An exemption from mostly meatless Friday during lent, some Catholics throughout the country will be able to eat a traditional Saint Patrick’s Day meal of corned beef today — Friday, 17 March.
Some Catholic dioceses have issued a special dispensation to ignore meatless Friday for the shamrock and green festivities, which usually along with the celebration of St. Patrick, a fifth century missionary and bishop in Ireland.
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Catholic dioceses in Wisconsin, Georgia, Minnesota, Illinois, New York and many other regions of the country have made of this dispensation. More than 80 of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States granted a St. Patrick’s Day exemption, according to a report in the Catholic News Agency.
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Christians usually reserve the 40 days prior to Easter — the season of Lent — a time of prayer, fasting, and reflection on the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
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“Fasting is an important time of prayer, penance and charity,” Bishop Daniel Conlon announced in Illinois. “If a number of fellow-Catholics in the Diocese of Joliet the feeling that the eating of meat on St. Patrick’s Day-which this year falls on a Friday — is important enough to break with the rule of abstinence, they are allowed to make a conscious decision to do this,” he said.
The Rockford Diocese in Illinois also issued a dispensation, CBS Chicago reported.
New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond said that his parishioners, may the eating of meat, but that “they can continue and on any other day of the week for abstinence or be able to choose from a act of penance, that is a greater sacrifice.”
In Minnesota, five of the six bishops announced for this exemption, The Minneapolis StarTribune reported.
“It’s like a get-out-of-jail free card, but you pay once,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Twin Cities area. Parishioners who choose to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day to pay a fine or do a good goal to set for a swap.
“For centuries, Catholics were forbidden to eat meat every Friday of the year, an act of penance on the day of the week that meant the death of Jesus,” the StarTribune noted.
This changed in 1966, when the mandate was modified to be carried out only during Lent.
“Generally, dispensations, just as other types of administrative acts are territorial in the Church. They determine the obligations of the people in an area,” J. D. Flynn, a canon lawyer and special assistant to Bishop James Conley in Lincoln, Nebraska, told the Catholic News Agency. “In this case, a traveler in a place where a law is issued is not obliged to comply with the law.”
Other places with dispensations are the archdioceses of Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Washington, D. C., In some areas, for example, in Salt Lake City — individual Catholics must ask a priest for dispensation to eat meat.
Not everyone is on board with the exemption.
“I think that catering to America’s [the need of] instant gratification,” Elizabeth Rosenwinkel told the StarTribune during a dinner at a Catholic fish fry last Friday in the Twin Cities.
Others think that the exemption is large. Bryan Marshall, who is in the same fish fry, told the local newspaper, “You get tired of eating fish for six weeks in a row.”