QUAERITUR: Clarity about Pius XII’s cool Thanksgiving Friday indult

I’ve been getting a lot of questions by email from people in these USA who want to know about the indult that Pius XII gave to Americans to eat meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Rorate looked at that HERE, saying that the indult still was good to go.


First, Pius’ very cool indult was a great example of Holy Church’s mercy and practical side. In a similar vein, bishops where there are large Chinese and Vietnamese communities have often dispensed or commuted the abstinence obligation when Lunar New Year fell on a Friday of Lent or even on Ash Wednesday itself.

Nevertheless, in light of the 1966 document from the U.S. conference, the indult of Pius XII ceased to have effect when the obligation the indult was given for ceased to bind.  Get that?  Once the need was no longer there, the indult ceased to have effect.  No more indult because no more need for an indult.

His scriptis, those who, out of pure devotion and sacrificial love for the Lord, still choose to abstain on Fridays could find in this now-defunct indult a permission to relax their abstinence – which in these USA does not bind under pain of sin – for a day in order to eat up some of the leftover turkey.

You can eat Turkey on Friday in the USA.  But do some penance on Friday …. because it is a Friday.


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  1. disco says:

    If the USCCB did reenact the Friday abstinence would the indult come back into force automatically?

  2. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Exactly, Pater. [Whew!] And No, disco.

  3. acardnal says:

    As an American reading the CCCB statement above, it’s not clear that eating meat or failing to do any act of penance on any Friday is a sin either.

  4. Did Pius XII’s apply to the Universal Church or just Latin-riters? The Byzantines still abstain on Fridays so the rules back then apply today. I always abstain from meat on Fridays, and strictly speaking due to a change of rite and paperwork about 30 years ago, I am Byzantine.

    On the other hand I am enjoying the non-meat leftovers, like my smoked fish appetizer with mashed up dip of cream cheese, red onion and capers. Uhm. Is that penance? LOL

  5. APX says:

    For those of us in Canada Friday penance/abstinence does pain under mortal sin. Oddly enough, I never heard of it until recently, and it is unspoken about.

  6. Father Bartoloma says:

    Well said.

  7. Joe in Canada says:

    so those who abstain from meat on Friday do not have the indult, and so they cannot eat turkey. Those who substitute other works, can eat turkey. It doesn’t seem fair!
    APX, no, I don’t think the link provided at the top by PaulK implies that we Canadians could incur mortal sin by not doing anything on Friday. The text uses the word “invite” a few times. A friend who was organizing a sausage sale on Friday in his Catholic school, when told about this, said “well, we’re doing it for charity, so it counts, and the students who buy the sausages are giving to charity, and it would be a waste to buy them and not eat them.” Since mortal sin involves knowledge, I would think most Canadian Catholics are mortal-sin free.

  8. HighMass says:

    Pius XII was a Great Pontiff, last of the Roman Pontiff’s Have some memory of him….

    The progressives where glad to see him go to his heavenly reward…which ushered in John XXIII and Paul VI…..very progressive Pontiff’s or at Least Paul VI was, with the exception of Humane Vitae……
    Oh lets not forget Bugnini’s N.O……thats when the Church came alive for the Liberals…..

    E.F. is still beautiful form of the Holy Mass.

  9. introibo says:

    Oh goodness, we couldn’t get by if we couldn’t eat our turkey on the Friday after Thanksgiving! It would be too much to bear!

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