No St. Patrick's Day meat-eating dispensation for Chicago Catholics, archdiocese says
Published in Religious News
CHICAGO — Chicago’s Irish Catholics will be walking on thin, green ice if they want to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day.
The Archdiocese of Chicago will not be granting parishioners a general dispensation on the March 17 holiday from the obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent.
However, the archdiocese’s decision comes with an exception.
“Catholics who find themselves at an event where meat is served in celebrating St. Patrick may in good conscience substitute the general rule of abstinence with another form of penance or a significant act of charity that benefits the poor,” the archdiocese wrote in a news release announcing the commutation.
Catholic law empowers bishops to grant the faithful “dispensations” temporarily lifting or modifying church rules “whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good.”
For dozens of bishops across the country this year, that means signaling to parishioners that they can partake in carnivorous consumption during the typically meat and beer-filled feast. Bishops in New York, Milwaukee and even Peoria have granted St. Patrick’s Day dispensations allowing the faithful to chow down, though many other dioceses have rejected the general dispensations.
Chicago’s bishops have granted the gastronomical grace in the past. In 2017, the last time that St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday, Cardinal Blase Cupich offered a general dispensation, asking Catholics who took it “to substitute for another form of penance for the Lenten Friday abstinence.”
In 2006, when Cardinal Francis George offered the city a general dispensation, the Tribune wrote that “the archbishop of Chicago has granted the dispensation as far back as anyone with the archdiocese can remember.”
But the decision isn’t without precedent. The Archdiocese of Chicago instructed the faithful to fast and abstain in 2018 when Valentine’s Day fell on Ash Wednesday, urging parishioners to celebrate their date night a day early instead.
For many Irish Americans, the tradition of eating corned beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots on the oft-raucous holiday is all but a sacrament.
But even more important, the archdiocese noted in its statement, is the need to take seriously the Catholic obligation to observe abstinence on Lenten Fridays. The practice offers the faithful a way of uniting themselves with Jesus, the archdiocese wrote.
“That should not be undervalued as we reflect on his sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of the world in this holy season.”
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