Canon law 1249-1253

Hello all,

So I am having a big problem, as you all well know, according the USCCB we are not obliged to abstain from meat on Fridays anymore. But one thing I am struggling with it this validity of it, since the canon law doesn’t seem to approve of it, here is what it says,

“The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.”

To my understanding it translates to this in my scrupulous mind, “The Bishops can add but not remove things concerning fasting and abstinence” Precise=exact=detail=add…thus they cannot take away rules concerning Friday Abstinence, they can only add onto what is already there, thus the bishops new rule is invalid.

Why can’t Italians just be clear.

Please help me and end my suffering.

May I suggest that you read the USCCB’s 1966 Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence, particularly #18-28, promulgated after Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution on Penance and Abstinence Paenitemini, which says in Chapter III:
*[LEFT]VI. 1. In accordance with the conciliar decree Christus Dominus regarding the pastoral office of bishops, number 38,4, it is the task of episcopal conferences to:[/LEFT]
[LEFT]A. Transfer for just cause the days of penitence, always taking into account the Lenten season;[/LEFT]
[LEFT]B. Substitute abstinence and fast wholly or in part with other forms of penitence and especially works of charity and the exercises of piety.[/LEFT]
*
After the publication of the 1983 code, the USCCB published the complimentary norms, in particular
Complementary Norm: Norms II and IV of Paenitemini (February 17, 1966) are almost identical to the canons cited. The November 18, 1966 norms of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on penitential observance for the Liturgical Year continue in force since they are law and are not contrary to the Code (canon 6).

Would it help you if I told you that the Canadian bishops (CCCB) issued rules that were approved by Rome and that don’t even call for abstaining from meat on Fridays of Lent?

Except where the Bishop/Archbishop (Archbishop Prendergast of the Archdiocese of Ottawa comes to mind) have mandated Lenten Friday abstinence from meat, the only days that Canadians are obliged to abstain are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, all approved by Rome shortly after the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

The key part is bolded above. The bishops can replace abstinence from meat with some other form of penance, such as works of charity or piety.

Why can’t Italians just be clear

.Hopefully you meant this tongue in cheek, but the Catechism was not developed solely by Italian cardinals.

This is not going to help the OP, but neither the CCCB nor the USCCB replaced abstinence with something else. They simply lifted the obligation for abstinence except for specific days (Ash Wednesday & Good Friday for Canada, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Fridays of Lent for the US) and left it up to us to decide what to do as our personal observance of that law.

Since it is lent, this is confusing. Are you referring to Fridays in ordinary time or in Lent. I hope you are not talking about Lenten Fridays because, in the US, there is no abrogating the fast and abstinence during Lent except in individual cases of health issues and the like.

So you are saying that in the US, you have to fast on Fridays in Lent, as well as abstain from meat? Are you sure?

Outside of Lent? Correct. Fridays of Lent? Still have to abstain from meat.

But one thing I am struggling with it this validity of it, since the canon law doesn’t seem to approve of it, here is what it says,

“The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.”

To my understanding it translates to this in my scrupulous mind, “The Bishops can add but not remove things concerning fasting and abstinence”

Nope – there’s nothing there that says “cannot remove things”. Rather, it’s that they have the right to determine – in a more precise way – how to observe fast and abstinance, including partial or total substitutions for the general law.

So, in the U.S., the USCCB has determined that, outside of Lent, one may substitute another act of penance for the more normative abstinence from meat, but during Lent, there is no substitution.

Totally valid.

Your issue seems to be that you’ve taken what they wrote and interpreted it in a way that veers from what the canons say. :shrug:

I don’t know about the Canadian Conference, but in the U.S., they certainly did replace the mandatory abstinence with some form of penance to be determined by the individual. The Friday penance is still obligatory, although that penance can take many forms other than the traditional abstinence from meat.

The canon says that the conference of bishops can substitute other forms of penance on Fridays. That’s exactly what they did.

Your interpretation “the bishops can add but not remove” doesn’t match with the word “substitute.”

What’s happening is that you’re mixing the words “abstinence” and “penance.” The penance is always required. It is the form of the penance that is allowed to change–hence the word “substitute.”

Perhaps these two articles from the original abrogation document will help you.
25. Every Catholic Christian understands that the fast and abstinence regulations admit of change, unlike the commandments and precepts of that unchanging divine moral law which the Church must today and always defend as immutable. This said, we emphasize that our people are henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence,except as noted above for Lent. We stress this so that “no” scrupulosity will enter into examinations of conscience, confessions, or personal decisions on this point.

