Lent, Alligators and You

Someone sent me a copy of a letter written by the Archbishop of New Orleans to a member of his flock about eating alligator during Lent.  The answer is “yes”.  You may eat alligator during Lent.

This is old news to readers of this blog, of course.  Last year I posted this, which ought to have settled the whole thing:

QUAERITUR: Abstinentia de carne lacertina aut crocodrillina

Ex lectoris e-pistulis extractum:

Reverendo patro Ioanni Zuhlsdorfo discipulus C. salutem et commemorationem in precibus suis. Gratias meas, sivis, ob opum tuam tibi agere volo. [Acceptae.] Mihi, catholico iuveni et discipulo in collegio liberalum artis et liberalum (aut impudicarum) mentum, scripturae tuae magnam auxilium fuerunt. Mox Ludovicianam meabo. Quaeritur: Sineturne corpus alligatoris feria VI in Quadregesima sine violando abstinentiam Quadragesimae edere?

Ossificatus manualista impoenitens respondeo de paginis Compendii Theologiae Moralis (Sabetti-Barrett) n. 331, :


Nomine carnis veniunt omnia animalia in terra viventia ac respirantia, ut communiter admittunt theologi ex regula tradita a S. Thoma vel, ut S. Alphonsus innuit, n. 1011, animalia quae sanguinem habent calidum; vel illud quod consuetudo regionis ut carnem habet; vel, si nec consuetudo praesto sit, dubium solvi potest considerando mentem Ecclesiae in sanciendo delectu ciborum, ut comprimendae ac minuendae carnis concupiscentiae per salutarem abstinetiam consuleret; examinetur, an huiusmodi animal simile sit aut dissimile iis quorum esus interdictus est et an illius carnes humano corpori validius nutriendo et roborando idoneae dignoscantur; et si ita appareat, ista caro inter vetitas est ponenda. Benedict XIV., De syn. dioec., lib.11, c. 5, n. 12. Haec quatuor multum deservient omni dubitationi solvendae.

Crocodrilli et lacertae inter reptilia sunt et amphibia.

Edi ergo possunt feriis sextis et tempore Quadragesimae.

Omnibus tamen diebus ab eis edimur.

So, there you have it.

You can eat alligator and crocodile on Fridays of Lent.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. catholicmidwest says:

    How about frogs’ legs? [What about them?]

  2. disco says:

    I’m more concerned that an alligator or a crocodile might want to eat me on a Friday during lent.

  3. Jeannie_C says:

    Living where I do, I never see alligator on a menu or in a store. Can’t figure why anyone would want to eat it, a giant lizard. However, I like lobster, and what is that but a giant ocean cockroach? I suppose many foods are permitted during Lent, but should we be eating them if we enjoy them, or should we be putting them aside while practicing abstinence?

  4. e.e. says:

    In the downriver portion of the archdiocese of Detroit, there is a dispensation allowing muskrat to be eaten on Lenten Fridays. In the words of the late Bishop Povich, “anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest of the saints.” http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=23328

    (Alligator is actually rather tasty. Had it once on a trip to Florida. Muskrat, on the other hand… shudder.)

  5. liliana51886 says:

    This is pushing it.. I know- I have a friend that was born in Mexico and was raised that it was OK to eat Chicken on Fridays as well. Can anyone help me out with this? The argument on his side is that it is a cold blooded animal… I know in some countries it is permitted, but I do not believe that Mexico is one of them. Does anyone have any resources that I can show him? Thank you!

  6. jhayes says:

    Jimmy Akin explains why you can eat fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects:

    “The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat [III:1].

    The trouble is that this explanation–at least in its English translation–is not as clear as one would like. It does not, for example, mention the exception of fish and other seafood from the law of abstinence, and this is universally acknowledged as an exception. The reason the exception is not mentioned is that it is implicit in the original Latin of the text, which reads:

    Abstinentiae lex vetat carne vesei, non autem ovis, lacticiniis et quibuslibet condimentis etiam ex adipe animalium [III:1].

    The word for “meat” in the original is carnis (here inflected in the ablative as carne), which does not correspond exactly in meaning to the English word “meat.” In contemporary English, “meat” tends to mean the flesh of any animal, whether it is a mammal, a bird, a fish, or what have you. But as used here, carnis refers only to the flesh of mammals and birds. It does not include the flesh of fish (or, for that matter, of reptiles, amphibians, or insects).”


    Also, he says you can eat soups made of meat, but for a different reason. It would be interesting to hear what canonists here think of that:

    “Paenitemini expressly derogates from prior law when it says:

    The prescriptions of ecclesiastical law regarding penitence are totally reorganized [i.e., completely reordered; this is a translation difference but it’s the same phrase] according to the following norms [Norm I:2].

