ASK FATHER: Gelatin during Lent

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Now that we are coming up on Lent, people are starting to think about what may be eaten on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays.  May I eat insects?  May I eat crocodile?  May I drink Mystic Monk Coffee?

Yes, and you must drink Mystic Monk Coffee.  Rather, you must at least order Mystic Monk Coffee: it is licit to give it away.

From a reader:

Is gelatin (made from skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals) considered meat?

I now put on my Unreconstructed Ossified Manualist cap to answer as I reach for my old moral theology manual, never far from my desk.

Gelatin.  From Compendii Theologiae Moralis (Sabetti-Barrett) n. 331, :

QUAER. 1°. Quid veniat nomine carnis, ovorum et lacticiniorum?

Resp. 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.

Nomine autem ovorum et lacticiniorum intelliguntur omnia ea quae originem ex carne ducunt et habent rationem cibi.

Ova et lacticinia et condimenta etaim ex adipe animalium quorumlibet permittuntur; non amplius restringitur usus ad adipem carnis suinae.  Porro butyrum permittitur, et margarina.

Pepsina non est prohibita diebus abstinentiae, nec, ut nobis videtur, gelatina.  E contrario, bovina caro peptone praeparata (peptonized beef), extracta carnea, uti vocantur, prohibentur…. Pari ratione, stock, i.e., essentia carnis coctae cum ossibus, etc. prohibetur.

So there you have it.  Gelatin is from meat, but it is not meat.  Gelatin is permitted, according to this author, on days of abstinence.

But be sure to avoid peptonized beef!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    What about using bacon to flavor and grease up the pot, to make clam chowder? [It may be used.]

  2. Faith says:

    Is broth ok? chicken or beef? [Avoid stock. Broth, like stock, is liquid from meat that has been cooked. When it is incidental, I think, some small amount can be used. For example, I suppose a little broth to deglaze a pan could work, though so could wine or water which are both perfectly acceptable, as is vegetable broth. Plan ahead and make commonsense substitutions.]

  3. And so it begins. I answer one question and the “What about…?”s start!

  4. Supertradmum says:

    I know I am getting older by the day, but why cannot people give up meat products? The Byzantine Catholics put us Latin Rite Catholics to shame with much more vigorous fasting and abstinence and here we are arguing over broth.

    I suggest the old fasts of no meat on Wednesday and Friday, still held by the Byzantines. who also keep Good Friday by not having dairy or meat products on that day and Pure Monday, the first day of their Lent.

    No offense, but we are on the verge possibly of a fixed, planned by many countries, WWIII and we should be fasting daily, as well as taking on extra penances.

    I wish the bishops would call Americans, who are so attached to food, to the stricter fasts.

  5. majuscule says:

    Just run the Latin through Google Translate…

    …for a good chuckle.

  6. Therese says:

    “No offense, but we are on the verge possibly of a fixed, planned by many countries, WWIII and we should be fasting daily, as well as taking on extra penances.”

    That says it all.

  7. LeeF says:

    Fr. Z said: “and so it begins . . .”

    Bet you feel like an orthodox rabbi answering dietary regulation questions, just without regarding same as extremely important.

    BTW, what if I didn’t floss the night before and a piece of bacon dislodges from my teeth which I inadvertently swallow and . . .

  8. yatzer says:

    Somehow I first read this as, “Ask Father Gelatin during Lent”. Who’s this Father Gelatin? [I am sooooo tempted….] Then I had a good laugh, which I needed. Thanks!

  9. The Masked Chicken says:

    “BTW, what if I didn’t floss the night before and a piece of bacon dislodges from my teeth which I inadvertently swallow and . . .”

    As a proud Unreconstructed Ossified Manualist , I read the answer to that question in a manual, somewhere while wandering through a university library (sigh, for the days when one could just book browse or wander through a university library). Said bacon would not break the fast. The manual did not mention abstinence, but, probably, it would not break it, either.

