Can Catholics Eat Chicken on Fridays During Lent?

Friday night, I went to the wedding/reception of a Catholic friend. There were Bible readings and prayers and all that, but one aspect of the religion was new to me.

Chicken was being served for dinner. This was a problem, though, since it’s Lent and Catholics can’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent.

In 1966 Pope Paul VI reorganized the Church’s practice of public penance in his “Apostolic Constitution on Penance” (Poenitemini). The 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law incorporated the changes made by Pope Paul. Not long after that, the U.S. bishops applied the canonical requirements to the practice of public penance in our country.

To sum up those requirements, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.

Before dinner was served, though, it was announced that the priest who officiated the wedding granted the newly-married couple and their guests “Special Dispensation.” This meant that everyone who wanted it could have the meat with no consequences.

So let’s recap:

  • Meat on Fridays during Lent is bad. Very bad. Forbidden, even.
  • If a Priest gives you permission and works his voodoo magic, though, it’s totally fine.

I know I’m asking this to the wrong crowd, but how does that make any sense?

Even worse was the reaction from the wedding crowd. They didn’t even flinch when told about the dispensation. They were just happy they could eat chicken.

Why did no one else there seem to think there was something about a “law” being bent on a whim?

I know I encounter these things all the time and read about them often, but it still amazes me when people take absurd ideas seriously only because it’s wrapped in the cloak of religiosity.

  • Jeff Satterley

    You’re surprised by this? You really haven’t been keeping up with the Catholics lately, have you Hemant?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I have not kept up with the Catholics. And this is honestly the first time I’ve heard of this. It’s amazing the pockets of knowledge that escape me sometimes…

  • andy

    That’s hilarious “oh we have given up so much to god by going to red lobster every week, I think we can take a break from all this hardship”

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    It doesn’t make any sense. They have all of these fabricated laws that they can brush away on any whim with the wave of a priest’s hand if they’re inconvenient for them.

    Funny how they stand firm and fast when the beliefs are to be applied to others, and we’re supposed to give the utmost respect to them. Phooey.

  • SerTyrion

    You know, I could understand this if you were trapped in the mountains and all you had to eat was beef jerky. The God of the Old Testament would still then just say “starve for the day.”

    But when Christians think that these silly little “loopholes” and bent rules are going to pass THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. I, as an unbeliever, have more respect for the concept of almighty and all knowing god than they do. If I believed in such a deity, I’d realize that you can’t trick such a being. How dumb do they think their god is? GAH.

    Sorry, had to spend time with my overly religious extended family today… I’m a little bitter now.

    • Bill Ferris

      I have been in your position as well. I was adopted and am more intelligent than my adopted family. They hate me because I became a behaviorist and earned a Ph.D. We never talk. They argue the most mundane things imaginable. I cannot recall the last argument I had with anyone. No need. Simply discuss and agree on the most salient point. If you disagree on something, that’s fine with me but not my family. They are all Catholics and I went to the seminary before realizing that all religion is mythical. Control methods and a way to hold down people.

  • fmitchell

    Eating meat on Lent hasn’t been a big deal since Vatican II … but before it was a mortal sin (Catholic for Go Directly To Hell, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200). As George Carlin put it, “Imagine all the guys still in Hell on a meat rap.”

    Then again, speaking as an ex-Catholic, the “meat on Lent” thing is by FAR not the weirdest teaching of the Church.

  • Chris S

    As a former Catholic, I have heard of this. It is common for events such as weddings and other group meetings where there may be a mixed crowd. Lenten restrictions include (from a catechism website):

    “Abstinence from meats is to be observed by all Catholics 14 years old and older on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of Lent.

    Fasting is to be observed on Ash Wednesday by all Catholics who are 18 years of age but not yet 59. Those who are bound by this may take only one full meal. Two smaller meals are permitted if necessary to maintain strength according to one’s needs, but eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.”

    In my household as a kid, the one meal thing didn’t really happen. We ate breakfast and lunch anyway.

    I was born after Vatican II in the early sixties when the pope changed a bunch of rules. As I understand it EVERY Friday was no meat until then. Now it’s just a Lenten thing.

