Nov 122012

Via Ed Peters:

Cardinal Tim Dolan just delivered an excellent address to the USCCB. It needs to be read, and even listened to, in its entirety. Here I’ll underscore just one of his points: “The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent” (my emphasis).

For what it’s worth, I unequivocally endorse the re-institution of Friday abstinence in the US. This decision lies quite within the authority of the USCCB (see 1983 CIC 455, and 1249-1253) and, among other things, would render moot, once and for all, nagging questions about whether the episcopal conference ever really got around to substituting “other forms of penance” for abstinence from meat back in 1966, or 1983/1984, or whenever.

Still I can hear it now: “Okay, Peters, if you’re so gung-ho in Friday abstinence, do you abstain from meat on Fridays now, and even if you do, why should it be made a law for everybody?” Fair enough.

First, I don’t abstain on most Fridays now. Most times I simply forget; moreover, I’m pretty good at talking myself out of inconvenient observances if they are largely personal. I need the directives toward goods (like penance) and away from evils (like presumption) that law by its very nature offers. Second, abstaining from meat on Fridays would not be to introduce a new rule, but rather, to eliminate a variance on or exception to the common (and ancient*) rule of abstinence that is already set out in canon law, above. Third, the corporate example of all Catholics engaging in some sort of common religious exercise outside of Sunday morning is, I think, desperately needed in a world that wants to relegate religious observances to a six-hour window once a week.

Ex labiis Cardinalis Dolan ad aures episcoporum nostrorum!

If the bishops of the England and Wales could reinstate Friday Abstinence than we certainly can. Maybe we could have a piety war with England and see which country could out piety the other.

On the personal side to answer the same question Mr. Peter’s answered, my selected Friday penance is to fast by only eating one meal on Friday’s. I would gladly (if forced) mix that with mandatory abstinence and for me eating fish is a bit of a penance.

The previous action of the predecessor of the USCCB not to specify a form of penances has meant that hardly anybody choose to perform any penance at all. I think this was a serious mistake and followed up by another mistake. It is one thing not to specify the penance, it is quite another to put no effort into educating Catholics that they “must perform an alternative penance.” Ask a Catholic what form of penance they are performing on Fridays and it is almost guaranteed that you will get a blank stare instead of an answer.

I know fasting on Friday’s really helps me to focus more on Good Friday and the reasons I need a savior in the first place. I must admit though that I really like the “Solemnity Loophole” where when a Solemnity occurs on Friday you should not be doing any penance. People have learned the “Solemnity Loophole” when the Feast of St. Joseph occurs on Fridays during Lent and this gives you something to look forward to throughout the year. Food tastes extra good on Solemnities. Some people might take on an extra penance of eating a Fish Filet sandwich at McDonalds.

So I guess I will be ironically fasting and praying for a return of Friday Abstinence.

  16 Responses to “A return of mandatory Friday Abstinence?”

  1. You make it sound like fish is the only alternative. Many non-mean variables out there. Grilled cheese sandwiches or cheese pizza are 2 of my current choices. I try to not eat meat on Fridays unless there’s something in the fridge that just HAS to be eaten or thrown away.

  2. I abstain from meat on Fridays, almost always. It seems like I did forget once, but it’s rare.

    Once in a great while, I perform a penitential practice in place of abstinence.

    All that being said, I think it is so wrong to view this as a “piety war” with England and Wales. The Friday abstinence, for me, is such a light burden. Really, I’m thankful because of the reminder of Christ and his passion it provides me.

    If the Friday abstinence is not reestablished in the US, I would be greatly encouraged if the Priests would preach on the _requirement_ to either abstain _or_ perform a penitential practice.

  3. I’ve been practicing non-meat abstinence for a few years, though admittedly I’m a bit more lax with it than I am during Lent. This would be a nice little change, and a welcome one.

  4. We do meatless Fridays in our home, and the solemnities “loophole” actually serves to highlight the specialness of the day (or octave.) I’ll be cooking up a nice roast beef on Friday night, and one of the teens will wander in the door, smell it, and say, “But mom, it’s Friday!” And then I can remind them of the particular feast that day, or that we love Christmas so much we celebrate it for a full week.

  5. I’d vote for it just for the histrionics likely to come from the seculars pushing Meatless Mondays. And to see which the Catholic colleges chose implement.

  6. While I understand the good intentions of the Cardinal’s musing, does it really seem like the Catholic faithful would willingly listen at this point? Or would the vast majority simply ignore it? It seems we need to address some of the larger basics first (Theology of the Body issues, belief in the True Presence, etc.) before re-instituting a Catholic expression of solidarity that would probably fall flat in the current climate.

    Bryan Kirchoff
    St. Louis

  7. It has been almost a year since the bishops in England made the change. Has anyone seen anything that indicates what the reaction of the faithful has been?

  8. While I understand the good intentions of the Cardinal’s musing, does it really seem like the Catholic faithful would willingly listen at this point?

    The Church can do it, the Church ought to do it, therefore, do it. One might as well say, “Well most Catholics don’t follow the Church’s teaching on contraception anyway, so let’s relax it.”

    Meatless Friday is an excellent way to re-integration. Along with not moving days of obligation to Sunday.

  9. JC! Just give up eating dead bodies all together! That way, you’ll have this little thing taken care of and you’ll be a little closer to “Thou shalt not kill”… :/

  10. Now I’m reminded of the old rumor that meatless Friday started because one of the Popes owned a fleet of fishing boats…

  11. Friday penance is mandatory. Check out the Code of Canon Law 1249-1253. Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

  12. (((Now I’m reminded of the old rumor that meatless Friday started because one of the Popes owned a fleet of fishing boats…)))

    NOW! NOW Panda Rosa! No body here is making funny at Henry The Eight and his followers who helped create The Protestant Religion just so he could get away from the then Catholic Religion! Are we NOW? 🙂


  13. It took me awhile to get on the Friday abstinence thing, but I did. It seemed natural once I started, because as a kid, both the Catholic and public schools still served fish/meatless meals on Fridays.

    If I forget it’s Friday, I just institute a meatless Saturday meal. I’d just do another penance, but I can never think of penances.

  14. Meatless Fridays would definitely be welcome. That being said, I generally don’t eat meat these days (I prefer fish and shrimp, although I occasionally eat chicken), so it wouldn’t be penance for me.

    OTOH, it’d die if we adopted Eastern Orthodox fasting rules (no meat, no fish with backbones, no eggs, no dairy products, no oils or margarine).

  15. Meatless Fridays leads to this restaurant dialogue:
    Waitress: “Our special tonight is flank steak.”
    Catholic: “No…I’m abstaining from meat. Bring me lobster tails with a side of panseared scallops in a sauce Breval with a plate of pasta and Sam Adams Cherry Wheat on draft.”
    Waitress: “You’re a regular John the Baptist….it’s like they should beatify you right now prior to the crowds demanding it.”

  16. Why not leave this discipline optional and genuine rather than mandatory and just another manmade rule like those for which Christ criticised the scribes? If Ed’s so gung ho on abstaining, HE CAN!

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