Fasting/no meat on ordinary Fridays

My wife ( a cradle Catholic) and I (a convert) are in disagreement about what the Church says about fasting/no meat on Fridays outside of the Lenten season.

My said she remembers her parish priest saying it is now okay to eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent.

I heard priests on EWTN say the Church never changed its position about no meat and fasting. You are still supposed to do so, but you can do an act of charity instead.

What’s the real story (with appropriate documentation/references please)?

Hi Larry1700 during lent you only have to fast on Good Friday and Ash Wendnesday and no meat on Fridays. The rest of the year you either have to abstain from meat or preform a corpral work of mercy on Fridays. Tony

From the 1984 Code of Canon Law:

Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

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 Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

Yes, as long as you perform a work of mercy, you can eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent. I choose to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year because it’s good discipline for me to remember that it is a day of sacrifice.

We are not obligated to perform penance on Fridays outside of Lent, but we are encouraged to do so.

What proof do you have of that, considering the quotes from canon law above?

If you eat meat on a Friday outside of Lent, yes you are obligated to perform some penance.

Code of Canon Law (CIC) provides a brief but to-the-point explanation of why abstinence, a form of penance, is practiced: “The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence” (CIC 1249).

Thanks BobP123, that’s what I was looking for!

Just to make sure I have everything correct:

  1. **Abstinence **is abstaining from meat (or something else as established by the Episcopal Conference).

  2. **Fasting **is eating 2 small meals and one larger meal. The small meals are half of what you would normally eat for that meal, the larger one should be no more than the 2 small meals combined.

  3. The Code of Canon Law applies to the entire Church (i.e., it cannot be modified my the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops).

  4. There has been no change in The Code of Canon Law since 1984.

If any of the above are incorrect, please let me know.

We do this as well.


Thanks Nick. Based on this article, it looks like my wife is correct. (Darn! I hate when that happens!:stuck_out_tongue: )

Only goes to show that even if the Vatican agrees with something (like penance, amongst a whole slate of issues) from the past, there will be at least one entity who will see a big enough difference to start his own spirit of the law.

Penance means penance. No ands, ifs, or buts. Otherwise take the matter up with the Eternal Judge, not your favorite search engine.


As you can see from my original question and previous posts, I was hoping you were correct. However, the Jimmy Akin article has the US Conference of Catholic Bishops decision on the matter, which is allowed by Canon Law.

What “one entity” are you referring to? Jimmy Akin or the USCCB? And what basis do you have to dispute the Jimmy Akin article?

(Please remember, I’m hoping you’re right, so these questions aren’t meant in any derisive manner.)


Thanks for the post.

I think paramedicgirl’s post (#7?) best provides the spirit of the divine law of penance. The other canons try to specify exactly how to best execute it, though some will no doubt try to “weasel and maneuver” (as Fr Sarducci the comedian used to say:) ) around them.

By the way, I hear eating fish is very good for the heart. Omega-3 oils, keep the LDL cholestrol down, etc. Christ knew what was good for us. :slight_smile:

The old system was that no meat was a compulsory Friday discipline. The new system is that Catholics can choose their Friday disciplines. The vision was that this would be an act of corporeal mercy, i.e. charity. The truth is that this is quite hard to arrange if it is an act in kind, whilst if it is a gift of money modern banking systems don’t tie it to a particular day - you set up your direct debit to CAFOD or whatever.

In our parish we have evening Mass and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Fridays, and our parish priest has said that attendance can be considered as fulfilling the Friday discipline. Obviously that only applies to my particular parish.

Anyone who says you can’t eat meat on a Friday is a stupid idiot. You could just as easily say don’t eat carrots on Mondays.

Where does it say in the bible that you can’t eat meat on a Friday? Nowhere!

On Good Friday this year before going to the Solemn Ceremonies I treated my self to a delicious 4oz hamburger with brown sauce and salad at the Oak Grill in Castlewellan.

I know in heart that my saviour Christ didn’t mind.

Fasting on Good Fridays is only a discipline. You could with some logic feast on this day, since it is the day Jesus gave His body and blood for us.
However fastings is the tradition of the Church, and if you are a member you are obliged to observe it.

It may be only a discipline but even the Vatican II hijackers couldn’t eliminate it, though I’m sure they tried desperately. I think it’s safe to say that some penance will be required for all Catholics on Good Friday for a long time to come.

Your profile doesn’t list a religion, but I’m assuming you’re not Catholic. If you aren’t, then the rules of the Church don’t apply to you. If you are, then you should educate yourself about the faith.

Sorry, guys, but many of you get it wrong. We are obliged to abstain from meat on all Fridays by default and there’s no explaining away the canon law. The canon law is binding, despite a popular notion to consider pastoral decisions to be somehow above it. National conferences of bishops, however, are entitled by canon law to issue more concrete and specific regulations regarding fasting and abstinence and the American Conference of Bishops has chosen to remove the requirement of abstinence from meats on Fridays outside of Lent. Elsewhere in the Catholic Church, the abstinence on Friday is binding unless the requirement has been removed in a similar fashion. Therefore, if you don’t live in the US or personally belong to an American diocese, you are not free from the requirement of abstinence from meat on Fridays unless your own appropriate authority (in most cases the conference of bishops) has also so decreed.

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