  • Miko

    It only doesn’t make sense if you assume it has something to do with a god. Alternatively, let’s view a religious organization the same way we would any other hierarchical power structure: arbitrary rules are created as a way of asserting dominance over a large group of people and “special dispensation” is used since completely outlawing the behavior would be untenable. Instead, the authority figure graciously grants you permission to do something that you should have been able to do without asking permission in the first place. The most common sorts of restrictions in modern times are, of course, on food and sex, since people tend to become tractable when someone holds control of these over them. Christianity (esp. Catholicism) is by and large built on the idea of the sacrament of marriage in which the church controls all forms of “legitimate” procreation and sets up the Faustian bargain of men dominating women and the church (under the figurehead of Jesus) dominating men (which is, of course, bad for everyone except the church and doubly bad for women).

    Historically, limitations on occupations were also a big one (especially regarding work in financial fields), although in most parts of the world the churches have handed this power over to secular governments in the form of occupational licensing requirements (which, as a side note, are used in many regions as a form of caste system by preventing certain racial/ethnic/gender groups from entering certain desirable occupations).

    The fact that the rules are completely meaningless and arbitrary is a key feature, since the whole point is that you need special permission from an authority figure in order to lead a normal life.

    • John Cook

      Very well stated and accurate as well. Religions are control groups and assert their dominance through their dualistic and absolute premise of fear and punishment over a more redeeming possibility of glory and eternal happiness. To attain the glory and happiness, they provide rules and methods of escaping the rules provided by authority figures. This retains and reinforces the fear based coercive persuasion we received as young children. Although we seldom recall those fears as adults, they leave us very susceptible to reinforcement by any reminder that lets us feel those fears again. All this is further reinforced by feeling badly when you are not going along with the crowd. If they are forced to believe, you are too. Peer influence plays a big part too. Hang out with a number of atheists and in time you will become an atheist. That is the power of peer influence.

      Control–all the church does and the true foundation of the Christian religion as authorized in Rome–effective crowd control.

  • penn

    As a former Catholic I don’t see what the big deal is here. Giving up meat on Friday’s during Lent is just a communal sacrifice made by all Catholics. It’s a community builder through a shared experience. It makes perfect sense that the priest would lift a call for shared sacrifice during a celebration like a wedding. There’s no magic involved at all. This isn’t transubstantiation. The church requests this of it’s members and they generate exceptions to that request when it is appropriate.

    Wouldn’t it be less reasonable to force people at a wedding celebration to abstain from meat?

  • http://evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    This meant that everyone who wanted it could have the meat with no consequences.

    No consequences? That’s a relief!

    @Buffy:

    …with the wave of a priest’s hand…

    A priest’s waving hand is capable of many wondrous things (transubstantiation, for one…)

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    You can eat meat on fridays. Nobody cares. I ate tuna sandwiches on fridays anyways, just because it is tradition (and a tasty tradition at that). It’s not any more unreasonable than, say, the practice of making new years resolutions every year. In fact, it’s probably more reasonable, since nobody actually keeps their resolutions past February.

    The reason you might need a special dispensation is because at a wedding reception, you have a lot of people, and maybe some of those people take the tradition more seriously than they should. So you need some religious authority to tell everybody, “Naw, it’s totally cool, guys.”

    Leastways, that’s how I always saw it. Um, I’m guessing that I’m not necessarily representative of Catholics.

  • Janis Chambers

    What’s next? Priests play Holy “Red light Green Light”? ‘God says Green!’ Catholics everywhere start to walk, even if they were sitting down before. ‘God says Red!’, and no matter if they’re a doctor in the middle of surgery, all Catholics pause until the priests says ‘green’ again. Religion does such a good job turning people into sheep.

  • Don Pope

    This used to be a requirement for all Fridays, not just during lent. However, in Puerto Rico, in the late 1800′s to early 1900′s, Fridays were usually the only days people could get meat (and there was no refrigeration), so the Pope gave the whole island a dispensation from that requirement.

  • weaves

    they have their beliefs, yet they’re so weak about them when applied to themselves.

    If it were someone else…

    They’re not doing their religions right! “all sins are the same in the eyes of the lord” and all that

    /disgust.

  • HP

    You’re losing sight of the important thing: Friday’s during Lent the employee cafeteria always serves fish sandwiches.

    I love fish sandwiches.

    Don’t screw this up for me.

  • Forkboy

    Maybe the special dispensation was for the benefit of non-Catholic guests?

  • christi

    A friend of mine’s 11-yr-old daughter gave up chocolate for lent, but her grandpa gave her special dispensation to partake of the delicious candy while she is on spring break.

    her grandpa.

    huh????? so God is ok with it as long as grandpa is?