    The norm on abstinence says:

    The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat [Norm III:1].

    This is very similar to but nevertheless different from Canon 1250 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law which said:

    The law of abstinence prohibits meat and soups made from meat but not of eggs, milks, and also whatever condiments are derived from animal fat [CIC(1917) 1250].

    The “and soups made from meat” phrase is missing and thus Norm III:1 of Paenitemini derogates from Canon 1250 of the 1917 Code. As the Green CLSA commentary notes on canon 20 of the 1983 Code:

    Divine laws do not change, but ecclesiastical laws, being of human origin, can be revoked partially (derogation) or entirely (abrogation) [p. 80].

    [If a] new law changes part of an old law or norm but leaves the rest intact: this is a derogation, not abrogation [p. 82].

    Since Paenitemini drops part of what the 1917 Code said about the law of abstinence but leaves the rest intact, it derogates from (partially revokes) what the 1917 Code said on that point.

    Thus “soups made from meat” are now kosher on days of abstinence.

    If anyone is of a mind to be cantankerous about this point, I would then note that the above line of reasoning at least creates a doubt as to the legal status of soups made from meat (in fact, it seems to do much more than create a doubt, but let’s suppose that’s all it does), in which case we have a doubt of law situation.

    As Canon 14 of the 1983 Code provides:

    Laws, even invalidating and disqualifying ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt about the law.

    So one can still eat chicken noodle soup until Rome says otherwise.

    I don’t favor that myself, but my job here is to explain what the law says, not what I’d prefer it to say.”

  7. liliana51886 says:

    jhayes-THANK YOU. that helps alot.

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    Ahem, chickens are warm-blooded:


    Also, what jhayes said.

    The Chicken

  9. The Masked Chicken says:

    More on chickens (yea!):


    The Warm-blooded Masked Chicken

  10. liliana51886 says:

    wow. yea. OK. That would of helped me a bit with the discussion. OK. My lesson of Humility for the day ;-)

  11. discipulus says:

    Also, remember that we can eat foods containing insects.


  12. jhayes says:

    I assume that when he says chicken noodle soup is OK that’s chicken broth with noodles but not big chunks of chicken meat – even though there might be small bits of chicken remaining in the broth.

    Is any of the canonists here willing to clarify “condimentis”? I assume you can use bacon to flavor clam or corn chowder, but do you need to remove the bits before serving? Can you make spaghetti carbonara serve it with the pancetta? [QUOD DEUS AVERTAT! Not only is guanciale to be preferred over pancetta, but the swinish meat is of the essence, without which it would not be carbonara. No, no. Such things are never to be considered by a Roman Catholic.]

  13. Supertradmum says:

    The way the world is going, I suggest we learn how to catch and cook amphibians and reptiles. One can do anything with a Dutch oven………I have eaten worms and grasshoppers, on purpose. Not bad…like over-done french fries. Have not had live ones, however.

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Also, remember that we can eat foods containing insects.”

    Especially, if you are a Mak’tar (for all you Galaxy Quest fans).

    The Chicken

    [I approve of Galaxy Quest references today.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  15. benedetta says:

    It’s vegetarian farro risotto for us tonight.

  16. bourgja says:

    @catholic midwest: Frogs legs are permitted to eat during Fridays of Lent, because they come from a cold-blooded animal.

  17. pseudomodo says:

    The Phrase “and soups made from meat” seem to me to be interpreted as a differentiation between soups “made from meat” and soups “made WITH meat”.


    Chicken soup made by simmering a whole chicken with veg in a pot and then using the broth for soup would be ok while Minestrone with small pieces of beef would not.
    Also beef consomme would be ok in my opinion and this would conform to the canon above.

  18. pseudomodo says:

    Also keep in mind that these dietary laws are applicable to the western church, not the eastern church. thier abstinance laws are much more restrictive.

  19. jhayes says:

    Here are the first and last steps in a published recipe for clam chowder from my favorite seafood restaurant. It requires 2 ounces of finely chopped salt pork fat for eight servings. Is this kosher to eat at the restaurant on Lenten Fridays?

    “In a large, heavy pot slowly render the salt pork. Remove the cracklings and set them aside. Slowly cook the onions in the fat….

    “Stir in the reserved clams, salt-pork cracklings, and light cream”

    I have eaten that chowder for many years and have have never noticed anything identifiable as meat when it is served. Canonists, is the salt-pork “a condiment made of animal fat”?