    Speaking of Lent, it occurs to me that the nursery rhyme, Ring around the Rosies, is a nice reflection for Ash Wednesday:

    Ring-a-round the rosie, [SAY THE ROSARY]
    A pocket full of posies, [POSIES ARE SPIRITUAL BOUQUETS]
    Ashes! Ashes! [REMEMBER MAN, THOU ART DUST…]
    We all fall down.[2][WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE]

    I wonder if any other nursery rhymes can be so abused?

    The Chicken

  10. teomatteo says:

    ““BTW, what if I didn’t floss the night before and a …”
    If you didn’t floss the night before then go to confession Immediately…
    Also as an aside four out of five dentists recommend rinsing with Mystic Monk Coffee after the morning brush.

  11. Geoffrey says:

    It appears that I am the only one who thought this post was about “Jello”.

  12. Jim Dorchak says:

    I thought there was always room for Jello?

  13. Unwilling says:

    Timeo ne in digitos calcavisti
    dominae Michaelae Obama,
    cui distinctiones inter cibos faciendum
    diebus istis clare consentitur.

  14. Father P says:

    I think of the OF Gospel from a few weeks ago about the spirit and the letter of the Law.
    Sometimes we forget that in the West we have always been legislated the minimum but expected the maximum (corresponding to this is the East which legislates the maximum but relaxes it as needed). So YES the LETTER of the law is very specific about what constitutes the minimum Lenten fast and abstinence that is required for conscience sake. At the same time perhaps we should be more open to the Spirit of the law and do the “one thing more” that the Lord is calling us to this Lent

  15. John Pepino says:

    Thank for this timely reminder.

    By the way, there is a spelling mistake in abstinetiam.

  16. ConstantlyConverting says:

    Although I am pregnant and therefore changing the general fast that I do, this is good to know. I’ve recently added gelatin to my diet to help with various bone things, but it helps with sciatica too!!!! And tastes awesome as a homemade gummy bear :)

  17. RafqasRoad says:


    Amen Sister!!

    The Maronite fasting regime for Lent, Advent and ‘Mary’s Week’ is as follows:

    No meat, dairy, stock etc.
    No wine or olive oil
    No eggs,

    Vegetables, Fruits, Rice Bread etc are permissible; re fats, in whole form (think tahini is also slipped in here sparingly) olives, avocado, nuts and seeds it is permissible.
    Seafood is permissible.
    non-egg pasta is permissible

    Maronite Catholics start Great Lent on Monday ‘Ash Monday’ as there are two significant feast days within the Maronite calendar that usually fall during Lent.

    Oh, and no food from midnight to midday; the old-timers abstain from all foods and liquids until Midday.
    Meals should not equal three standard meals a day.

    I find it a refreshing season of the year (last year lost 10kg as a bi-product of the Maronite Lenten practices but I would remind readers lent is NOT a health reforem bootcamp!! (e.g. don’t do it to lose weight as your primary motive).

    if anybody is keen to do this, by about day ten, the mind is clearer, sharper, energy levels improve, the ‘gummed up’ feeling that some can have vanishes, and its not difficult to come up with delicious ‘vegan’ meals (you don’t need all those meat and dairy substitutes) that are wonderful and don’t cost the earth.

    Honey is permissible, so as a licit bit of a ‘pick-me-up’, I have a container of home made halva in the fridge; just nuts, seeds a little honey and the tiniest bit of tahini paste

    From Midnight Holy Thursday to Midnight Holy Saturday some folk fast the Marion fast – no food at all for this period 0 I’ve done it once and in those few hours before Midnight Holy Saturday the ‘headspace’ I was in was incredible for prayer and contemplation. Maronites have Midnight Mass and after this, the fast is traditionally broken in the early hours of Easter Sunday. However, if you have blood sugar or medication issues, speak to your physician first.

    I seem to remember Fr. Jim 4321 commenting about kicking some significant health problems through diet and exercise changes around this time last year…I invite Fr. Jim 4321 to take up the Maronite Lenten regime alongside me and anybody else who is interested (accountability partners and all of that) It’ll not cost an arm and a leg, not take up time in the kitchen and will actually save you $$$ that can be donated to a good, solid Catholic cause -e.g. supporting our Christian brethren in the Middle East financially as well as through prayer.

