St. Patrick’s Day is a Lenten Friday: May Detroit Catholics eat meat?

A bagpiper plays outside Holy Trinity Parish in Detroit during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in 2015. This year, with St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Lenten Friday, Archbishop Vigneron has granted individual priests the faculty to dispense or commute the obligation to abstain from eating meat. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo)

Msgr. Robert McClory | Special to The Michigan Catholic

Q: With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Lenten Friday this year, must Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit abstain from eating corned beef and other traditional meals to observe the Lenten fast?

Msgr. Robert McClory

A: The Church has set apart every Friday, the day on which our Lord suffered and died for us, as a day of special penitential observance, which includes for those 14 and older the requirement to abstain from eating meat. Outside of the season of Lent, we can personally elect to substitute another pious or penitential work in place of eating meat on Friday but, during Lent, we in the United States do not have this personal prerogative to exercise.

This year, St. Patrick Day falls on Friday, March 17, in the Second Week of Lent. Our Chancery Offices have received inquiries about whether or not the abstinence from meat will apply this year on St. Patrick Day.

Since many do not observe St. Patrick Day, rather than issue an archdiocesan-wide dispensation, Archbishop Vigneron will rely on his priests to dispense or commute the obligation of an individual or family to abstain from meat on Friday, March 17. All priests ministering in the Archdiocese possess the faculty to dispense (remove) or commute (replace with something else) the obligation for an individual or family to abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent.

Therefore, those wanting to partake in a celebratory meal on St. Patrick Day that includes meat simply need to talk to a priest, who may grant this “for a just reason.” Priests should keep in mind the option to “commute the obligation to other pious works” rather than giving an outright dispensation, and that their faculty “may not be used to dispense the entire parish” from the obligation (Archdiocesan Priest Faculty 11).

Msgr. Robert McClory is moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Detroit. He writes this special “Ask a Priest” section, which is usually authored by CNS columnist Fr. Kenneth Doyle.