Cardinal grants dispensation for St. Patrick's Day

BRAINTREE -- Even though St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday in Lent this year, parishes and families in the Archdiocese of Boston planning their festivities can keep corned beef on the menu, thanks to a special dispensation granted by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.

In an email sent Feb. 7, Father Bill Joy, assistant vicar for administration and special assistant to the vicar general, announced the cardinal's decision and noted that St. Patrick's Day is the patronal feast of the archdiocese.

"Given the importance of this feast in the life of the archdiocese and in the lives of many Catholics, Cardinal Seán is granting a dispensation from the Friday Lenten abstinence on March 17, 2023, to those who wish to take advantage of this opportunity," Father Joy said.

In the U.S., Catholics aged 14 and over are required to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and each Friday during Lent, and those who are 18 to 59 are also required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. However, because these are disciplines, or practices, rather than doctrines of the Church, as the head authority in his diocese, a bishop can grant a dispensation from these rules.

Code of Canon Law No. 87 states, "A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church."

The cardinal has previously lifted the obligation to abstain from meat when St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday in 2006 and 2017. He also issued a dispensation for the final weeks of Lent in 2020, noting pandemic-related supply disruptions at supermarkets and the fact that many were relying on whatever was available from delivery services for their groceries and meals.