Eating meat on Fridays.
Question from on 06-25-2007:
I'm trying to find some information for my brother who thinks that the only reason that Catholics were told NOT TO EAT MEAT ON FRIDAYS, was to save the fishing industry on the east coast. He thinks abstaining from eating meat on Fridays originated here in the US. I don't believe that, but I couldn't defend myself because I didn't know. Please advise, God bless, Judy
Answer by Matthew Bunson on 07-08-2007:
No, there was no such action from the Church. That is merely one of the illogical accusations made against Catholics. One version says it was to save the fishing industries in Europe. In truth, such an idea would have been impractical for much of history given the limited diets of most people in Europe and the United States. Catholics abstain from eating meat during Lent and also on Fridays because those periods are considered penitential. The Code of Canon Law (can. 1250) describes the season of Lent (and Fridays) as penitential days and times in the universal Church. Such practices in Lent are intended to dispose the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. Canon 1251 also declares that abstinence from meat and other foods is to be observed on every Friday (save for Fridays that fall on days listed as a solemnity) according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops. Abstaining from the eating of meat on Fridays is considered a positive discipline – that is, it assists in uniting the believer through self-sacrifice to the sacrificial love of Christ and to assist in the perfection of charity and deepening prayer. The eating of fish – in those areas where seafood has traditionally been easily obtained – began as a satisfactory alternative to eating meat. As it provides a suitable replacement, fish (and seafood in general) became a virtual staple in many areas. There are different opinions as to whether active symbolism is involved, but in general the popularity of fish is merely as an appropriate form of abstinence.
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