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Anonymous wrote:

Hi, guys —

A relative claims that years ago, eating meat on Fridays during Lent was considered a mortal sin and that the Church eventually downgraded this offense. He stated:

"I thought eternal damnation was a bit harsh for a bite of baloney on Friday night just before midnight."

  • Was this the Church's stance?
  • If so, when was it changed and why?

Anonymous

  { Was this the Church's stance on eating meat on Friday and, if so, when did it change, and why? }

Paul replied:

Dear Anonymous,

The law of eating no meat on all Fridays of the year was a Church disciplinary law, not a divine law, that was promulgated by the authority of Christ through His Church for the good of the Church at a given time.

It was a sign of penitence commemorating our Master's passion and death on Good Friday. Unlike the unchanging law of God that is applicable to everybody, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, this church law applied strictly to Catholics; and Church authority (the bishops), are given the power by Christ to change a law at any given time.

While Church disciplinary laws are in force, they are obligatory for every Catholic. Therefore, if a Catholic intentionally ate meat on a Friday due to no serious reason (of health, weakness, etc.), knowing that it was the authority of Christ through His Church that required him not to, then it would make sense that their choice was a rejection of Christ although mitigating circumstances could have lessened the guilt, it was objectively wrong.

Today this Church law has been altered to not eating meat on the Fridays during the season of Lent as well as on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as a sacrifice, uniting ourselves to Christ on the Cross.

Paul

Anonymous replied:

Paul —

  • So would this be a mortal or venial sin?

Anonymous

Paul replied:

Anonymous,

It depends. If there was no serious reason for having to eat meat that day, and if the person knew it was wrong, believing they were rejecting Christ in doing so, yet freely choosing to do so anyway, then it could have been a mortal sin.

But remember, whether one is guilty of venial or mortal sin, Christ awaits the repentant heart to receive His forgiveness.

Paul

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