If I do not do penance on Fridays...?

Hello everyone.

I have what I hope will be an straightforward question. Fridays are supposed to be a day of penance, throughout the whole year, although in Lent the form of penance is abstinence from meat, correct? And throughout the rest of the year, we may substitute another form of penance in place of abstaining from meat, correct?

So, my question is, what if I do not do any penance on Friday? Is it a sin? Is it a mortal sin to purposefully skip penance on Friday? What about if the reason for skipping is more of an oversight, even a perpetual oversight for a convert not used to observing the rules of the Church yet?


It’s definitely a serious matter to deliberately skip Friday penance. But, as a fellow convert, I had a hard time keeping the Friday penance at first, too because I simply wasn’t used to doing it. So, don’t fret, but try to remember by marking it on your calendar–be it a physical one or an online reminder or other such prompter. And think ahead of time what you want to sacrifice for the day, so you have it in mind beforehand. And when you confess this, I’m sure Father will understand your situation. After a while doing your penance will become second nature to you, so hang in there and keeping trying. :smiley:

what kind of Friday Penance do you all do?

Yes, purposefully skipping Friday penance is a grave sin and is a mortal sin of all 3 conditions are met. This is according to one of my confessors.

Thank you everyone!

I have spent hours pouring through old threads and reading Canon law passages and USCCB statements.

Here is what I have gathered (please correct me if I am wrong!):

Friday penance is obligatory.
Friday remains a penitential day for the whole Church.
Friday abstinence from meat remains first place in penitential practices.
Local bishops conferences are able and obligated to make laws pertaining to implementing forms of Friday penance.
The USCCB has allowed the faithful to substitute another form of penance on Fridays outside of Lent.
Fridays of Lent, the form of penance MUST be abstinence from meat, binding under grave sin.
All of Lent is ALSO a penitential season, so a form of penance MUST be performed in addition to the Friday abstinence from meat on Lenten Fridays.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of fasting, in addition to abstinence.
Neglecting to perform any penance, when it is understood that one is obligated to do so on all penitential days and seasons, would be a sin.
Forgetting to do a penance or not knowing penance is binding by divine law would not be a sin.

Yes? :o

But…it only says a “sin” in regard to the penitential Fridays outside of Lent.

In what manner would obligatory apply to Fridays outside of Lent when it is clear that Fridays during Lent – “the form of penance MUST be abstinence from meat, binding under grave sin.”?

Is doing penance without love really penance?

Yes, that’s right.

Della has given you some good advice. Think about what you want to do as a regular penance ahead of time and mark Fridays on your calendar somehow.

Abstaining from meat year-round is what I do. It is “easy” to do and yet still comes to mind at least twice a day, so I think about what I am doing and why. A penance like not eating sweets on Fridays or drinking nothing but water would be similar.

Or you can move away from food entirely and do something like take on someone else’s chores, say additional specific prayers (a rosary, go to Adoration), take a cold shower, etc.

Nowadays, Friday’s are often “blowout” days - the start of the weekend - a day when you don’t follow normal evening routines. That makes doing a penance harder, but not impossible.

As with any habit, the more consistent you are with going back to it, the sooner it will be ingrained and a normal part of tyour week.

I agree. Doing penance with love helps us to draw closer to Jesus in His Passion. For myself, though, I must first have understanding. Once I can wrap my brain around a concept, then and only then can I undertake to live it out.:slight_smile:

After years if ignorance we once again abstain from meat every Friday. No big deal, and its good for you .

Some churches do Lenten Friday fishfries to get everyone in the habit.

We had one chicken place here, in Mexico, that did something neat. During every Friday in Lent, it simply closed down!

Putting it on the calendar is also a good reminder.

We used to do the lenten abstinence from meat during Lent, and I later learned that, at least for a time, my parents extended it to be year 'round, going above and beyond the requirement, more like how it used to be.

It is clear from canon law that penance on Fridays outside Lent is required.

Can. 1249** All Christ’s faithful are obliged by divine law,** each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe.

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.

Related question: Is failing to do penance on Friday a mortal sin or a venial one?

:shrug:…a crying shame. Think it is a venial sin.

Mortal, but the usual conditions apply as to culpability. :slight_smile: One must know it is mortal, one must commit the sin deliberately, and of one’s own free will.

