year the Bishops desparately need something to distract the faithful from the sense of betrayal that many of us are experiencing.

  58. LisaP. says:

    Look, it’s an old story, surface acts and inner conversion. On the one hand, what we do in our daily habits should both reflect our hearts and recollect our hearts. It’s well understood now that the way we act affects our beliefs, our behavior, and even our physiology (neuron development, etc.), doing influences being.

    But it’s also obvious that for some of us (or maybe for all of us some of the time) doing substitutes for being. When outward habits are imposed, it creates the risk of substitution and hypocrisy.

    So, hey, go for it if you want. Give us meatless and I’ll try to follow it and for the proper reason, and likely benefit by it. But I don’t discount that with limited energy and a tendency to concupiscence I’m also likely to spend a lot of time on Fridays yelling at my children and gossiping about my neighbors because I’m tired and grumpy from having to get beans going the night before and from arguing with my family about what meatless food they will and won’t eat.

    I do think it might be fruitful to look at the changed times, as per what MarylandBill said about peasants not eating meat. Meat is a strange choice these days, if we are looking at sacrifice. How about no white food (sugar and flour)? No processed food? How about that deviceless day idea? Or a no buying stuff day? There are a lot of things we do in modern America that reflect what meat was in the Middle Ages better than meat itself probably does. But, of course, that’s complicating the issue, probably unnecessarily. It is true that leaving the penance to the individual means we can pick what “hurts” the most in a diverse society, though it is also true that keeping it to meat makes for a regularity that is easier to stick to.

    I also like the fact that fish in restaurants on Friday hearkens to a time when there were actually cultures in America. . .

  59. pmullane says:

    Ok, it seems like the whole issue of Friday Abstainance was a convenient cover to have an unfounded shot at ‘the bishops’. Im sorry im not going down that road, so I’ll retire from the conversation.

    Peace to all.

  60. CatholicByChoice says:

    Thank you for your comment, it serves to remind me that more than half of the Catholics who voted in this election are actually not at all feeling betrayed or disappointed by the Bishops’ leadership because those Catholics actually got EXACTLY the result that they voted for. I sincerely apologize for offending you.

  61. pmullane says:

    CBC, no offence taken.

    Thanks be to God.

  62. MarylandBill says:

    ndmom, Yes, I agree that turning off the TV/radio/computer for ten minutes spent in prayer would be a good thing for many people (including myself), but things like that are too easy to let slip. In a weird sense, something that is a fairly grand gesture, like meatless Fridays can be easier for people to follow. First because it seems like a big gesture even though in practice it is not. In addition there is the knowledge that they are joining a host of other Catholics doing something uniquely Catholic all at the same time as opposed to prayer which might occur at any point through out the day.

    LisaP. why does meatless mean you have to get beans going the night before? I know if you use dried beans they can take a while, but there are thousands of alternatives that will not take much time at all. Besides fish, there are dairy and egg based sources of proteins, if you want a vegetable source there is quinoa and lentils, both of which cook in less than an hour. Shoot I always feel a little guilty on Fridays of Lent because it gives me an excuse to eat Pizza which I find hardly to be a sacrifice at all.

  63. inara says:

    We abstain from meat because it incites the passions, not for the reasons most people think or have mentioned thus far. Here’s a good article at New Theological Movement that explains in more detail: http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2012/03/why-do-catholics-abstain-from-meat.html

    If you’re skeptical, just google “zinc increase libido”.

  64. LisaP. says:

    MarylandBill, much of what you suggest is ill advised for my family, but boy, now I really want pizza!! In any case it certainly doesn’t have to be beans, it’s just my example of how little it takes to make me a grump!

    inara — that is really interesting, I always assumed meat was just a luxury food, wondered if there was something inherent in it that made it worth giving up!

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