Friday Abstinence question

Roman Catholics are required, not only during Lent but also on each and every Friday to abstain from meat. Canon 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.

The only difference being that on Fridays outside of Lent, one can consume meat if they perform some type of penance or charity that day.

My question is this. Does a small contribution to Catholic Relief Services or other similar charity suffice for this and then eating meat on Fridays not a sin? Thanks…

Sure - there’s no specification on what type of penitential act you have to do to fulfil your Friday obligation. So as long as you do something you’re good to go.

Thanks Lily. My concern that a monetary contribution to charity may not have been suficient (when I forgot in the past and simply wrote a check) is when I read this today.

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.

It states that “works of charity”. But I suppose giving to charity constitutes works, and it doesn’t have to be physical works. I was hoping I wasn’t just trying to buy my way out of sin by writing a check. Hope you can understand where I was coming from. Thanks again.

I thought the no meat on Fridays was done away with many years ago. When did it become okay to have meat on Fridays only with penance or charitable acts? This is all new to me.

Friday’s are pentential days, and have been for a long time. This did not change when the abstinance from meat requirement was removed.

Edit: See article here:

It was never done away with, but you are correct, most “American” Catholics think it was. It took a public service message on EWTN for me to realize this.

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.


Okay, thanks for explaining. Guess I’m okay since I’m old (older than 60).

I did not know about the need for doing another type of penance if not abstaining on Fridays, either. Luckily, my family was always “old-school”, so we always did abstain on Fridays. I kept up the practice and still do.

Today was a feast day, the Feast of all Souls. Wonder how that affected abstinence Friday? Can you have a feast day on a day you are observing abstinence? I don’t think today was a Solemnity observance.

Just a thought and was wondering.

I read the Jimmy Akin article which you linked. This is his conclusion: “As a result, there appears to be no legal obligation in the United States to practice penance on Friday, but Friday remains a day on which the bishops have urged all to do penance and, in particular, recommended the continued practice of abstinence.”

It would seem that the U.S. Bishops removed the canonical obligation to practice abstinence from meat on ordinary Fridays, while continuing to urge its practice, or to do some other penitential practice personally selected. But failure to follow this exhortation carries no canonical penalty.

If one consumes meat on Friday and not have a single sense of penitence on that day, they have committed a grave sin. One can quote Jimmy Aiken all they want, but not even the Pope can save undeserving from that mortal sin.

Last time I checked, Jimmy Aiken wasn’t the Pope.

Yes. It’s a bad system, because in what sense is the act of charity really performed on Friday? For me it would just come out of that month’s money. However as Church law stands, your practise is acceptable.

He’s not the Pope. But his analysis of the U.S. Bishops legislation on this matter seems to be on track. The bishops lifted the obligation to abstain on Fridays. They did not impose a different penitential practice as a matter of obligation. But they did exhort us to follow either the traditional practice or a substitute. The only difference is that it is not a matter of mortal sin.


I was reading yesterday that the US Bishops are considering going back to the old Abstinence observance.

Also, my comment about Jimmy Aiken was wrong, as he is more of an authority than I will ever be. I must have been in a horrible mood when I wrote that. :o I contacted the forum administrators to delete that/my post. And BTW, I like Jimmy Aiken!

Do you have a link to this information?

Sure, but when I returned to it, I did notice this was ten years old. But then again, everyone should realize our Church does work at a snail’s pace.

Below is a copy/paste from There is more than what I copied so it would be worth while going there and reading the entire article.


Catholic bishops to study return to meatless Fridays

Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – Roman Catholic bishops Monday voted to study bringing back “meatless Fridays” to express the church’s opposition to legal abortion and other “attacks against human life and human dignity.”

“Our people are waiting for a way in which they can publicly affirm their faith” and “show their opposition to the culture of death,” said Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit.

In asking for the study as they opened their annual fall meeting here, the bishops specifically mentioned the widespread acceptance of abortion, growing support for euthanasia, the continuance of war and rising drug abuse.

The church leaders asked that committee reports on the proposal be ready for final action at their June 1998 meeting.

In Mobile, the Rev. Christopher Viscardi, theology professor at Spring Hill College, said, “I think attacks on human dignity are all over the nation … Attacks are so rampant that we’ve gotten used to them. Anything that will help raise consciousness would be a good idea.”

The Rev. Joseph Jennings, who served at Saint Pius X and Our Savior Catholic churches before retiring and who is filling in at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Semmes, lauded the suggestion of prayer and sacrifice that such a move would indicate.

“There’s a need for prayer and a need for sacrifice. We have not had emphasis on it in recent times,” he said. “I like meat like anybody else, but the fact that we give it up or make a sacrifice – that has a value.” Abstaining from eating meat was a standard church practice intended to remind the faithful of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion until Pope Paul VI allowed the bishops to establish their own dietary guidelines following the liberalizing Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965.

Prior to that, the church insisted on meatless Fridays as an act of penance in preparation for confession and receiving communion. Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston said whether the bishops would again insist on the practice or only institute it on a voluntary basis was yet to be determined.

Some church leaders said avoiding red meat would be insufficient.

“A day without meat is hardly a day of penitence when one can always substitute a good lobster meal,” said Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, archbishop of Philadelphia.

Bevilacqua and others urged that the study be expanded to include the possibility of asking Catholics to fast every Friday. Other bishops said, however, that would be too difficult for most Catholics and would undercut the effort.

About 280 bishops are in Washington for the four day meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and its social policy arm, the U.S. Catholic Conference.

Speaking to the gathering earlier Monday, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, president of the NCCB, called for a greater “spirit of reconciliation” among Catholics.

“The first imperative for reconciliation surrounds the way in which some public discussion of issues takes place within the church,” Pilla said. “Across the spectrum of church opinion there are some very angry voices who apparently feel justified in using a rhetoric of violence toward whoever disagrees with them.”

Outside the Capitol Hill hotel where the meeting is being held, several dozen Catholics demonstrated in support of and against the bishops’ Oct. 1 pastoral letter urging parents of homosexuals not to personally reject their children even as activities stemming from their sexual preference are condemned by church doctrine. At times, the two sides angrily confronted each other.

In other action Monday, the bishops voted to continue indefinitely their annual collection to help rebuild the church in the former Soviet Union and other ex-communist European nations.

The bishops also voted to hold their fourth “Encuentro,” a national gathering designed to enhance the church’s outreach to Hispanic Catholics, in the year 2000.

In a post that was deleted there was mention of the USCCB possibly reintroducing the old practice. I asked for a link. Does the poster who mentioned it have one?

Yea, I posted it but it was also deleted. I asked to have one of my posts deleted, but the administrators seemed to take it and everything after. No problem.

I posted that the NCCB was/has hosted studies about returning to meatless Fridays. Anyways, one of the links I found is at

Hope it helps.

Thanks for re-posting the link. I read the article, and it was over 10 years old. It does not appear that anything further will come of this at the present time, especially since the leader of the USCCB has changed. Bishop Pilla is retired now. He was the former Bishop of my diocese.

I grew up eating fish every Friday in my Catholic home. It has come to pass that I prefer fish to meat, and not only is it no penance for me, but a treat to eat Fish on Friday!

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