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.