Many Catholics worldwide adhere to the obligation to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, but since today is St. Patrick’s Day, many dioceses are allowing guilt-free consumption of that corned beef.
Bishops who oversee the Catholic Dioceses of Davenport and Peoria have issued special St. Patrick’s Day dispensations for the faithful. That’s the luck of the Irish and non-Irish alike.
Given the great number of Catholics of Irish descent in the Peoria Diocese, St. Patrick’s Day is naturally an “occasion for joy-filled celebrations,” the 2023 dispensation says. “Having considered our past practices and the current circumstances, inasmuch as it would serve the spiritual good of the faithful,” Bishop Louis Tylka has granted a dispensation from the obligation of abstinence from meat on March 17, 2023.
Those taking advantage of this “get out of fish on Friday” card are “exhorted to undertake a work of charity, an exercise of piety, or an act of comparable penance on some other occasion during the third week of Lent,” the diocese said.
Thomas Zinkula, bishop of the Davenport Diocese, issued a similar dispensation. Those who wish to make use of it also are “encouraged to abstain from meat on some other day as part of their penitential practices during Lent,” the bishop’s dispensation said.
The National Catholic Register’s Matt McDonald surveyed all of the bishops in the U.S. to find out which ones are offering a free pass on St. Patrick’s Day, according to this report from Catholic News Agency.
It found as of Thursday, March 16, 72.6% of the dioceses — 127 — were offering some relief from the “no-meat-on-Fridays-during-Lent rule” for St. Patrick’s Day.
Of those saying some form of yes, 93 diocesan bishops are providing a dispensation with no strings attached — although many of those bishops suggest extra prayers or spiritual exercises or abstaining from meat on another day, the story said.
Thirty-four diocesan bishops said some form of ‘yes, but …’ — requiring a substitute through what canon law calls a ‘commutation’ of the requirement, such as attending Mass on St. Patrick’s Day, saying the Breastplate of St. Patrick, praying the rosary, abstaining from meat another day, or helping the poor.
In Iowa, there is no dispensation for the Des Moines and Sioux City dioceses. The bishops in Chicago and Springfield also said no, but in Chicago’s diocese, people at an event “celebrating St. Patrick” where meat is served “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 last time St. Patrick’s Day was on a Friday was March 17, 2017. Lent will end on Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023.