    • John Cook

      I give all Catholics special dispensation to think and quit being frightened over your childhood indoctrination into the fears of religion and the years of coercive persuasion you had to endure. You may now think and drop religion becoming happy atheists, unconcerned with that sort of nonsense.

      There is no God, never has been one, and I would hate to meet anything that required belief in him without ANY proof but a 2000 year old book so poorly done it is nearly impossible to make sense of. You and I know that no GOD was involved in writing that worthless piece of sh!t. If you are still dumb enough to think it is God inspired, your God is an idiot and I would prefer hell.

  • Erp

    Certain feasts can trump fast days. For instance I understand if a particular Saint’s day falls on a Lenten Friday (other than Good Friday) and that saint is the patron of the diocese than the bishop will usually lift the fast restrictions.

    Admittedly I find it a bit odd that a Catholic wedding would be scheduled for a fast day in the first place. Did they also do a mass or just prayers?

    I think from the Catholic point of view meatless Fridays are a bit like clerical celibacy. Church decreed but not required by God. The Catholic church could change its mind on clerical celibacy (and does permit married priests in Eastern Rite churches) or what days are fast days (or who are required to fast). In contrast Islam considers Ramadan to be a divine decree though travelers, the ill, and young children are not required to fast (travelers and the ill are expected to make up the days they didn’t fast later).

  • http://aurorawalkingvacation.blogspot.com Paul

    I know a lot of Catholics. I don’t think I know even a single one who observes the fasting rules. I got married in a Catholic church. When we went to meet the priest for the first time, my wife was quuite concerned. She had heard all kinds of horror stories about priests making non-catholic fiancés jump through hoops, make all kinds of promises, sign away all rights to their future children’s religious upbringing, etc. His first words were, “don’t worry, I’m not going to ask Paul to convert. I have enough non-practising Catholics in this parrish already.” There was a guy who knew what was really going on in his church.

  • flatlander100

    You wrote: Even worse was the reaction from the wedding crowd. They didn’t even flinch when told about the dispensation.

    Aw, come on, FA. It was a wedding, a celebration by the bride and grooms and their family and friends. Hardly the place or time to respond to the presiding priest’s announcement with derisive guffaws. It’s a stretch to presume that polite silence or a good-natured “yay!” or two signified belief in, or even acceptance of the teachings and presumptions behind either the ban or its lifting.

    Wrong time, wrong place, wrong circumstance to, as a guest, start laughing at the man who just presided at the wedding they were all sitting down to eat to celebrate.

  • Robin

    I went to a big chamber dinner in a southwest suburb two years ago where there was an option for fish or steak. They actually had a priest give special dispensation so the guests could partake in the steak. There were quite a few rumblings in the crowd because you had to choose your meal beforehand. There was more than one “If I had only known . . ” heard that evening.

  • Ben

    True story!

    I ran this story past my wife (a “dedicated” Catholic). I wanted to make sure, in all fairness to her, that the author’s citation of the Poops mandate that “all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on … all the Fridays of Lent” was accurate, from her expert perspective. Her first response was “no – that’s not true.” But I explained to her that this was “for the record” – I was defending her spiritual honor – “so please respond only to the extent that you’re certain of its accuracy.” Her response changed, abruptly and inexplicably, to “I dunno! That was way back in 1966!” Confused, I responded “But, honey, don’t you want to be certain? After all, we’re talking about your soul and eternal salvation, here!
    To which she replied:
    “Will you shut the fuck up? I’m trying to watch this [vampire] movie!

    When it comes to patience, that Job mutherfuker ain’t got nuthin’ on me!

  • Richard Wade

    So, if priests can push the “pause” button on sins for others, can they do it for themselves?
    Like say when that cute choirboy is being so darned seductive?

  • The Unbrainwashed

    I, as an unbeliever, have more respect for the concept of almighty and all knowing god than they do.

    I think we’ve all encountered this idea. I talk to some moderate religious people who genuinely believe in God, but don’t see too much importance in weekly services or adhering to holiday rules. Don’t they know how powerful God is? If he’s all he’s cracked up to be, then you better sure as shit do what he says. It’s funny that most of the people that understand this are atheists.

  • Freak

    Odd. I thought that Catholics weren’t supposed to get married during Lent.