  20. jhayes: “Stir in the reserved clams, salt-pork cracklings, and light cream”

    Continuing with Sabetti-Barrett:

    Ova et laticinia et condimenta etiam ex adipe animalium quorumlibert permittuntur; non amplius restingitur usus ad adipem [NB!] carnis suinae. Porro buyrum permittitur, et margarina.

    QUAER. 2o. Quid dicendum de usu laridi?

    Resp. Certum est non licere edere per frusta et ad instar obsonii, quia ita caro reputatur. Licet tamen eo uti, etiam in serotina refectiuncula, sive tamquam condimento sive ad decoquendos cibos, dummodo antea fuerit liquatum. Verum haec conditio quae requiri videtur a S. Poenitentiaria, satis servatur si laridum liquefiat in ipsa decoctione ciborum et separentur particulae carneae et spissiores. [NB!]

  21. acardnal says:

    jhayes, Fr. Z addressed the issue of lard and condiments in a post last year about this time. You may find it helpful.


  22. The Masked Chicken says:

    Does anyone actually have a recipe for alligators? I wonder what kind of wine goes with alligator?

    “Chicken soup made by simmering a whole chicken with veg in a pot and then using the broth for soup would be ok…”

    Sadist. Cannibal! I’d like to see them put your cousin in a pot with vegetables. Stick with alligators. Save the chickens.

    The Masked Chicken

  23. jhayes says:

    What I get out of that is:

    Eggs and milk products and condiments made from any kind of animal fat are permitted; they are no longer limited to fats from the flesh of pigs. Butter and margarine are permitted, also.

    QUESTION 20: What about the use of bacon? (Lard, salt-pork, etc) [I would be careful with “laridum”, which probably is aimed more at the fat of bacon than at the meat of a slice of bacon as we are accustomed to it in N. America.]

    ANSWER: Obviously, you can’t eat it in pieces as food, since it’s considered to be meat.

    But it’s permitted for a late snack, either as a condiment or in cooking foods, provided it is has been liquified.

    It’s true that these conditions, which appear to be required by the Sacred Penitentiary, will be satisfied If the bacon [Again, “bacon” is problematic. The fat melts, the lard.] melts during the cooking of the food and separates into dense particles of meat.

    If I have that correctly, if the bacon (salt-pork, etc) [And we have to be careful with the Latin.] crumbles into tiny pieces during the cooking, you can serve (or eat) the soup without trying to pick out all the little pieces.

    If a restaurant serves clam chowder with big pieces of bacon floating on top (as Herbert Keller is said to do) you should probably pick out what you can – but you can eat the chowder.

    Someone who knows more about his than I do should corect my translation and my conclusions.

    [If there are tiny bits of animal flesh that are entirely incidental and hardly to be avoided without great effort, don’t worry about it. But something like pasta alla carbonara or all’amamatriciana or alla gricia is right out! In those preparations, the “bacon” (guanciale… pancetta… etc. are of the essence.]

  24. @ The Masked Chicken
    Alligator is fried just like chicken, but has a better flavor. Fried is the only way I have eaten it.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Alligator is fried just like chicken, but has a better flavor.”

    Well, then. Let’s lobby for a McAlligator sandwich.

    The Chicken

  26. Luvadoxi says:

    If you really want to go penitential, eat Lutefisk….

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    Boone’s Farm on ice. Don’t forget the hush puppies.

  28. Dr. Eric says:

    I would suggest white wine with alligator. But you usually don’t drink wine with fried chicken, that seems more of a beer or soda food.

  29. VexillaRegis says:

    Luvadoxi: That’s right ;-), it’s a relict from the medieval fasting food, so we have lut(e)fisk (or ludefisk) in Lent aswell as in December. I think it’s delicious properly cooked (not overdone!) and served with bechamel sauce, melted butter, green peas, allspice and boiled potatoes. Another non-penitentional version is to eat it with mustard sauce.

  30. jhayes says:

    Improved, I hope, version of the last line of the translation:

    It’s true that these conditions, which appear to be required by the Sacred Penitentiary, will be satisfied If the bacon [lard, the fat of the bacon] melts is melted during the cooking of the food and and separates into dense particles of meat. any solid pieces of meat are removed.

  31. jhayes says:

    Fr.Z , thanks for taking the time to clarify my posts about using meat byproducts during Lent. I was hoping you would do that.

    In the second sentence of the Answer to the Dubium, my guess is that what they mean about using laridum as a condiment for a “late snack” is spreading pork, chicken or other fat on bread – not making a bacon sandwich. I don’t know why they threw in “late” (serotina).

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