Every First Friday, a neighboring parish hosts a fundraiser dinner at which they serve beef or chicken, except during Lent. Many of our friends (homeschooling families) are parishioners there and attend every month. We hear that it’s delicious fare and as I know who’s doing the cooking, I’m sure it is. Nonetheless, advertisements go out via email and social media a few days before and every month it drives me to distraction!
I know that my homeschooling friends, at least, are aware that every Friday is a day of penance and know they need to do an alternate penance if they don’t abstain from meat. So I don’t want to annoy them or present myself as holier-than-thou with such a reminder whenever posts about the dinner circulate. The parishioners there are remarkably committed to supporting the pastor, who is a good priest, but doesn’t get this.
This parish is in the United States. Unlike England and Wales, which has – God be praised – gone back to abstinence from meat on all Fridays of the year (except for Solemnities), the requirement to do penance on Fridays in these United States is fatally vague.
Catholics are required to do penance on all Fridays (except Solemnities). However, the US bishops have, for the most part, been anything but clear or forceful in teaching about Friday penance. Catholics in America are permitted to choose another penance other than abstinence from meat. This is entirely at the discretion of the individual. All that was heard, and remembered, from 1966 when the US bishops (with the approval of the Holy See) changed the requirement was, “We don’t have to eat fishsticks anymore!”
The USCCB, while permitting Catholics to choose other options, still recommends abstaining from meat on Fridays. But you would never know it.
It is bad form for a Catholic parish to host a fundraising dinner which goes against the recommendations of the bishops’ conference.
Mind you, fundraising dinners are optional events. No one is required to go, and those who do are not obliged to eat meat. Still, it sends a bad message about our commitment to our Catholic identity.
It puts people in an awkward position. Do I support my parish and go to a beef dinner on Friday? Or do I follow the bishop’s recommendation and abstain from meat?
It would be better for the pastor to think the matter through and either switch to non-meat options or move the dinner to another night of the week. Admittedly, that might cut into profits. Even as we understand that parishes must be creative about raising money – because Catholics are generally not as good as our Protestant neighbors at supporting parishes – in the end, it’s the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, I have an ongoing POLL: