So the question is, are the faithful of the United States that are Roman Catholic still obligated to abstain from meat or some other food on all Fridays (minus Feasts)?
Well, I called the USCCB like I said I would and got an answer…
This answer comes from a lay Canon Lawyer who is on staff at the USCCB in the Doctrine office. I received this answer via a phone call I had with her, so I’m paraphrasing here.
When reading Book IV, Part III, Title II, Chapter II of the Canon Law, we must read each of the Canons, 1249 - 1253, like the rest of Canon Law, as working together. So, while Canons 1252 and 1253 are not indented under Canon 1251, we could act and read it as it were.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
Can. 1253 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.
Canon 1253 is the one that we must especially read in conjunction with Canon 1251.
The simple answer, is the faithful of the United States are NOT obligated to abstain from ANY food on Fridays. The faithful ARE obligated to observe Friday as a day of penance and to take part in an act of penance on Fridays. This comes from the reading of the USCCB’s “Statement on Penance and Abstinance.”