  • Emily

    Actually, there is a town in the Philippines (I forgot the name) where the people are allowed to eat meat on Lent (approved by the Vatican) because every time the Lent season comes, the fishermen of that town can only get VERY few fishes from the sea. Just sharing. =)

  • Mark

    Hement wrote:

    So let’s recap:

    Meat on Fridays during Lent is bad. Very bad. Forbidden, even.
    If a Priest gives you permission and works his voodoo magic, though, it’s totally fine. I know I’m asking this to the wrong crowd, but how does that make any sense?

    It makes perfect sense because, as I said in a previous thread, religion today is all about building up political power for so-called church leaders and not about worshiping god. When Jesus went to a party he washed everyone’s feet. He did not stand up at the front of the room and dictate to them what they could and could not eat. Christianity has become so perverted that I think they really should call it something else. So-called Christians today clearly don’t follow the teachings of Christ.

  • http://thegreenbelt.blogspot.com The Ridger

    Yeah, I think the wedding on a Friday in Lent is a lot weirder than being allowed to eat meat at the wedding supper. Not that it’s prohibited, but still.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    I’m having trouble understanding the types of reactions that many of you are having toward this. The Lenten abstinence from meat on Fridays is not an inherent moral issue. Rather obedience to the church’s authority and the need for penance is the issue.

    Let’s say that your mother said you couldn’t have cookies within an hour before dinner. If you snuck a cookie, your mother would have good reason to be disappointed in you, but if she decided to let you have one on your birthday, you wouldn’t be up in arms over the mother’s willingness to break her sacred moral code of no cookies before dinner. She didn’t say, “You can disobey me,” but rather “I’m telling you a different rule.”

    I’m sure someone will accuse me of being “traitor” and “helping the other side,” but there’s nothing wrong with being logical in your criticism. All this talk about allowing sin is absurd and does nothing but show believers (and unbelievers) that you don’t have a good idea of the morality at issue.

    Stronger criticism is found in other posts, pointing out that it’s not at all sacrifice to eat seafood instead of chicken, beef or pork. Going to Red Lobster is not hardship. It’s delicious. Also, you could lament their willingness to change their rules not as a contradiction, but out of laziness and inconvenience.

  • http://thesciencepundit.blogspot.com/ The Science Pundit

    Don Pope wrote:

    This used to be a requirement for all Fridays, not just during lent. However, in Puerto Rico, in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, Fridays were usually the only days people could get meat (and there was no refrigeration), so the Pope gave the whole island a dispensation from that requirement.

    This is quite true. It’s also true that these restrictions were required during all of Lent (Hence Mardi Gras which means “Fat Tuesday” and Carnival which means “Farewell meat.” These holiday names only make sense for a full 40 days of not eating meat.)

    In other words, the original tradition is that Catholics don’t eat meat during Lent or on Fridays. That it has been reduced to just the Fridays during Lent is a strong indicator of just how watered down that religion has become.

  • http://cheerfulatheist.ca/ cheerfulatheist

    Out of curiosity, why isn’t fish considered to be “meat”? I mean, it’s still the flesh of a living creature that you are killing to consume. I’ve also always been confused by vegetarians who don’t eat meat (except for fish) for moral reasons. What, you just don’t eat the cute fluffy ones?? What kind of moral code is that? I don’t get it.

  • Mark

    Secular Planet wrote:

    …obedience to the church’s authority and the need for penance is the issue.

    Let’s say that your mother said you couldn’t have cookies within an hour before dinner. If you snuck a cookie, your mother would have good reason to be disappointed in you…

    Hey, Sec, great example. The Christian community is clearly more interested in appointing themselves as your parents (Godparents?)with the accompanying perk of being able to tell you what to do on a whim but amazingly those same Christians have seemingly little interest in obeying Jesus themselves. Christianity has been perverted into a fraud, a scam and a clever political game.

    Christianity as practiced today is an obscenity.

    Thanks again for the great example!

    • John Cook

      Hear, Hear (Loud applause)

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Vic

    I work with a Catholic woman and have asked her about this practice a few times (since I’ve seen her eating meat on Lenten Fridays). Her priest told her … they should try not to eat meat on Fridays … but, if it’s offered to you it’s rude to not eat it. So, apparently her church doesn’t really take it seriously at all.

  • teammarty

    Flatlander- It’s the perfect opportunity to have a good loud and public guffaw at the expense of mythology. It makes up for having to suffer the indignaty of having them pray over your food and expect you to sit silently throught their bullshit.