    I do so very much enjoy this time of year. It is in our Australian Autumn so the new season apples and pears are coming in, the last of the melon fruit is also at its best, when Easter is later, the Mandarins also come into season – try it folks, you’ll not find it hard to get into rhythm, there are loads of Lenten resources on line to help you menu-plan for family meals, packed lunches etc. Your physical, mental and soul faculties will love you for it!!

  18. Nan says:

    @Supertradmum, my Byzantine church follows the old fast; no meat starting two Sundays before Lent, no dairy starting the Sunday before Lent, no fish, no wine, no oil starting Monday, the beginning of Lent. So basically, vegans. And they fast from Mid-Nov through Dec 24.

    With regard to broth, some things are just better if meat is involved in their making.

  19. psalm51 says:

    But Father,
    I did order mystic monk monk shots that you recommended and now I LOVE them–possibly too much. I was going to give them up for lent but that would be depriving the monks of their livlihood right? I’m in a spiritual quandry. Please tell me that I can have a monk shot WITH my gelatin!

  20. Matthew says:

    Lent will be easy this year since I just kept my Friday abstention from meat since last year. (Except once or perhaps twice when I completely forgot and went out to dinner.)

  21. Nan says:

    @Matthew, what about Wed? I’m in the same boat with Friday, and abstaining from meat for me isn’t at all penitential, it’s about obedience. Last year after Ash Wednesday, I just continued not to eat meat on Wed.

  22. StWinefride says:

    RafqasRoad says: I do so very much enjoy this time of year. It is in our Australian Autumn…

    That reminds me of St Francis de Sales’ quote re Lent:

    Lent is the autumn of the spiritual life when we pick the fruit and gather it for the whole year. Enrich yourself, I beg you, with these precious treasures which nothing can neither steal nor destroy…”

  23. basis says:

    I am reminded of the parody of John Bellairs:

    From “St. Fidgeta and other Parodies”:

    The Question Box:
    Q. Does the olive in the martini
    break the Lenten fast, or is it
    considered part of the drink?
    A. This problem has vexed some
    of the subtlest minds of the
    Church. Is the olive qua olive
    part of the martini qua martini?
    Or is the olive a substance
    unto, of and within itself, per
    se in the drink rather than per
    accidens? … As usual, the
    last word goes to St. Thomas,
    who remarks in his Summa
    Contra Omnes; “Oliva, quaecumque
    est, cibus est, et certe
    ieiunium frangit.”

  24. basis says:

    oh, I forgot the punchline followup question:

    Q. What about the cookie that sometimes comes with a malted?
    A. Let us not be silly.

  25. Former rules, from instructions printed in London, 1819:
    Fast days used to include the forty days of Lent,
    Fridays and Saturdays of Lent were also days of abstinence,
    Sundays in Lent were only days of abstinence, but not fast days.

    According to another book from 1879 on the history of the Mass, Sunday “was never kept as a fasting day”.

    In the East all Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays were fast days.

  26. Make that above “In the East all Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays were days of abstinence”.

  27. brjeromeleo says:

    I thought all meat products were forbidden. To me, that would include gelatin, made from meat bones.

  28. Suburbanbanshee says:

    brjeromeleo — Gelatin is made mostly from horns and hooves as well as bones. But so is rennet for cheese made from cow or other animal stomach, and yet Latin Rite canon law does not prohibit cheese or class it under meat. Cheese is a dairy product under canon law.

    Meat under canon law is a red meat product that reminds one of red meat. Meat broths and stocks taste like meat, and that’s why you use them. Gelatins and aspics remind one of amoebas or water. They are used as delivery systems for other things that have taste.

    In short, we live under canon law, not under vegetarian law. There is an attitude of generosity, particularly toward products which were used to preserve foods or make them edible on fast days. Gelatins and aspics used to be very important delivery systems for vegetables.

    Oh, and I don’t want to hear about how Southern Hemisphere people get to eat lots of fresh local fruit during Lent. That doesn’t help us up here in the Northern Hemisphere freezer!

  29. Supertradmum says:

    Masked Chicken, most of the older nursery rhymes were written by recusants to teach truths outsie the hearing of the Star Chamber and Elizabeth I’s secret police…You have not abused it but revealed the origins of one.

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