The dispensation is big news. The fast? Not so much

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 16, 2017

What is this week’s biggest story in the Catholic media? Corned beef. It’s not even close.

Scores of American bishops have issued dispensations, allowing the faithful to eat the “traditional” corned-beef-and-cabbage tomorrow, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Hundreds of secular outlets and thousands of blogs have passed along the news.

By now, I’m guessing, the number of Americans who are aware that Catholics may eat meat this Friday exceeds the number who were aware that ordinarily, Catholics are not allowed to eat meat on Fridays in Lent. And I include Catholic Americans in the calculation—certainly including the ones who bring cold cuts to the Friday parish picnic.

Frankly, as an Irish-American, I’m puzzled by the ritual insistence on eating corned beef: a dish that is virtually unknown in Ireland. And I am entirely at a loss to explain how the consumption of that dish honors a great saint. But de gustibus and all that, I guess. Eat what you will, if your bishop says it’s OK. I just wish that I could see as much interest in the fast as in the dispensation.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Eric - Mar. 16, 2017 12:57 PM ET USA


  • Posted by: MWCooney - Mar. 16, 2017 12:32 PM ET USA

    The lack of attention to the need for fasting is just another indicator of where the treasure of so many "shepherds," and their obliging sheep lay.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Mar. 16, 2017 12:09 PM ET USA

    I'll have my usual Lenten Friday soup and bread. I'm 1/4 Irish and love St Patrick. I'll make shamrock cookies for my Catechism students to eat on Sunday and tell them it's a symbol of the Trinity. But, isn't fasting and abstinence also a way to honor the saints (and their example of penance), especially on a Lenten Friday that liturgically is not a major feast?