Q – I understand that the church law to abstain from meat on fridays of Lent has an exception for those who are ill, but also for “hospitality” e.g. if you go to a dinner party and they serve meat.
A – Thanks for the question. Here is what canon law says about the requirements for abstinence from meat during Lent.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.
So, we are obligated to abstain from meat on all fridays of Lent and Ash Wednesday. This means that there we ourselves cannot dispense from this obligation by making a prudential decision. I don’t know a situation or party that would require us to eat meat, especially with the number of vegetarians in our society presently. I think avoiding the meat would be easier to do than seeking out a dispensation from a church authority, which would be required to eat meat on one of these days. Canon law says:
Canon 1245: With due regard for the right of diocesan bishops which is mentioned in can. 87, for a just reason and in accord with the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, the pastor (parochus) in individual cases can dispense from the obligation to observe a feast day or a day of penance; or he can commute it to other pious works
The answer is simply – no, you can’t eat meat at a party on fridays of lent without the proper dispensation.
FYI – the US Bishops have abrogated the obligation for Catholics in the USA to abstain from meat on fridays outside of Lent. While they suggest we do some penitential practice (with abstaining from meat still be preferred) they do not impose any pentitential practice upon us as an obligation under the law. But, the obligation still exists for fridays in Lent.