  1. Perhaps we should warn those who decide to keep the Friday abstinence for reasons of personal piety and special love that they must not pass judgment on those who elect to substitute other penitential observances. Friday, please God, will acquire among us other forms of penitential witness which may become as much a part of the devout way of life in the future as Friday abstinence from meat. In this connection we have foremost in mind the modern need for self-discipline in the use of stimulants and for a renewed emphasis on the virtue of temperance, especially in the use of alcoholic beverages.

So eat meat on Friday or don’t! It’s that simple…although CL is important, anyone who spends more time pondering the CL than Christ is missing the whole point of faith!

Do you do this same kind of nitpicking with civil law?

If the law says that a judge can impose either prison time substitute some other penalty, do you protest when someone has a fine to pay or does community service rather than spending time in prison? Sometimes people might be released based on the time they’ve already served and have no further obligation to the court.

The judge has the option of substituting a different penalty. In this case, the national conference of bishops can substitute a different penance.

Rule #1 - The Church is not as monolithic as it sometimes seems. (Consider holy days of obligation for another example.)

Rule #2 - Leave interpreting law to the lawyers (both canon and civil). Just because the code of canon law is available online, people don’t become instant experts on its interpretation.

One must read the entire document, and also understand that while the specific obligation of abstaining from meat as the sole means of observing the Friday penance was lifted, the obligation of Friday penance itself remains.

  1. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified.
  2. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat.We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law. Our expectation is based on the following considerations:…

Note “we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin…”

What they did not say was “we hereby terminate the Friday penance.”

One must take note of the difference between the use of the words “penance” and “abstinence.”

I hope you don’t think I was arguing with you. I simply wanted to point the OP to the items which addressed scrupulosity.

Good point: avoiding scrupulosity.

It’s also important for us to understand that in the context of the time. The bishops wanted to make it clear that people did not need to consult their pastors or their confessors in order to substitute a different penance. Since the idea of “no meat on Fridays” was so strong a part of the Catholic consciousness (and conscience) they rightly anticipated that this would cause much confusion among the faithful. Here we are nearly 50 years later and it’s still an “issue.” They wanted to alleviate any doubt that a Catholic could decide for himself to make the substitution. I can only imagine all the Friday phone calls to Catholic rectories at the time!

No, I did not think you were arguing (that’s why I did not quote you directly, although it was there at first).

The problem is that a misunderstanding that they abrogated the Friday penance altogether keeps popping up on the forums. One of those tidbits of misinformation that just won’t die a natural death.

The only thing I can really say about this is: if you’re scrupulous, and especially an American scrupulous, then don’t go around trying to interpret canon law.

Heck, that’s sound advice even for the non-scrupulous. I could bet you a week’s pay that if you go around interpreting canon law on a scrupulous conscience, your interpretation is wrong.

Canon Law is just that: law. It’s best left to the experts.

As as for ending your suffering, I’m pretty sure this has been told to you before, which, like other scrupulous, probably have a hard time following. Stick to a trusted confessor, and don’t ask for advice online. This is the worst possible place for the scrupulous. Your suffering isn’t ending because you don’t obey.

“The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.”

I just don’t understand how this contrasts with this, do they have the authority to do this?

"22. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified.

  1. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ"

It seems like penance is no longer necessary in my opinion since they are freely making it a period of self denial, are we obliged to do this, I feel like we are not.

Ilovejesus1234,

As others have noted, interpreting canon law is a complex matter; best left to those who specialise in it.

But, on this particular issue, you have something of a point. Jimmy Akin, an apologists I like very much, has written about this matter.

Now, be careful, this can do your head in. I for one am still a little unsure if I fully agree with Jimmy, but his case is well made.

jimmyakin.org/2004/07/since_tomorrow_.html

jimmyakin.com/2004/07/more_on_friday_.html

However, even if one might say that Friday penance is not strictly an obligation, as Jimmy does, it is certainly at least highly recommended. I can’t imagine a faithful Catholic being able to justify to themselves that they shouldn’t be doing some form of Friday penance.

PS those who disagree and think Friday penance remains in force as an obligation, don’t take it up with me; I’m merely posting what Jimmy had to say.

Well this just made more doubts float on up:

Thus we conclude that the American bishops have exercised their competence, later acknowledged by canon 1253 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, to determine more particularly the manner of abstinence by restricting it to a few days a year (Ash Wednesday, the Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday–the last being part of Triduum rather than Lent) and by recommending the continued practice of abstinence on other Fridays. Rome confirmed this document, and thus it is the law for Latin Catholics in the United States.

and the other link the one labeled more on friday penance just makes me more confused, why can’t God just come down from heaven and sort all this out without making me want to bang my head against a wall.

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