    • Not-a-catholic-now

      When i opened my mind and stopped accepting the BS of religion, I would eat during their before eating prayers. I could usually explain that I was not a believer and did not like to be forced into their religion or have some jerk be mad at me because I am not just like everyone else. You would not appreciate me forcing my religion on you, would you?

      One time however the guy at the head of the table said amen and seeing that I was five spoons into my potatoes, threw his plate at me. Caught me in the forehead breaking the plate and splattering potatoes and gravy on everyone. There are many devout Christians who would do that, fortunately I met only one.

      I was not disrespecting his religion by having my own take on things. I am NOT obligated to go along with his belief in the supernatural,so, returning the favor I jumped across the table, too0k him to the floor, and plastered him most acceptably several times. Then I got up and loudly said I was a Satan worshiper. What difference is it anyway, it’s all a myth people are brainwashed into believing as children. He was crying about me not respecting his religion, so when I said I worshiped Satan, he blew up again. Then I challenged his statements and anger by saying “You are demeaning MY religion, but you forbid me simply to ignore yours?

      That didn’t get him, but my foot on his neck did. It did get to his family who did not share his fundamental values and his fundamental anger and hate, His family all agreed that was what he had done. Obviously I am not timid and I do not tolerate unnecessary anger by jerks. Blow up in my face and hit me and I recall what I had to do to get through a very tough east-side high school and an equally tough military, Then I climb your tree with aggression.

      I don’t worship any of the religious fairy tales. I am not afraid to think, and yes, I was a good Catholic for many years, but I learned too much and read the bible too many times. That horrid book is not the word of any God, just ignorant people trying for local fame.

      There is absolutely no proof of any God. None! However there are many things to the contrary that clearly show religion–all religions–as mythical things developed when the world was a fearful place for frightened and ignorant desert natives.Now we have knowledge and science to assist our thinking.

      For the frightened religious people:

      Apparently the world still is frightening for the ignorant masses. Read your bibles, learn about your religion and get over your fears so you may think on your own and you will see reality. There is no god and there never has been. Simply use a bit of logic and you will see. There have been 58,000 authenticated different religions. Currently the count is over 3,000. Just what the hell makes you think you won the religion lottery? You did not, You were simply born in America so you think the Christian religion must be perfect because you were told to and because you are too frightened to think on your own as a child.

      Do not challenge me on religion–I am a former priest, and like many of us who study the Bible and learn, I am now an atheist. At least I had the courage to admit it and quit–long ago.. I know of at least 20 priests who know that religion is a myth but the job is good with loads of respect, young girls (or boys) It’s easy work and there is plenty of graft in it.

      Open your eyes a bit, drop your fear of saying what you have found and what you see, and you will also realize that your beliefs, your money are all going to the Catholic Church, the wealthiest corporation in the world, and one who refuses to recognize condoms because that would so affect the majority populations of the ignorant and the stupid and the number of childbirths would drop as well as the income of the church. Churches are control organizations.

      Very few intelligent people actually believe in the God myth because they looked into things and easily saw the reason to consider it mythical–just as I did.

  • Freak

    @cheerfulatheist:

    Allegedly, there was a pope who had significant fishing interests, who changed the rules.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    @Freak

    I heard Peter had some fishing interests…

  • Jen

    Wouldn’t it be less reasonable to force people at a wedding celebration to abstain from meat?

    Oh, come on, eating pasta for one meal is hardly going to kill you. I am a vegetarian, and if I ever get married (which… eh) I would pick something for my wedding dinner that I could eat.

    Cheerfulatheist- I have no idea why some “vegetarians” eat fish and pretend its not meet. Please, people, go eat whatever you want, but don’t eat fish and call yourself vegetarians. I am tired of explaining to people that I don’t care what Sally does and then calls herself, but I do not eat fish.

  • http://www.meetup.com/beltwayatheists Shelley Mountjoy

    You should have asked him for a “special dispensation” to turn your Chicken into bread.

    What? It doesn’t work in reverse?

  • Eliza

    Can the priest recite “Special Dispensation” 3 times, turn around, click his heels, then perform a wedding for a same-sex couple?

  • laterose

    I’ve also always been confused by vegetarians who don’t eat meat (except for fish) for moral reasons. What, you just don’t eat the cute fluffy ones??

