Fr. Jerabek, at his blog, has a good reminder about Lenten penance, and Fridays, and fasting and abstinence.
All Fridays of the year are days of penance. Fridays of Lent are more specific. All Catholics who have completed 14 years of age are to abstain from meat on Fridays of Lent.
Does this bind the Catholic on pain of sin?
The bishops – who were given authority to adjust the universal law for this regions – have so relaxed the obligations that there is barely anything there to move the Catholic to do penance.
The idea back in the 1960’s was that people should want to do penance. That would be better than doing penance out of obligation. They, with Paul VI, were optimistic. They weren’t, however, realistic about human nature. Once the laws were relaxed hardly anyone did penance after.
The same thing happen among the clergy.
In the older, traditional form of Mass, in the Missale Romanum, there were indications that certain defects in the celebration of Mass were mortal sins. Among a few priests (especially those tainted by a kind of Sulpician/Irish jansenism) this prompted scrupulosity. However, once the clarity was removed, priests started doing what they wanted.
Laws are helpful when the spirit and flesh are weak.
In any event, don’t be minimalist Catholics, just getting away with things within the strict bounds of law.
It seems to me we are living in a time when, as the Church is being slowly flayed and broken and diminished, even by her pastors, we need more prayer and more acts of penance and reparation, not fewer or the minimum.