Rules regarding Fridays for Catholics

Do Catholics have to eat less food and some type of penance every friday? (United States Catholics).

Friday is traditionally a day of penance. The USCCB has left it up to the faithful to determine their own penance. Fasting is a good idea, but not required. :slight_smile:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Is it a sin if you don’t do some form of penance on a Friday?

I am hesitant to advise on this matter, because I don’t want to lead you astray.

I do want to say, though that we all become so focused on following the rules that we lose site of the meaning of the rules. If you love someone, you should want to show your love for the mere fact of the love, not because you have to. We should look to perform penance for the love of God first. :slight_smile:

Anyway, I am not an expert, and do not have a reliable answer for this, maybe someone else does. I found one source who claims it is at least a venial sin:

And another who says no:

Father HArdon says: " In plain language, a Catholic commits sin if he or she allows a Friday to pass without an act of penance. In Pope Paul’s Constitution on the subject entitled Poenitemini (which is the imperative of the verb “Repent”), after the Holy Father enumerates the days of penance, he states, “The substantial observance of these days binds gravely.”" So it is a mortal sin to eat meat on Fridays and fail to do penance on several Fridays?

How I read it is:

“It is a grave sin to not do any penance on multiple Fridays for no good reason.”

If this is the case, it still would not be a sin to eat meat on Friday, as long as some other penance is substituted, according to the USCCB (I am assuming that you are in the USA). Abstinence from meat is the preferred method, though, if you have nothing else.

However, there is no language from the USCCB that clarifies the penalty for no penitential acts.

There’s a lot of back and forth about the matter of sin with regard to Friday penance. While I think the Church, especially the USCCB has really dropped the ball in teaching on the subject the reality is that the obligation is so broad as to be practically non-existent.

But the reason I don’t think it’s a sin is that it inconsistent to be so when viewed along with other, more clear, instruction.

– A typical examination of conscience covers the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Church as a starting point

– One of the precepts of the Church is to follow the Church’s instruction regarding fasting and abstinence

– One of the instructions on abstinence is to refrain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays in Lent


– Every year when the dioceses ( I have seen this in multiple dioceses) publish the guidelines for Lent, the part about Friday abstinence and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday has a disclaimer “not under penalty of sin”

So, if ignoring the rule of fasting on a Friday** in Lent** is not a sin, how can not doing a penance on another, “regular”, Friday be a sin?

That being said, several Popes have emphasized the practice of Friday penance, especially Friday abstinence so it would, in my opinion, be unwise to ignore it entirely.

I think Jimmy Akin’s explanation makes sense.

I have been observing meatless Fridays for years. It’s sorta silly, though, because I look forward, if you will, to my Friday lunch of Subway tuna on flatbread. It defeats the purpose if I enjoy it, doesn’t it?

Please quote the portion of the USCCB document that you think imposes an obligation for penitential acts on Friday.

As I said, we get so caught up in the rules that we miss the point of it all.

I guess it’s possible to enjoy penance because you enjoy doing penance. Does that make sense?

Like, I look forward to praying the rosary for the Pope’s intention, or I look forward to my time serving at the soup kitchen, because I enjoy doing those things, but that doesn’t make the time spent doing those things any less penitential.

The way you describe it sounds different. In my opinion, and I say this without judging you, and with all the love in the world, that yes, if you chose your penance because it is something enjoyable to you, maybe you can do a little more :slight_smile:

Sorry, maybe I didn’t make it clear. I don’t think there is an OBLIGATION by the USCCB, it’s just strongly suggested. There is the link to a website where the author of that site poses evidence that it is an obligation, though. I don’t think I can comment on wether this is just his opinion, or in fact the full teaching of the church.

“One aspect of the practice of penance has to do with the proper observance of Fridays. I am afraid there is some misunderstanding on the subject. In 1966 when Pope Paul VI issued his Constitution on Penance, he did not change the essential meaning of Friday as an obligatory, yes, obligatory day of penance to be observed in union with the passion of the Savior. Fridays were, and they remain, mandatory days of penance. A Catholic has no option as to whether he will do penance on every Friday. This is a duty specified by the Church. The only option is the kind of penance one performs.”

Why do you focus on what we HAVE to do and rather learn about and employ the reasoning behind Friday penance. That is what we do as a Family. We do not eat meat and we focus on the sacrifice of Christ. Fasting and abstinence and penance is a form of prayer that is sadly missing in many lives. It should make a comeback.

Ugh… Meatless fridays is the hardest day in our household. Finding foods that all of us enjoy is downright near impossible. Some Fridays some members of our family suffer more than others though.:smiley: Upcoming Friday dinner: Ciopinno My favorite!

We follow the USCCB, which has exercised their authority, given by the Vatican, to urge us to observe Friday penance, not obligate us… The quoted portion misses that point.

As to the penalty, which the original question was, there is no penalty because there is no obligation.

About the tuna from Subway and enjoyment versus penance, the Church says that me eating that tuna sandwich, which I enjoy, is penitential and meets their law for abstinence during lent. Who am I to question that?:rolleyes:

You know yourself, and If it works for you, that’s awesome! Praise God.

I know me, and I know that I need to do something that feels like work for it to be penitential. :slight_smile:

Well, I agree. I was commenting on the legalism of the whole thing. I don’t think that eating fish or rice or pasta is particularly penitential in this modern time, unless you hate them. It’s a discipline, to be sure, and unites us with our brothers and sisters of the past, but not particularly penitential.

[quote=“Codex Iuris Canonici”]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. 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.


Canon Law TRUMPS the USCCB. Divine Law TRUMPS everything else. Therefore there is no need for the USCCB to remind us that we are required on pain of sin to do penance on Fridays and Lent.

The USCCB has loosed the requirement for meat abstinence outside of Lent. That’s all they had the competence to do. They have no authority to loose the requirement for penance, since it is Divine Law.

That is an interesting argument.

This was a really interesting thread - thanks! :slight_smile:

I wasn’t sure if the no-meat-Fridays thing was still a thing for Catholics… We got one pamphlet thing that said it was, but in class it was covered more as an optional-not-a-big-deal thing, so this has been a good read. :thumbsup:

More specifically, Divine Law requires us to do penance but does not specify the times. Canon Law specifies those times. The USCCB has authority to change or substitute how we observe the penitential times, but none has been delegated for it to change or substitute those times. So Friday remains, as set down in Canon Law.

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