Truth about Fish on Fridays


#1

A Protestant told me that he read a book called Secrets of Romanism (which right off sounds anti-catholic to me) and in it it said that the REAL reason Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays is because the fish industry was dying out in Italy and a Pope came to the rescue and declared it.

I asked to know which Pope made that decree (which he didn’t know and said he’d have to check the book) and I explained that the fast was from carnis which was a Latin word referring to land animals and so fish was allowed but I’ve never heard of this strange claim. ANYONE?

Brandon

ps - anyone know anything about Secrets of Romanism


#2

Brandon,

I don’t know about the book you mention. Catholics must not necessarily eat fish on Fridays. We must abstain from eating the flesh of meat on Fridays of Lent (obligatory), or all other Fridays if we don’t choose some other form of penance (depends on what the Conference of Bishops in that particular country have come to).

We can if we choose have a vegetarian meal. I would be very sceptical to the socalled “truths” in such a book. Especially since they use the term “Romanism” which is a derogatory name for the Catholic faith. It also is a term that want to distinguish between “Romans” and “real” Christians. There are some non-Catholics that doesn’t consider Catholic Christians to be Christians.


#3

[quote=HistoryTeacher]A Protestant told me that he read a book called Secrets of Romanism (which right off sounds anti-catholic to me) and in it it said that the REAL reason Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays is because the fish industry was dying out in Italy and a Pope came to the rescue and declared it.

I asked to know which Pope made that decree (which he didn’t know and said he’d have to check the book) and I explained that the fast was from carnis which was a Latin word referring to land animals and so fish was allowed but I’ve never heard of this strange claim. ANYONE?

Brandon

ps - anyone know anything about Secrets of Romanism
[/quote]

Let’s posit that he is right about the origins. (I do think it is, I think it is one of those urban legends) The next question is, SO WHAT? Abstinence is very much a Christian tradition and abstaining from meat is perfectly reasonably and completely within the Pope’s authority to institute as a discipline. Even if this discipline was an imprudent or calculated decision (btw, what exactly is so wrong about giving a languishing fishing industry a leg up? I don’t remember anything in my catechism saying that laissez-faire is binding.) it is still bound in heaven and earth. This is a non-starting issue.

Scott


#4

We know that Jewish dietary laws and traditions called for fasting and abstinence on several occasions.

We also know that from the earliest times of the church that members engaged in fasting and abstinence. Indeed, their diet was much more rigorous than ours today. Indeed, the diet of the majority of the people was much more rigorous and limited than ours today.

How many “common” people ate meat regularly? Few, very few. Meat in the majority of the countries where Catholicism/ Christianity spread was not readily available, and it spoiled easily (spices were of little help and were additionally very costly; refrigeration was a 20th century innovation, canned meat a 19th century one).

As people’s diets became better, as the standard of living became higher, as people became less nomadic, towns developed, fortified cities, and finally standing armies and legal, formal governments, fasting and abstinence as a near-daily part of life eased. Still, the underlying penitential aspect remained for Catholics/ Christians, and Jews, as it does today.

Fish was nearly always, in the Mediterrean regions and areas where Christianity spread first, available. Unlike game (which was rigorously protected in feudal societies, to the point of making poaching punishable by death), salt or freshwater fish and other marine specialties like clams, mussels, crabs, etc. were unregulated, cheap, and available. So it wasn’t “special” in the way meat and dairy products, and other luxuries, were. And as time went on, it was seen as common, “poor man’s food”. People craved luxuries and dainties and uncommon food, so eating fish was a sign of pennance, temperance, et. al.

Was there a problem with a fishing industry at some time? Maybe. But I have a cookbook with recipes from the 13th century–the beginning of the High Middle Ages–which lists fish as a penitential food and additionally milk, eggs, butter, etc. And it is known as a long-standing tradition–not something that’s a Johnny-come-lately or a “rescue of the fleets” tradition.

I can easily see a combination of a Pope wanting to both help out a deserving industry AND reinforce traditions, customs and PENITENTIAL PRACTICE among Catholics by stressing that fish was a “good choice” for one’s Lenten meals or other penitential days (again, we don’t realize just how little we do today compared with even 500 years ago). I can as easily see some anti-Catholic twisting and turning to put the worst possible interpretation (private interpretation, ha-ha) on it in another failed attempt to “do down” Catholics. God forgive those who act out of hate, fear, and anger.


#5

[quote=Scott Waddell]Let’s posit that he is right about the origins. (I do think it is, I think it is one of those urban legends) The next question is, SO WHAT? Abstinence is very much a Christian tradition and abstaining from meat is perfectly reasonably and completely within the Pope’s authority to institute as a discipline. Even if this discipline was an imprudent or calculated decision (btw, what exactly is so wrong about giving a languishing fishing industry a leg up? I don’t remember anything in my catechism saying that laissez-faire is binding.) it is still bound in heaven and earth. This is a non-starting issue.

