Home » Opinion »  Michael Pakaluk »  Thomism and Friday fish

Thomism and Friday fish


Help us expand our reach! Please share this article

There are lessons in fish. Consider: Do you, as a Catholic, abstain from meat on Fridays? If not, you would probably tell me that practice was abandoned by Vatican II. Indeed, but I would say that your reply is a half truth. Before Vatican II, Catholics abstained from meat, and ate fish instead, as a very slight penance, to remember the day of the Lord's Passion. After Vatican II, Catholics are still supposed to do penance on Friday and remember the Passion, only the specific penance need not be fish.

So, I rephrase my question: Do you, as a Catholic, observe on Friday a penance which is at least as significant as eating fish instead of meat? If not, then, alas, you are faithful to neither pre- nor post-Vatican Catholicism.

Actually, the norm for Catholics in the U.S. is even stronger than I have implied: "Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday ...," the U.S. bishops teach, "we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law."

Help us expand our reach! Please share this article

Submit a Letter to the Editor