    Yeah, basically. It’s easier to see that what you’re eating is another living creature when you have contact with the food before it’s dead sliced and cooked. A lot of people don’t have the same sort of contact with fish that they do with cows, or other cuter fluffier animals. Also it can be kind of a transitional phase that people get stuck in. Fish was the last meat I gave up. I could see making it that far and not wanting to make that last step.

    Does anyone know what’s with the age restrictions? That seems strangest of all to me. I can kinda understand that kids should be allowed to eat meat for the protein, but why people over 59? What’s so special about 59?

  • Erp

    I think the justification for the lower age limit is that young kids wouldn’t be aware of why they were giving it up and it isn’t a useful discipline unless you know why. The older age limit might be anyone 60 and above got classified as ‘ill’ automatically and so exempt though they could observe if they chose (otherwise those 60+ and ill would have to ask a priest for an individual exemption and that might overwhelm the poor fellas).

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Here’s what puzzles me about this.

    How hard is to either,

    a) not schedule your wedding on a Friday during Lent,

    or b) serve something other than meat at your wedding? I’ve been to vegetarian weddings. It didn’t kill me. It was perfectly lovely. And if you can serve a fish dish as well, then what is the big frakkin’ deal?

    I understand believing in God. More or less. The part I don’t understand is believing in God, believing that your religion is the one that understand God most accurately, and yet not taking the rules of your religion seriously. Especially when the rules really aren’t that hard to observe.

  • http://labeltheworld.blogspot.com Dreadful_Rauw

    As a recovering Catholic, I still will occasionally give things up for Lent. A little self discipline can be good for you sometimes, arbitrary or not. As for the special dispensation thing, one thing the Catholic church has going for it over protestant churches (on paper at least) is the human hierarchy over strict biblical interpretation. Now sure, this leads to a different kind of abuse, blah, blah, we could go all day, but it also allows for a human agent of the church to allow exceptions to arbitrary church law for the greater good (whether this particular instance was worthy of such a dispensation is another matter).

    Really though, if a man says that his Lenten sacrifice is going to be to run a mile everyday, and then he comes down with pneumonia, the priest might give him a special dispensation so he won’t feel like he’s sinning or breaking his promise to God by not still trying. At it’s most idealistic, a special dispensation is a tool of the church to keep religious faith from becoming counterproductive.

  • naath

    Mega weirdness there anyway. Catholics are not supposed to marry during Lent…

  • anonymouse

    Must..eat…flesh of another…living creature..can’t go…several hours! May die….!

  • Kell Brigan

    1) Why are you asking an Atheist for information about Catholics? Kind of like asking a plumber for advice on how to lay sod. Anyway…

    2) Meat on Fridays is not “very bad”. It’s a devotional discipline, a way of showing respect and love for God. All sorts of people get dispensations, i.e. people in institutional environments where they have no control over the menus, or who have severe food allergies. And, it’s not unheard of for couples to get dispensations, both for the eating of meat, but also for the holding of a wedding ceremony, during Lent. It’s usually not the best time to be doing “festive” things, but there are always other concerns. For instance, if this wedding were being held during Lent because someone in the wedding party was being deployed to Iraq soon, a dispensation would certainly be given.

    Not observing Catholic Abstainance is not like “breaking a law”; it’s more like not being able to attend a friend’s birthday, or having to postpone going out to dinner on an anniversary, or not being able to help a friend move because you have to work that day. Catholics and God, and Catholics and the Church, are in a familial relationship, not a legalistic, draconian one.

  • mick

    The closest thing I can think of is when the president gives all DC federal workers a holiday (exemption) because its snowing.

    Its not supposed to generally happen, but there are exceptions to SOME rules… Other rules, of course, the president would never make exceptions.

  • Jon

    My understanding is that if you are somewhere where the food is provided that it is ok to eat meat. Like if I have a luncheon at work it is better to eat the meat that is on your sandwhich than pick it off and waste it becasue wasting food would be a bigger sin. That’s what I was taught anyway. I still feel guilty about it but I would feel even worse for just wasting it.

  • Mike

    From another site that answered similar question:

    Can Catholics eat chicken on Fridays during Lent?
    In: Catholicism [Edit categories] [Edit]

    [Edit]
    Most people say no but some say Yes

    Lent is based on Christ’s 40-day fast in the desert, representing the 40 years that the Hebrews wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt and before entering Israel.