Scott
[/quote]

Now that I look at it, I have a typo. I meant to say I don’t believe the fish industry theory. ooops. :smiley:

Scott


#6

[quote=HistoryTeacher]A Protestant told me that he read a book called Secrets of Romanism (which right off sounds anti-catholic to me) and in it it said that the REAL reason Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays is because the fish industry was dying out in Italy and a Pope came to the rescue and declared it.

I asked to know which Pope made that decree (which he didn’t know and said he’d have to check the book) and I explained that the fast was from carnis which was a Latin word referring to land animals and so fish was allowed but I’ve never heard of this strange claim. ANYONE?

Brandon

ps - anyone know anything about Secrets of Romanism
[/quote]

I’ve heard this crazy assertion before. I never knew where it came from. Any book which uses the word “Romanism” is definitely an anti-Catholic book.

There is plenty of documentation on abstinence from meat on Friday going bsck to the first century out of reverence for Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday.

I would start by having your friend document the details of this supposed decree and prove it. You can do the research online to disprove easily.


#7

[quote=1ke]I’ve heard this crazy assertion before. I never knew where it came from. Any book which uses the word “Romanism” is definitely an anti-Catholic book.

There is plenty of documentation on abstinence from meat on Friday going bsck to the first century out of reverence for Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday.

I would start by having your friend document the details of this supposed decree and prove it. You can do the research online to disprove easily.
[/quote]

I agree he should ask for the facts. But I would start with a very basic question: “If this was true, what do you think it proves about the Church?” His answer will expose his knowledge of Church teaching and you can work on that.

Scott


#8

[quote=HistoryTeacher]A Protestant told me that he read a book called Secrets of Romanism (which right off sounds anti-catholic to me) and in it it said that the REAL reason Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays is because the fish industry was dying out in Italy and a Pope came to the rescue and declared it.

I asked to know which Pope made that decree (which he didn’t know and said he’d have to check the book) and I explained that the fast was from carnis which was a Latin word referring to land animals and so fish was allowed but I’ve never heard of this strange claim. ANYONE?

Brandon

ps - anyone know anything about Secrets of Romanism
[/quote]

The only thing secret is WHO that pope was. Oh, I say he was also a secret protestant fishing Mogul (BIG FISHING, like BIG OIL) who infiltrated the papist secret elections also infiltrated by secret protestants, before anyone was ever exposed as a protestant.
And that’s a fact.
And that’s how protestants fell in love with fairy tale secrets…to this very day.
The END.
.ps.
Here’s a little background on the book from this very Site you are on.


#9

Here’s what the Catholic Encyclopedia has to say about the issue in its article on Abstinence.

(1) Friday

From the dawn of Christianity, Friday has been signalized as an abstinence day, in order to do homage to the memory of Christ suffering and dying on that day of the week. The “Teaching of the Apostles” (viii), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., VI, 75), and Tertullian (De jejun., xiv) make explicit mention of this practice. Pope Nicholas I (858-867) declares that abstinence from flesh meat is enjoined on Fridays. There is every reason to conjecture that Innocent III (1198-1216) had the existence of this law in mind when he said that this obligation is suppressed as often as Christmas Day falls on Friday…Moreover, the way in which the custom of abstaining on Saturday originated in the Roman Church is a striking evidence of the early institution of Friday as an abstinence day.

(2) Saturday

As early as the time of Tertullian, some churches occasionally prolonged the Friday abstinence and fast so as to embrace Saturday. Tertullian (De jejunio, xiv) calls this practice continuare jejunium

Here’s the writing by Tertullian where he discusses this - it’s a clunky translation, but also interesting is the chapter before, where he argues that gluttony leads to lust, and the chapter after, where he goes into his own apologetic about the history of fasting.


#10

This is a popular myth amongst anti-Catholics and is used to imply that the Papacy has economic and wordly concerns over the spiritual. You wont find the Pope who said what this book about 'Romanism" says because it is pure protestant myth.
I had heard it was actually to help the fishing industry in* Spain* not Italy. Ignore it for what it is, rubbish!


#11

[quote=CreosMary]This is a popular myth amongst anti-Catholics and is used to imply that the Papacy has economic and wordly concerns over the spiritual. You wont find the Pope who said what this book about 'Romanism" says because it is pure protestant myth.
I had heard it was actually to help the fishing industry in* Spain* not Italy. Ignore it for what it is, rubbish!
[/quote]

Want to hear something sad? My PRIEST told me that he doesn’t believe in Friday abstinence for this very reason (some long-ago pope made the law simply to help a dying European fish economy). So it’s not a myth that’s limited to the protestants.


#12

Thank you all for your comments. . .especially Tantum ergo. . .very insightful. I know the guy who told me this fairly well and even though he never comes out and tells me, i sense he’s heard a lot of mistruths about the Catholic Church. I’m hoping he brings the book to show me the specifics about his claim. I’d never purchase a book like this but I’d be interested in seeing what kind of **** is written in it and then trying (with the help of you all) to refute each and every word of it. Thanks again!

