Meat on Fridays.

What are the rules for eating meat on Fridays that are not during Lent? My understanding is that you can eat meat, but you have to do some other form of Penance instead. Is this correct?

Not eating meat on Fridays never stopped. What was given to the faithful was the option of giving up meat or giving up something else. The idea is that we should deny ourselves something on Fridays in keeping with the spirit of the rule.


Right. The Universal Norm of the Church is abstinence on ALL Fridays. in the U.S in I believe 1965 the bishops received an indult to permit abstinence only on Lenten Fridays with either abstinence on non-Lenten Fridays or ‘some other form of penance’ STRONGLY ENCOURAGED.

This was because back then more people were becoming vegetarians, AND because many people were claiming that they wanted to do MORE and that abstinence wasn’t ‘enough’. It was a crazy time where it was all peace and love and flowers and back to the earth and great ‘spirituality’, and everybody was affected, directly or indirectly. . .so the bishops, bless their hearts, wanted to give people an opportunity to do more.

What happened was that there was such a loss of visible Catholic identity (which had not been sanctioned by Vatican 2) that instead of people doing MORE penance, they wound up doing LESS and totally misunderstanding the whole teaching behind Friday abstinence. Among other things.

Myself, I think that if a bishop ‘strongly encourages’ penance, and if other Catholics who don’t have an indult are abstaining year round, that is the LEAST that I could, and should do–but it’s a hard sell considering how abysmal has been the catechesis in much of the U.S. in the last 40 years. . .

It depends where you live. The Code of Canon Law states:

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.

However, a few paragraphs later, it says:

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.

In the United States, the USCCB (the conference of bishops for the U.S.) released a document on this back in 1966 that still holds:

Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence

In that document, they maintain the practice of Friday abstinence during Lent:

  1. In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul’s Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice.

But they widen the parameters for the other Fridays of the year:

  1. 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 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.

That whole final section of the document (paragraphs 18-28) does a good job of explaining the rationale and what other types of penance they have in mind.

Some other locales have done the same as the U.S., but I don’t think all have. If you live somewhere other than the United States, you would just need to check with your local bishops’ conference.

Poor Catechesis did not start recently. The late 1960s and 1970s are called the Golden Age of dissent in the Church when all that was normal was sabotaged in a planned, coordinated attack against ALL authority, including inside the Church. Pope Francis is really leading us out of the wilderness and things are turning around.


Your right, it is the least I could do… abstaining from meat really isn’t a penance for some people… now if it was something like no snacking that would be a different story. :wink:

If you are in the US, then the above is correct, as has been confirmed by the posters in this thread. :thumbsup:

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