The One Time Irish Catholics Were Allowed To Eat Meat On Lent Fridays

Lent, which is defined by the Catholic Church as the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday (the 40 days not including Sundays), is known as a time when the faithful will often give up something near and dear to them, whether it be candy or beer, in order to show that they are capable of making a small sacrifice for their faith. President Biden, our nation's first and foremost ice cream lover, has been known to give up desserts for the duration. The church itself does not require nor regulate these vows, however, but they do require that all Catholics aged 14 and up refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as well as on every Friday during Lent.

How, then, does that work when a certain holiday known for meat consumption falls on a Friday during those 40 days? Luckily Thanksgiving is many months away, while Easter marks the end of the Lenten season, so that's not affected, either. If Easter comes very early, it could be that Valentine's Day occurs during Lent, but if February 14th is a Friday you can always have a romantic dinner of lobster or pasta instead of chateaubriand. No, it seems there's really only one holiday that's likely to pop up during Lent, possibly on a Friday, where the traditional dish is one that can't easily be replaced by a meat-free version. In case the word "Irish" in the title didn't tip you off, we're talking about St. Patrick's Day.

Some American archdioceses give a dispensation for St. Patrick' Day

In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day hasn't traditionally been a big celebration but instead more of a holy day. Still, according to Irish Central, it is often seen as a "freebie" where you can skip out on your promise to give up whatever it was you gave up (particularly if it was pints of Guinness), if only just for that day. As far as eating meat goes, that's usually been tacitly permitted, as well, although it's not necessarily corned beef and cabbage being consumed since this is more of an American dish.

In 2017, however, a year when St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday, an American Archbishop named Jerome Listecki (himself of Polish, rather than Irish, descent) granted a dispensation for those in his not-too-Irish Archdiocese of Milwaukee to eat meat instead of Wisconsinites' traditional Friday night fish fry. Other major dioceses including New York and Baltimore followed suit, although some, such as Omaha, required a make-up meat abstinence day on the 18th in exchange. There were also holdouts such as the Archdiocese of Denver that said nope, still a sin. Stick to plain cabbage or do not pass GO; do not collect $200; go directly to confession.

St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday again in 2023, so what will be permitted this year? So far the archbishops of Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Arlington, Virginia have said yes to meat, but we're still waiting for others to weigh in.