Today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of the 40-day Lenten season for Roman Catholics. It’s become our first-day-of-Lent tradition here at excatholic4christ to roll out this old post, originally written in 2016, which examines some of the labyrinthine complexities of Catholicism’s Lenten fasting rules.
This morning I was listening to the 10/30/15 podcast of the Calling All Catholics talk radio show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, out of Buffalo, New York. Catholic priest, Dave Baker, was taking questions, assisted by moderator, Mike Denz.
One of the listeners had a question regarding the church’s rule on abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, which I thought was quite timely because we’re currently in the Lenten season. Because the Catholic church absolutely forbids meat on Fridays during Lent, any Catholic who defiantly consumes meat commits a “mortal” sin and is doomed to hell for eternity unless they confess the sin to a priest.
But the rule’s not always as cut and dry as a juicy rib-eye steak or a succulent pork chop. The listener wanted to know if the ban on meat even included something like beef bouillon. Priest Baker irresolutely suggested that beef bouillon was “probably” okay to eat, but encouraged the person to visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site to get the details.
Well, being the curious sinner-saved-by-grace that I am, I went to the website and found the following information:
Q. I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I’m not sure what is classified as meat. Does meat include chicken and dairy products?
A. Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.
So while the bishops say it’s “technically” OK to consume meat-based broths, gravies, and seasonings, they add that Catholic moral theologians have traditionally taught that Catholics should abstain from all animal-derived products with the exception of products that don’t taste like meat.
Yikes! I’m still confused. This is getting more complicated than college calculus. Okay, let’s try to break it down using my favorite cracker, Chicken in a Biskit, as an example. One of the ingredients listed on the box is “dehydrated cooked chicken.” So, is it a “mortal” sin for a Catholic to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Friday during Lent? The U.S. bishops say meat-based seasonings are OK, but then turn around and say the church’s moral theologians forbid any meat derivative that tastes like meat. And, yes, Chicken in a Biskit crackers taste somewhat like chicken. So, which is it? I WANT TO KNOW! Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers or not? Will a Catholic go to hell for all eternity because they ate a Chicken in a Biskit cracker on Friday during Lent????
Ridiculous? Absolutely. The Bible doesn’t say anything about abstaining from meat on Fridays, but it does warn against religious leaders who forbid certain foods. All of these complicated abstinence rules remind me of the Pharisees who took the Mosaic Law that no one could obey anyway, and made it even more intricate and burdensome.
Praise the Lord for freeing me from the legalistic chains and man-made traditions of Roman Catholicism! We sin every day by breaking God’s Biblical commandments. But God loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Then Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Accept Christ and seek out an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.