    The Catholic Church’s abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from LAND animals such as chicken, cattle and pigs-all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat; on these grounds chicken is prohibited.
    Fish are a different category of animal- sea animals and therefore are permitted to be eaten during lent.
    yes. read this answer from http://www.catholic.com:

    Q: Can you offer any biblical justification for the Catholic Church’s former teaching that it’s sinful to eat meat on Fridays?

    A: Yes, but, if you recognize the fact that Christ’s Church is divinely authorized to teach, sanctify, and govern, there should be no need to “prove” it with biblical examples. If you don’t recognize that, consider the following biblical facts.

    Jesus guaranteed that when his Church teaches it teaches with his authority and that anyone rejecting his Church’s teachings rejects him (Luke 10:16). This authority extends to Church discipline as well as doctrine. When the Church imposes a discipline, its members are bound to obey it, unless they are dispensed for a proportionate reason.

    This exercise of authority is seen in Acts 15, where the Church, in its first major council, bound all Christians to the discipline of abstaining from meat that had been sacrificed to idols or that had come from strangled animals (19-29). When the Church promulgated its teaching about abstaining from meat (Acts 15:28-29), no Christian was free to disregard the discipline without committing sin. But since Paul explained that meat in itself is not unclean and the eating of meat is not inherently sinful (Rom. 14:1-23, 1 Cor. 8:1-13, 10:23-32), a Christian who violated the apostolic teaching in Acts 15 sinned not because the eating of meat was wrong but because he disobeyed a commandment of the Church. When the Catholic Church imposes a discipline such as not eating meat on Fridays, the same principle holds.

    Consider this parallel example. A mother tells her son not to eat the cookies she just baked because it’s close to dinner time and eating the cookies will spoil his appetite. The son ignores his mother’s wishes and, when she’s not looking, sneaks a few cookies. His sin is not the eating of cookies (a morally-neutral act in itself), but of disobedience.

    Finally, we should mention why Friday abstinence was imposed. The Church recognizes that, since meat is a chief part of most meals served in most places, and since meat is usually the most valued or expensive part of a meal, abstinence from meat on Fridays is a good way for Christians to unite themselves more closely to the sufferings of their Lord (Rom. 8:16-17, 1 Pet. 2:21) by denying themselves something they enjoy. Abstinence from meat is a sacrifice which unites them in penance and strengthens the solidarity of the Church through mild suffering. It’s also a good form of mortification, which disciplines the soul and strengthens its resistance to concupiscence. Paul practiced and recommended mortification: “I drive my body and train it, for fear that after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).

  • Mary

    Has anyone addressed the fact that this wedding took place DURING LENT? Catholics do not solemnize weddings during Lent. I don’t think this story is even real.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Has anyone addressed the fact that this wedding took place DURING LENT? Catholics do not solemnize weddings during Lent. I don’t think this story is even real.

    These Catholics did :) As as the post indicates, I was there and the story is real.

  • nesy

    hemant and tho those who commented negavtively,

    are you educated?are you civilized?Guess not! Cause if you are you will respect the beliefs of your fellow. Why do you comment on something you dont understand? Hemmant, shame on you to say priest perform their magic voodoo!!Do you know what your saying? Do you know what voodoo means? I pity you so much for having a limited mind. Do you fear GOD? uh!YOU dont!because of your words and lost of respect!

  • Nicoline Smits

    If you think Catholics are good about bending the law on a whim, you should take a look a judaism! Orthodox jewish men are supposed to go to synagogue 3 times a day, but their employer might object to them leaving for an hour or so in the middle of the day, so they have two evening “services” or whatever they call them and those are *planned* to coincide, so you get your three times in by going only twice. Someone explain to me why they don’t just make the rule that you have to go twice, if that’s really all it takes!

  • Maryjo

    I’m confused as to why atheists or others need to make fun of religions. I almost feel that there must be some deep internal void that one needs to ridicule religion in hopes of reassuring oneself of their belief. Perhaps rather than ridicule one should examine himself. Often times we are not honest with ourselves because we are afraid of what we might find. I see too many people who make negative comments based on preconceived ideas, a lack of thorough understanding or an unwillingness to educate themselves. It is so and often too easy to just make fun. If a person finds great peace through their religion and is therefore a better person, how can you make fun? Time would be much better spent elsewhere. Just some thoughts from a cradle Catholic who is always learning and thirsting for more…take care.

  • Peter N

    Maryjo,

    This is going to get snarky, but you came on to a very popular atheist blog to preach at us, and that can happen…

    I’m confused as to why atheists or others need to make fun of religions.