From the information I read yesterday, in the sources I listed above, it appears that to purposefully intend to not do any Friday penance whatsoever, that constitutes grave matter, and so could be mortal. However, forgetting to do a Friday penance is not even a sin at all, as one cannot sin by accident. Failing to perform a Friday penance due to other reasons, such as circumstances or events getting in the way, and so we are aware of our failure, is also not a sin. For example, you might plan to say the Rosary as your Friday penance, and then your car breaks down and you spend all evening addressing that problem, that is an unintentional failure, so no sin.
But we must intend to do penance at appointed times, and we are bound by divine law, so it would appear that blatantly disregarding our obligation to do penance, once we understand that we are obliged to do so, and making an act of the will to not do penance, that would be a mortal sin.
However, I must say that since it has taken me YEARS to dig down into the meat of this aspect of the Catholic life that it is woefully unclear. One would think, considering how much the Church stresses the necessity of penance in the Christian life in Her catechisms, pastoral statements, and Canon law, that the bishops would not leave us hanging here without a clear word from them that is not so ambiguous. After having done so much research, I must say that my conscience is now bound, but until a person prayerfully reads all of the Church’s teachings in their entirety, and compare how they relate to each other, that person may come to a conclusion that we are not obligated, especially since so few pastors or bishops ever address in ways that reach the ears of the faithful in the pews.
But here on CAF, there are dozens of threads to wade through that point to the documents to go read for forming a clearer picture, so if anyone has doubt, you can do what many of us have done, and search old threads for a starting place for your own research. Happy hunting! God bless!

I’m not so sure about that anymore. Jimmy Akin argues the obligation of penance is not under pain of mortal sin during non Lenten Fridays:
(His words are in blue, the US bishops words are italicized)

3. 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 as 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

The big legal change comes in norm #3, where the bishops state that “we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence as binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday.” So the obligation to abstain from meat is terminated. The question becomes: What obligation, if any, have the bishops put in its place?

To find out what other obligation there may be, one must look at the surrounding text of the norms. When one does this, one discovers several things.

The first, per norm #3, is that the bishops “especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday . . . we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat.” This is an exhortation and as such does not establish a legal obligation. So abstinence continued to be a recommended practice for the observance of Friday, but not a legally binding one.

The next thing, per norm #1, is that Friday continues to be a day of penance. The norm clarifies the sense in which this is to be understood by explaining that it is “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.” This qualification strongly suggests that, though Friday is a day of penance, it is not one on which all of the faithful are legally bound or bound under pain of sin to do penance. Instead, “those who seek perfection” will do penance on the day. If the bishops intended all to be bound to do penance on Friday, they would not have used such restrictive language.

This interpretation is confirmed by norm #2, which states that “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.” Again, the language of exhortation is used (“we urge”) rather than the language of mandate. Thus no obligation is created. If the bishops intended to create an obligation then they would have used other language, such as “all are required to prepare for that weekly Easter.”

The norms–the part of the document that would create a legal obligation if there was one–thus fails to do so. As a result, there is no obligation in the United States to practice penance on Friday, but Friday remains a day of penance which the bishops have urged all to do penance and, in particular, recommended the continued practice of abstience.

Reading the remainder of the document confirms the interpretation outlined above. As a compromise document and a controversial one, the stress that is placed on the recommendation to continue to do penance and to abstain is great, and with an inattentive reading the strength of the recommendation might lead one to think that there is an obligation to do penance on Friday. But a careful reading of the text shows that the language being used in the text never strays from the language of exhortation to the language of legal mandate.

There also is a dog that didn’t bark in this text.

The bishops were so concerned to avoid the impression that they were gutting the practice of penance that if they were creating an alternative obligation then they could not have failed to underscore this point. It would have been the most crushing rejoinder to their potential critics if they had said something like, “Though we have terminated the obligation to abstain, the faithful are nevertheless bound to perform a penance of their choice on Fridays and thus the Catholic practice of Friday penance remains in place even though the form the penance takes is now left to the determination of the individual.” The fact that the bishops nowhere say this or anything like it strongly indicates that it was not the bishops’ intent to create an alternative obligation. Calling attention to the alternative obligation by frankly stating it would have utterly invalidated the criticism the bishops were most concerned to avoid.

But the fact that the bishops nowhere state an alternative obligation indicates that one does not exist. Legal obligations do not exist that are not legislated.

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.

Jimmy Akin is entitled to his analysis, but I’m not going to risk committing mortal sin on his say-so. :wink:

There is plenty of detail describing Lenten Fridays. So far on this thread, I have not seen the exact words grave sin or mortal sin directly and clearly linked to Fridays outside of Lent.

My apology, if I have missed those explicit written words grave and mortal. Would someone please direct me to the appropriate post.

I do appreciate the reminder that I need to do penance and I can understand the reasoning for choosing a non-Lenten Friday.

If the question goes to “Ask an Apologist”, please request the appropriate citations. For example: the documents from the United States Bishops. Media reports do not count.

Maybe submit the question to “Ask an Apologist”.

My husband abstains from meat on Fridays, so normally dinner is meatless. I honestly don’t know if I occasionally have meat on Friday, if I say, “This action will be my penance, instead” :blush:

I never heard it was a mortal sin outside of Lent…:blush:

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