Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — When St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, as it does about every seven years, the Lenten rule requiring Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays collides with the long-held tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage.
The two occasions meet this year. March 17 marks the celebration of St. Patrick — known as the Apostle of Ireland for his years of missionary work there — and it also is a celebration of all things Irish and even green. This March 17, since it falls on a Friday in Lenten, also is a time of penitence.
The timing has not gone unnoticed by some U.S. bishops. Before Lent even started, many of them issued dispensations for Catholics in their dioceses allowing them to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz has granted a dispensation for those in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
The dispensation does not take Catholics over age 14, who are required to abstain from meat on Friday, totally off the hook.
Archbishop Kurtz’s statement said, “Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville may choose to transfer the abstinence from meat from Friday, March 17, to another day that same week.”
Some bishops advised Catholics to do an extra act of charity or penance in exchange for eating meat.
Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, took it a step further. In a statement, he said Catholics should also “exercise due moderation and temperance in festivities and celebrations of the memorial of St. Patrick, in keeping with the solemnity and honor that is due to so great a saint and his tireless efforts to inspire holiness in the Christian faithful.”
He tempered that by also saying the day should “foster a joyful and reverent devotion to that great saint” and should also “honor the patrimony of the Irish people to whom he first preached the good news of salvation.”
As of late February, the following dioceses or archdioceses had announced giving the clear for Catholics to eat meat March 17: Baltimore; New York; Milwaukee; St. Paul and Minneapolis; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; Omaha, Nebraska; and Jefferson City, Missouri.