Abstinence and fasting have been traditions in the Catholic church for centuries. They are a form of penance and a show of sacrifice.
One of the most common forms of abstinence is avoiding consumption of flesh meat on certain days.
In most Catholic conferences these days include Fridays, Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. But specific abstinence requirements vary from conference to conference.
What’s common everywhere is the definition of the term ‘flesh meat’. It includes meat from poultry as well as mammals such as pork, beef, and mutton.
It excludes animal products like milk and eggs, as well as fish. So what happens if a Catholic eats meat on Friday? Read on…
What You'll Learn Today
Which Days Do Catholics Abstain from Meat?
In the United States up until 1966, Catholics were required to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year.
In 1983, canon 1253 of the revised Code of Canon Law gave regional conferences authority to establish their own fasting and abstinence requirements.
Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the following abstinence requirements, which are still in effect today.
- All Fridays during lent are days of abstinence. That means Catholics aged 14 and older should abstain from flesh meat.
- Catholics should also abstain from meat on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday.
- Catholics can still observe abstinence on all Fridays of the year if they wish. They can choose whatever form of penance they want to perform. However, meat abstinence on lenten Fridays, Good Friday, and Ash Wednesday are mandatory.
In England and Wales, since 1985, Catholics had the freedom to choose which form of penance they wished to perform. There was no particular requirement for meat abstinence.
That changed in 2011, when Bishops in England and Wales restored the Friday abstinence tradition. Starting on 16 September 2011, Catholics have to avoid eating flesh meat on all Fridays of the year.
Those who do not consume meat as part of their diet (e.g. vegetarians) should give up a particular food that they regularly eat.
Why Does the Catholic Church Forbid Eating Meat on Fridays?
Abstaining from meat is a form of penance and sacrifice. This tradition falls on a Friday to remember the death and crucifixion of Jesus.
But why meat?
Jesus sacrificed his own flesh when he was crucified, so it’s symbolically appropriate to also sacrifice flesh meat in our own diets.
Also, meat is a beloved part of most people’s diet. And since abstinence is about giving up something we love, abstaining from meat makes sense.
What Happens if You Eat Meat on a Friday During Lent?
Many Bishops and Catholic authorities consider it a sin to eat meat on days of abstinence. In the US, that’s Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Fridays during Lent.
If you knew that you shouldn’t eat meat but went ahead and did it anyway, that’s a mortal sin. You’ll need to go to confession.
If you ate meat by accident, perhaps because you forgot what day it was, that’s not a mortal sin since you did not willfully disobey the law. It’s a less serious venial sin or what’s called a sin of neglect. You can confess privately to God for forgiveness.
14 thoughts on “What Happens If A Catholic Eats Meat On Friday?”
No eating meat is not a serious sin on Friday,it has nothing to do with loving God or neighbour & it is ignored by most Catholics like charging usury was a sin,buying indulgences to get into heaven,abstaining from sex in marriage on sundays,holy days,feasts of saints—it got to the point where u could hardly of had sex & the people rejected it,….just like they reject the view contraception is always wrong.The list is far & wide…the church is the people. As pre-eminent catholic scholar Raymond Brown noted—Peter was not a pope or a bishop
Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. As Catholics we are called to follow His example, which included sacrifice, self-restraint and mortification of the flesh. Refraining from eating flesh meat on Friday is a miniscule, yet meaningful and unscrupulous sacrifice which reflects the absolute importance of keeping God at the center of our lives.
The Church is NOT the people. The Church is Jesus. God’s law is to be followed. We must conform ourselves to God’s wishes, not God to our wishes. I will pray that you will return to following God’s law and save yourself. Our actions should not be about this life, but the next.
I don’t understand. Mortal sin of knowingly eating meat on Lenten fridays must be confessed in confession but accidentally eating meat is not a mortal sin and since it is a venial sin, we can confess privately to God. No confession required. Does God need a priest to accomplish forgiveness only when it’s a mortal sin? But he doesn’t need help when it’s a venial sin? Please help me understand.
Don’t give it too much thought. It’s absolute nonsense. Jesus (God) forgave the thief on the cross beside him and promised that he would join him that day in paradise. I suspect theft is considered a more serious sin than consuming a hotdog on a Friday. And it looks like God is up to the job of forgiving. Even while being slightly distracted during cricifixion.
Don’t give it too much thought. It’s nonsense. Jesus (God) forgave the thief on a cross beside him and promised he would join him in paradise that day. Given that theft is considered more serious than munching on a hot dog on Friday, God is clearly up to the job, even when slightly distracted during crucifixion.
Jesus forgave the thief because he accepted Jesus and the Lord and Savior. He was asking for forgiveness. God is ready to forgive your sins if you are truly sorry, ask for forgiveness, and commit to not doing it again. Your comments seem blasphemous. I will pray that God will soften your heart to hear His message.
I’ll make it a little worse. Prior to 1966 all Catholics were required not to eat meat on Friday. To do so was a mortal sin. Things changed in 1966. Soooo, were all the folks burning in hell from 1966, and earlier, and let out of hell and time rolled back so they could be placed in heaven on time? Further, is any Pope who said eating meat on Friday was mortal sin still infallible?
The Church strongly recommends that we do so, because “regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1458). If we often fall prey to a particular venial sin, confessing it (and going to Confession frequently) may help us eradicate it. But if confessing venial sins is not technically required, then forgetting to confess one is not something we need to worry about.
There is a rumor that abstinence was started by a Pope to help the Portuguese fishermen have more of a market for their product. Any comment on this?
They turn into pumpkins.
What an absolutely absurd title for an article. Try “Why Catholics abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays” Stop dumbing it all down and perhaps society, and fellow Catholics wouldn’t be in the dire predicament they’re currently in.
So from 2011, any Catholic in the UK who ate meat on a Friday and died without repenting would go to Hell. But a Catholic in, say Australia, who ate meat on a normal Friday wouldn’t. And they wonder why people are leaving the church in droves. Jesus would shake his head in disbelief.
Please go ahead & delete my response. The question I posed involves no actual historical fact.
My late uncatholic Father, a native Writer of published English, God rest his Soul, often said exactly the same Thing, but about People other than the Pope and the portuguese Fishermen.