I am 64-years-old, born and raised Catholic, educated in Catholic schools (elementary through college) and yesterday I heard someone say something I had never heard before. This woman is a convert to Catholicism and she says she was told that abstinence from meat meant that you could not eat anything that was a byproduct from any animal such as eggs, cheese, milk, etc. Is she right?
[quote=ajrugg]Is she right?
Partially. At one time Lenten abstinence from meat was much stricter than it is today. Catholics did indeed once fast from meat byproducts as well as from meat. That is why there arose in some areas the tradition of Fat Tuesday, the day that preceded the opening of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Catholics would clean out their pantries of meat byproducts by using them in special meals on that Tuesday before Lent. Even today in England, there is a tradition of pancake races on Fat Tuesday in honor of the one-time making of pancakes on this day to use up milk, eggs, and butter.
Such Lenten abstinence from meat byproducts is no longer required for Roman Catholics, although it is still required in Eastern churches that are in union with Rome. From the 1983 Code of Canon Law:
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 (canon 1251).
From Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution on Penance (Paenitemini), which he issued in his capacity as patriarch of the West (cf. Chapter III, section VII, no. 1b):
The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk, or condiments made of animal fat (Chapter III, section III, no. 1).