What my priest said about no meat on Friday


I asked my priest about abstaining from meat on fridays, and he told me that it is not necessary and that abstaining is a discipline that some people hold past the mandatory Lenten Fridays.

He didn’t include needing another form of penance in place of that.

I thought those were the rules for Catholics in the US.

My priest said it wasn’t necessary, however, he is from Nicaragua and might have not fully understood me.


Servant of God Fr. John Hardon says the Friday penance is to be held under pain of mortal sin.


I’ve read that before but I don’t fully understand what “under pain of mortal sin” means


That means if a Catholic purposely doesn’t do a penance in Friday it’s a mortal sin.


What are a few options for doing pennance?


There is much confusion on this topic.

I am sorry but those (even well intentioned clergy) who assert that we either are obligated to abstain from meat on Fridays (in the US) or to do another form of penance, are simply wrong. There no longer is such an “obligation”.

However, Fridays remain penitential days and we are therefore “encouraged” to find some form of penance to observe on every Friday.






No, it is not. However, you “should” still do a form of penance on Fridays


Yeah, I read your link- I’ll delete my posts.


Fr.Bob Levis from EWTN replying to a question about Fr.Hardon on Friday Penance:
“Marno, Yes, you are absolutely correct in following the teaching of the great Jesuit, Fr. John Hardon. We Catholics must do penance, and the Church selected FRiday as a perfect day of penance, the day Jesus died for us. We may follow the rule of no meat, or we may select another form of mortification. If we ignore the demand, we sin; if we habitually ignore it, we sin mortally. Fr. Bob Levis”

Servant of God, Fr.Hardons writing why its a sin to not do penance on Friday:


. . . .and this from just this year also from EWTN:

"Hello, There still is some confusion about whether Catholics are required or just encouraged to perform an act of Penance on Fridays. the following are two excerpts from the Q and A archives:

Father Echert wrote: First, let me remind Catholics–in accord with what you note–that Catholics are obliged to do penance EVERY FRIDAY OF THE YEAR. The universal form of this penance is abstinence from meat; however, the bishops of the U.S. petitioned the Vatican some decades ago—unfortunate, in my opinion–for an indult, by which Catholics of the U.S. could substitute some other form of penance, if that would be more of a penance for the individual. But Father Donovan wrote: On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. Since this was not stated as binding under pain of sin, not to do so on a single occasion would not in itself be sinful. However, since penance is a divine command, the general refusal to do penance is certainly gravely sinful.

So according to one priest the Church requires a catholic to perform an act of penance each Friday, but according to the other priest the Church rally only encourages an act of penance—not a sin if you forget every now and then!

Clarification on this point? Not that it should matter since we should desire to do more than the bare minimum!

Answer by David Gregson on 6/21/2018:

From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence 1966.

“23. 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.”

Note the word “urge” rather than “require.” I take it from this that the determining factor in whether omitting some act of penance on Fridays of the year is sinful is one’s attitude in the omission. If it reflects a lack of concern to honor the day of the Lord’s Passion, then it would be sinful. Otherwise not, as in forgetting to observe the day.


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I also believed for many years that an 'alternative penance" was required, as Fr. Hardon wrote in 2000. More recent careful analysis of the USCCB’s language has (quite reluctantly) persuaded me to the contrary.


I’m kind of confused on this matter too. But my former spiritual director who is a Carmelite priest and my parish Deacon say that it is a obligation to do some kind of penance on Friday. Perhaps they are wrong but I do it anyways because it’s not a lot to ask so I would rather err on the obedient side.


Just because it says urge doesnt mean it doesnt also mean require as well. Read what Fr.Hardon said, dont pick words to fit your own understanding.


Could abstaining from chocolate and snack foods be a penance?


Yes it can.


I read Fr. Hardon’s view back in 2000, and I agreed with it then.

I didn’t write the new analysis above. I didn’t “pick” any words.

Don’t make false accusations

This is the analysis of both the EWTN and the Catholic Answers apologists.

I frankly don’t much like it, but I am persuaded that Fr. Hardon’s, and my former viewpoint were in error.


I usually go to adoration for half an hour or pray the rosary or Devine mercy chapplet. I use to just not eat meat but then I would normally just eat a whole cheese pizza by myself so it kind of defeated the purpose.


I’d like to add to this that I’ve never seen that it is a requirement in the modern Church. I’ve never seen it on examinations of conscience and my family (parents grew up with abstaining from meat on Fridays) never knew about it being a mortal sin. For years, we didn’t do it but then for some reason my parents decided to adopt that tradition again where we’d eat fish or non-meat meals.

I’d be interested in finding OFFICIAL Church teaching on this.


Just because it wasnt stated as being binding under pain of sin is because it was already known as being binding under pain of sin as Fr.Hardon points to in my link above.


At least you guys kept the Fridays of Lent. We don’t even have that in Canada… Canadian Latin Catholics can enjoy steak every day of the year with the sole exception of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
I remember years ago I had lunch with a priest and the Archbishop. It was a Friday afternoon. I remember being incredibly disappointed as a (then) young convert that they both ordered BLTs. I had read about Friday abstinence online but this was a startling revelation that it no longer existed in practice.


The divine law binds us all to do penance. The Church, in its motherly concern, used to have rules to ensure we did some and to build community by ensuring we did it together. Now, we’re pretty much left to our own devices to fulfill that divine law.

The old disciplines are still helpful however, marking out a good road, as The Prophet tells us (Jer. 6:16):

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.

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