    We don’t need to, we just enjoy it. Ridiculous beliefs have a way of ending up as the objects of ridicule. You’re a Catholic — we laugh at the cracker stuff. We laugh at Scientologists with their interstellar airplanes and aliens in volcanoes. We laugh at Monty Python. We have a sense of humor.

    I almost feel that there must be some deep internal void that one needs to ridicule religion in hopes of reassuring oneself of their belief.

    We have a deep internal void? We have to reassure ourselves of our belief? You’re the one who clings to supernatural beliefs without evidence.

    Seriously, consider this: many atheists, most of us perhaps, were born into religious families and considered ourselves religious. Eventually, the unanswered questions piled up too deeply, the lies and corruption of the religious leaders became impossible to ignore, and most of all, we realized that the folklore of bronze-age desert dwellers, as interpreted by a hundred generations of mullahs and priests, bears no resemblance to reality. One by one we abandoned the faith of our childhoods. So we’ve been where you are, we’ve just moved on. Take care yourself.

  • Current Catholic

    Someone asked about the age restrictions . . . My understanding is that you don’t HAVE to fast/abstain until the age of 14 because at that age you have a better understanding of the sacrifice and why you’re making it. The reason for the 59 age limit is because once you get older, there may be medical reasons why you shouldn’t fast. These are guidelines, though. Rules without the spirit of love and sacrifice are useless. The Catholic Church seeks to guide the people.

    If someone goes to Red Lobster every Friday in Lent, have they observed the word of the law, yes. Have they observed the spirit of the law, of course not!!That is on their conscience. It is between them and God. We are not living in the Spanish Inquisition.

    My understanding as to why we give up meat is because in the days of the apostles, fish was the staple of their diet and meat was special. We keep the tradition in their memory. We should be giving up meat, as well as things that are special as a tribute to our God.

    You have had a very interesting discussion. It makes me go back and take a look at things. However, that is good. I like to read Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis for the same reason.

    I don’t view atheism as “moving on” from religion. That would make it a more progressive or logical next step. For those who have chosen atheism because religious people have been corrupted, I’m sorry.

    Look at it like this . . . some computer tech people may have been rude, so now I don’t like computer tech people. Does that mean that all of them are rude? of course not. It means that some did not represent the way they should have.

    One of my teachers in elementary was mean. Does it mean that all teachers are evil and that the institution of schools should be abolished?

    No. It means that the teacher I had did not represent teachers well. People are imperfect. We strive to be better, but we make mistakes. Catholics are not Catholic because we think that all Catholics are perfect. Ideally, we are Catholics because we agree with the theology and we want to work together to strive to do Jesus’ Will.

    I hope this helps to bridge the gap in understanding.

  • Sue

    It’s a Precept of the Church to not each meat on Fridays during Lent because we are trying to focus on the upcoming celebration of Easter and remind ourselves of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It is a very minor little material sacrifice that we make (to not eat meat) yet it does effectively do what it was intended to do — remind us that what Jesus did was far greater.

    As for getting a dispensation from the Bishop — yes, those are granted for specific reasons. Normally the Bishop would probably discourage a wedding on a Friday in Lent and I’m certain no Catholic wedding would be held on Good Friday. Still, it’s not prohibited to get married on a Friday in Lent so at the Bishop’s discretion he could grant dispensation for the participants. Normally these dispensations encourage you to make some sort of other sacrifice or pious act to maintain the spirit.

    There is no “voodoo”. This is Sacred Tradition that recognizes our material bodies are immaterial in the end — it is our soul that matters. A wee sacrifice of not eating meat on Fridays during Lent is a little reminder. If you forget, you forget. Confess it the next time you go to confession (which again, according to the Precepts of the Church should be at least once a year) and try and remember to offer up the sacrifice the next Friday. Don’t blow it off but don’t panic if you forget. It’s not a mortal sin — you are not thrown out of a state of grace for having eaten meat on a Friday in Lent. Perspective matters.

    As for atheists being more mature for having moved on, I would suggest that perhaps you really haven’t spent much time learning about the faith or the Catholic Church. It is far more complex and well-grounded in logic than most believe. Yes, faith matters, yes mystery exists. But learned theologians are not simple minds caught up in a fantasy construct.

    You may not wish to take the time to learn our faith but please don’t profess to understand it and say you have moved on. Unless you are a retired theologian — then, let’s talk.


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