Obligation to abstain from something on Fridays

I have heard that there is an OBLIGATION to abstein from something (today it doesn’t have to be meat, it can be anything you enjoy) on Fridays. Is that true? It is quite possible that I have missunderstood something… If it is true, why don’t people talk more about it?

I live in Croatia, if that helps. I have heard that it may varry depending on Bishops conferences…

During Lent you’re obligated to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday & on Fridays. Some people give up something they enjoy everyday of Lent…You can have it on Sundays. This is not mandatory.

There is an obligation to do some penance on EVERY Friday, not just during lent. In some areas, the bishops have “'eased” the obligation by providing that acts of charity or penance are permitted. In others, the obligation to astain from meat remains in place. I don’t know the requirements in Croatia.

**The Code of Canon Law **

The Code of Canon Law indicates that Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat on all Fridays during the year, not just during Lent:
Canon 1250 – All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church.

Canon 1251 – Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Canon 1253 – It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.
(emphasis added)

In Florida & I think N.Y. it’s only during Lent.

No, I’m pretty sure its not. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has the say so, not individual bishops. They can’t individually abrogate canon law. The canon give authority to the “conference”, nolt to individual bishops.

  1. Gratefully remembering this, Catholic peoples from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church.

  2. Changing circumstances, including economic, dietary, and social elements, have made some of our people feel that the renunciation of the eating of meat is not always and for everyone the most effective means of practicing penance. Meat was once an exceptional form of food; now it is commonplace.

  3. Accordingly, since the spirit of penance primarily suggests that we discipline ourselves in that which we enjoy most, to many in our day abstinence from meat no longer implies penance, while renunciation of other things would be more penitential.

  4. For these and related reasons, the Catholic bishops of the United States, far from downgrading the traditional penitential observance of Friday, and motivated precisely by the desire to give the spirit of penance greater vitality, especially on Fridays, the day that Jesus died,urge our Catholic people henceforth to be guided by the following norms.

  5. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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. Our expectation is based on the following considerations:[LIST=1]
    *]We shall thus freely and out of love for Christ Crucified show our solidarity with the generations of believers to whom this practice frequently became,especially in times of persecution and of great poverty,no mean evidence of fidelity to Christ and His Church.
    *]We shall thus also remind ourselves that as Christians, although immersed in the world and sharing its life, we must preserve a saving and necessary difference from the spirit of the world. Our deliberate,personal abstinence from meat, more especially because no longer required by law, will be an outward sign of inward spiritual values that we cherish.
    [/LIST]25. Every Catholic Christian understands that the fast and abstinence regulations admit of change, unlike the commandments and precepts of that unchanging divine moral law which the Church must today and always defend as immutable. This said, we emphasize that our people are henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence,except as noted above for Lent. We stress this so that "no"scrupulosity will enter into examinations of conscience,confessions, or personal decisions on this point.

  8. Perhaps we should warn those who decide to keep the Friday abstinence for reasons of personal piety and special love that they must not pass judgment on those who elect to substitute other penitential observances. Friday, please God,will acquire among us other forms of penitential witness which may become as much a part of the devout way of life in the future as Friday abstinence from meat. In this connection we have foremost in mind the modern need for self-discipline in the use of stimulants and for a renewed emphasis on the virtue of temperance, especially in the use of alcoholic beverages.

  9. It would bring great glory to God and good to souls if Fridays found our people doing volunteer work in hospitals, visiting the sick, serving the needs of the aged and the lonely, instructing the young in the Faith, participating as Christians in community affairs, and meeting our obligations to our families, our friends,our neighbors, and our community, including our parishes, with a special zeal born of the desire to add the merit of penance to the other virtues exercised in good works born of living faith.

  10. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God’s people.N.B. The effective date of these regulations is the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 1966.
    Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence excerpted from Pastoral Letters of the United States Catholic Bishops © 1983 United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


I just looked at my Catholic calendar & there’s a fish only on Ash Wed. & Fri. in Lent! -Florida.

As there should only be, because as the canon provides, the USCCB has eased the obligation in the United States so that it is not “required” to abstain as long as you do some other form of penance or work of charity. Friday remain a universal day of penance and All Catholics are bound by canons 1250 -1251 as implemented by their local Bishops’ conference.

I would suggest the code of canon law and the precepts of the USCCB (both of which I have cited above) are more reliable sources than your “Catholic calender”.

I have no idea about what the Croatia Bishops have decided. But Friday is universally a day of penance. You should ask your parish or Bishop.

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