Brandon


#13

[quote=Sunniva]Brandon,

I don’t know about the book you mention. Catholics must not necessarily eat fish on Fridays. We must abstain from eating the flesh of meat on Fridays of Lent (obligatory), or all other Fridays if we don’t choose some other form of penance (depends on what the Conference of Bishops in that particular country have come to).
[/quote]

Yep. Seem like a lot of non-catholics are confused about that point. A co-worker of mine is the wife of an evangelical pastor. A couple of Fridays ago, I had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, and she asked me when Catholics had stopped being required to eat fish on Fridays in Lent. She had grown up believing that we had to eat fish simply because her school cafeteria always served fish on Fridays.

John


#14

I’m not sure if this is wholly relevant to this thread. Firstly, I have never heard of such a claim as fish on Fridays was to help fishing industries (but it sounds far-fetched!). The point I would like to make is whether eating fish is actually abstaining?

“7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.
8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.” Mark 8.

Mark’s Gospel clearly says here that fish is meat, so how can one eat fish and be abstaining? I know at school we ate fish on abstinence days, so can someone explain how eating fish is observing meat abstinence if fish is meat?


#15

[quote=teresas1979]Mark’s Gospel clearly says here that fish is meat, so how can one eat fish and be abstaining? I know at school we ate fish on abstinence days, so can someone explain how eating fish is observing meat abstinence if fish is meat?
[/quote]

Because notwithstanding our English understanding, romance languages do not mean fish when they say meat. The law in question is written in Latin.

As for your quote from Mark, I’m not sure what translation you are using. Mine (NRSV) says

Mark 8:8
They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Likewise, the Vulgate for that verse is

et manducaverunt et saturati sunt et sustulerunt quod superaverat de fragmentis septem sportas

Here is Jimmy Akin’s take on the OP.


#16

Was there really a big organized commercial fishing industry anywhere, at any time prior to the advent of refrigeration?

It seems to me that each village on the coast or near a lake or river would have its fisherman who would go out for a day or two, catch fish, and sell what they could to the local villagers, and preserve some with lots of salt for later consumption, or for sale away from the coast. But I don’t think there was a lot of money to be made in that business - even today, this type of fishing is much more of a subsistence living. I don’t think these poor fishermen were highly likely to get together and lobby the pope for help.

And fish is generally a staple of the diet anywhere people live near water. Until fairly recently, fish was always a cheaper form of protein for large numbers of people than was meat, and more accessible to poor people. I don’t think most people needed extra encouragement from the Church to eat fish. But it is traditionally a poor man’s food, so this does give it a sense of penitence which is probably lost on us today, when most fish (other than canned tuna, and maybe “catfish nuggets”) are more expensive than beef, pork, or chicken.

Adding to my sense that this so-called “truth” is an urban legend, is that I’ve heard variants wherein it was the Italian fishing industry, or the Portugese fishing industry, or some other country’s fishing industry that pushed for this. This type of mutation of the story is typical for something that’s not true.


#17

I’ve no idea, but a friend of mine (Catholic) was told this at Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, Iowa (Catholic) by her history professor (Catholic nun). Personally, I think the Orthodox fast is more impressive…no flesh food or any kind or dairy. It’s not a chore for me to give up meat if I can eat fish, cheese (enchiladas or pizza, for pity’s sake!), etc. But Holy Mother Church in her wisdom asks this of us.


#18

I too thought that giving up meat would be a no brainer because I don’t eat that much anyhow. Wow was I wrong. How is it that every single Friday I’m craving an entire chicken?? Same with chocolate - I want it like you wouldn’t believe. So for me it is a good practice in being faithful & making a sacrifice and the origin of the tradition is totally irrelevant.


#19

[quote=JKirkLVNV]I’ve no idea, but a friend of mine (Catholic) was told this at Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, Iowa (Catholic) by her history professor (Catholic nun). Personally, I think the Orthodox fast is more impressive…no flesh food or any kind or dairy. It’s not a chore for me to give up meat if I can eat fish, cheese (enchiladas or pizza, for pity’s sake!), etc. But Holy Mother Church in her wisdom asks this of us.
[/quote]

This depends on the fasting season also. During the Great Lent, Orthodox abstain from meat, eggs and dairy products and ALSO olive oil, wine, certain types of seafood.

In the Eastern Church, there are 5 fasting “seasons” depending on where you live. They are the Filipovka - St.Philip’s Fast 40 days before Christmas, the Great Fast - Lent - the 40 days before Easter, fast of Sts. Peter & Paul - 2 wks before the Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul on June 29, the Dormition Fast - 2 weeks before the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God on August 15 and in some Traditions, the Fast for the Feast of the Holy Live-giving Cross on Sept 14th - 2 wks.

There are also some others that are celebrated locally such as the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist among the Slavic Orthodox where no meat, eggs or dairy products are used as well as knives, platters or plates because John the Baptist was beheaded.

In many of the Slavic countries, they didn’t eat fish simply because it wasn’t available to them. They ate more starches and veggies - fried cabbage & noodles is one of my favs as well as pirohi (perogies).

hope this helps…

so many eggs, so little time…


#20

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