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Where it’s OK to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day this Lent

If you’re an Irish Catholic (or any Catholic) living in the United States, you will need to check with your local diocese before indulging in corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day this year.

The popular feast day, whose traditional fare is the salty, stringy red meat, poses a predicament for Catholics this year as it falls on a Friday in Lent, when the faithful are required to abstain from meat.

The last time this conundrum cropped up was in 2006, when roughly half of the United States’ 179 Roman Catholic dioceses granted some form of dispensation to the faithful on the memorial of the patron saint of Ireland. (Ironically, corned beef is generally not eaten in Ireland on St. Patrick’s day – it’s usually lamb or bacon.)

This year, more than 80 dioceses have announced some form of dispensation on St. Patrick’s Day. However, Catholics should check with their local diocese before partaking in the celebratory meats.

“In some places, abstinence from meat is dispensed on St. Patrick’s Day, but those who consume meat that day are required to abstain the next day,” said J.D. Flynn, a canon lawyer and Special Assistant to Bishop James Conley in Lincoln, Neb.

 

“In some places, a dispensation has been granted for parish or diocesan events. So it would be important to know what the bishop has determined in the place where you are.”

 

In many cases of dispensation this year, the bishops have requested that the faithful offer up some alternative penance or perform an additional act of charity in lieu of their abstinence from meat. Some dioceses have additional stipulations.

Many Archdioceses have already announced that they will be granting a general dispensation, including Atlanta, Georgia, Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota; San Francisco, California; Washington, D.C. and the Military Services, USA.

The following Archdioceses and Dioceses have dispensations, but with additional stipulations:

 

In some places, like the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, the faithful are required to transfer their day of abstinence to the next day if they choose to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

In other Archdioceses, including Detroit, Michigan and Portland, Oregon, as well as the Dioceses of Trenton, N.J.,  Salt Lake City, Utah, and Grand Island, Nebraska, the archbishops and bishops have stipulated that the faithful must ask a priest’s permission if they want a dispensation. These priests can either dispense or commute the required abstinence from meat “for a just cause.”

 

In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, dispensations are being granted on a case by case basis for certain parish or diocesan groups or events that have successfully petitioned the bishop.

 

Many Dioceses have also publicly granted a dispensation for St. Patrick’s Day, including Bridgeport, Connecticut; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Dallas, Texas; Jefferson City, Missouri; Oakland, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Providence, Rhode Island; Savannah, Georgia; Worcester, Massachusetts, and Venice, Florida.

Only two dioceses, the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado and the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, have publicly announced that they will not be granting any dispensations for the day.

So, technically, could a Catholic in Denver with a hankering for meat on St. Patrick’s Day drive south for an hour and dine on corned beef once they are in the Diocese of Colorado Springs?

“Generally speaking dispensations, like other kinds of administrative acts, are territorial in the Church, they determine the obligations of those in a territory. There are many exceptions to this, but this is the general principle,” Flynn said.

“In this case, a traveller who is in a place where a law has been dispensed is not bound to observe the law. It doesn’t matter why the person goes to a diocese, just that they’re there. A person should take a look at what the dispensation really says, though,” he added.

What about extremely proud Irish grandmothers (my own) who declare a dispensation for themselves and all their Irish kin, regardless of where they reside?

“Your grandma was, with all due respect to her Irish brilliance, mistaken,” Flynn said.

The Archdioceses and Dioceses listed here are not comprehensive. Catholics wanting to eat meat on St. Patrick’s day should check with their local diocese regarding whether or not they are dispensed, and under what conditions.


By Mary Rezac













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3 comments

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    I guess I’ve been out of the Church long enough to have forgotten some of this silliness. I remember as a kid that we couldn’t eat meat on Fridays, but then that got changed. I guess what I’m hearing here is that it is forbidden to eat meat on Friday during Lent. Is it a mortal sin to do so? Is eating corned beef on Friday during Lent, without a dispensation in the same class as masturbation or using contraception? Will you burn in Hell for millions and billions and trillions of endless year of torture because you ate some corned beef on a Friday?
    .
    Who could worship a god so evil that it would send any human for any reason to eternal torment, though we live here but a handful of decades? Catholics worship such an evil god – or maybe they got it all wrong? Would you prefer that your Church be wrong or your god be evil?

    1. David Reply

      Well, suppose a person rejects God and does not wish to be with him. Would an all-loving God coerce that person into being saved or would he respect the person’s free choice?

      I will quote C. S. Lewis from The Great Divorce:

      There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in hell chose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened. ”

      Interested in learning more? Read Jim Blackburn’s article, Hell? Yes! Part 1 and Part 2.

  2. David Reply

    Just clearing something up. We Irish do not eat Corned beef and cabbage. That was brought into the Irish community in America by the Jewish community. We Irish eat bacon with our cabbage. Not that silly corned beef! Anyway, enjoy Saint Patrick’s day everyone!

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