Eating meat on Fridays.

I usually abstain from meat on Fridays which is pretty easy for me as I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway but I found kmyself on a Friday during lent eating a burger in a small theme park. There wasn’t much food choice really and it is very difficult finding rules on this.

I live in England and I can only find rules for America.

Could I really have committed a mortal sin?


I can’t imagine even in a small theme park a burger was the only thing on sale. Deliberately eating meat on a Friday in Lent knowing that is a sin of grave matter would mean a mortal sin is committed.

Nelka, your Diocese will have a list of what options are available for penance on Fridays in Lent.

That is where to ask this question.

Options differ from Diocese to Diocese, and different countries.

If eating a hamburger on a Lenten Friday is a grave an mortal sin, I guess murder rape and crimes against humanity in general must not be that bad. :shrug:

I do feel like I need a doctorate to understand what I have just read on the Bishops conference for England regarding Fridays.

It all seems ambiguous. What about vegetarians do they get off scot free?

Nelka, All Fridays are days of abstinence from meat in England. It’s a positive law, so there can certainly be exceptions. You should talk to your pastor about them.

In general, we aren’t bound when we are “physically or morally unable” to maintain abstinence from meat. For example, at someone’s house and they serve us meat. We aren’t bound when we are under a certain age (currently 14). We aren’t bound if we need meat/protein and can’t get it in other ways, or have special dietary requirements or illnesses. We aren’t bound on Solemnities.

In general, it’s pretty easy to abstain from meat, but in some situations it might be difficult.

In 1966 Pope Paul VI re-affirmed that failure to make “substantial observance” of the law of Friday abstinence is grave matter. (Paenitemini). The Sacred Congregation for the Council clarified what “substantial” meant: one sins gravely against the law, who, without an excusable cause, omits a notable part, quantitative or qualitative, of the penitential observance which is prescribed as a whole.

In your situation, you might have been able to make a different choice, or you might really have needed to eat that burger. None of us here can tell you. If you honestly didn’t even actually KNOW that abstinence from meat is binding in England/UK then it’s not a sin at all. We cannot sin when we do something out of ignorance.

Now you do know, so you can plan accordingly. It is an obligation to abstain every Friday in England/UK and it’s generally grave matter to disregard the law, but when one has an excusable cause it is not and frequency/quantity/intent can also mitigate and reduce it to venial.

It is grave matter. In the UK, every Friday is a day of abstinence from meat.

I’m not sure what kind of joke you are attempting, but it fails. Perhaps you can explain what you are really trying to say.

Nelka this is all I have been able to find for England.

From 2011

I would still be asking your Priest. Given you dont eat much meat, you might be considered to abstain from another food, one you do enjoy regularily.

And this use of the word ‘urged’ rather then required
The move back to a meat-free Friday will be urged from September 16, the year anniversary of a visit to Scotland and England by Pope Benedict. Vegetarian Catholics will be urged to give up another staple food.

Lost Sheep, eating meat may seem like such an arbitrary and meaningless gesture, but there is much more to it than that. Simply put, it is a mortal sin for the sheep to blatantly and purposely disregard the shepherd. Listen to your bishop and the guidelines they have put forth for us! It is in our best interest.

“Mortal sin” is that which kills your own soul. It includes all Ten Commandments; not just the two or three that are easy to follow.

Is it a “grave matter” ONLY in the UK? Or everywhere else?

It does not fail at all. The point is that declaring irrelevant actions to be a “grave matter” (and then changing them willy-nilly as the wind blows) waters down the concept of grave matter into irrelevance. Can a few bishops create or un-create grave matters at will? If some bishops would declare that abortion is not a grave matter any more, would that make abortions acceptable?

In other words, follow the “shepherd” blindly and unquestioningly. Check in your logic and reason into the cloakroom. And then you start to wonder why the “faithful” leave the pews in droves. Read it here:

It is grave matter to disobey the particular law in your location. In the UK the law is abstinence from meat every Friday. In the US, the law is different, but we are not free to disregard it.

This may be your view, since you are not Catholic and do not comprehend the full picture of sacrifice and penance vis-à-vis Church law on abstinence. These are not irrelevant actions at all. Nor are decisions made “willy-nilly” as the statement from the bishops in the UK makes clear.

Ecclesial law changes over time to meet the needs of the people in the time and place.

You have confused ecclesial law and moral law. An easy mistake to make.

Not at all. Your lack of exposure to and understanding of Church law doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it.

Not at all. Ignorance abounds.

Yes the onslaught of pagan culture and atheism is a difficult hill to climb. But we were there once, and the Church provided the light for those in darkness. It will do so again.

By accident you mean? No.

Reminds me of the old Jackie Mason joke. “In my religion it is as much a sin to eat leavened bread on the Sabbath as it is to commit adultry. I have a friend who’s done both. He said there’s no comparison”

I wonder how many bishops told people they commited mortal sins by eating meat also chose to hide clerics who are child abusers?

Ad hominem attacks have no place here.

Anyone in a Uk Parish actually asked a Priest there?

Or has anyone got the directives for different Diocese in UK?

Fridays, all year, throughout the year in UK, people are ‘urged’ to do penance by abstaining from meat.

But if one is not doing penance by abstaining from meat, there are other suggested penances.



It is law

Are two very different things.

Perhaps Nelke can ASK the PRIEST, esp since this person eats VERY LITTLE meat. Thats hardly penance, then, is it.

And get back to us.

I’m pointing out hypocrisy and the seemingly arbitrary way in which the bishops themselves handle it.

To put it another way, how serious can I take it when St, Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, and bishops give dispensations because people want to eat corned beef and cabbage? Such decisions put human customs and traditions ahead of what is supposedly a devotion to God.

Or when a large conference of bishops occurs on a Friday in Lent and they give themselves dispensation so they can have a big dinner?

Regardless of the provenance of the edict, it seems rather arbitrary. At the very least, they ought to downgrade it to venial.

Bishops in general or can you specify? I’m happy to call out a bishop where I know his acts to be grievously wrong. Including those bishops who did knowingly shield priests who abused children. Those offenders identified as such in my country are few in number, but mercifully already dead.

To put it another way, how serious can I take it when St, Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, and bishops give dispensations because people want to eat corned beef and cabbage? Such decisions put human customs and traditions ahead of what is supposedly a devotion to God.

A devotion which is itself formulated according to a custom and which can readily be replaced with another. Get some balance.

No you are not.

That is not the reason for the dispensation. St Patrick’s Day is a Solemnity in Ireland and in some places in the US where the Irish population celebrates their patron, the Bishops extend a dispensation to celebrate the Solemnity.

I don’t think you are understanding the difference between ecclesial law and moral law.

One can have a “big dinner” without meat. I have no idea what you are talking about at any rate.

Yes I am.

Well, I’ve never heard of it as a celebration of a solemnity. The people around my state always ask for the St. Patrick’s Day dispensation so they can do heir Irish Day thing. To them, it has little to do with solemnizing St. Patty and very much to do with “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” After all, the bishops would never take that away from us, would they? :wink:

I don’t think you are understanding the difference between ecclesial law and moral law. .

No question about it. I don’t. Unless a moral law is one handed down by God and an ecclesial law is determined by people.

Cardinal Dolan talked about doing it a few years ago when the USCCB met in NYC during Lent.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit