Question 29:

When was the ban on meat lifted?


Answer: Abstaining, on certain days, from eating meat belongs to the Catholic practice of abstinence. Basically, abstinence, in Catholic terminology, means the temporary relinquishing or permanent relinquishing, depending on the personal vocation a Christian follows, of fulfilling vital needs that are experienced and lived through the senses. The motive for this lies in a subjective value system, where gratifying these needs takes second place to other values that are otherwise may be disregarded. Human experience seems to suggest such forms of abstinence: No one, man or woman, is how they ought to be. Each person lives a process of development. In that process no-one can experience all the possibilities open to him or her. However, choosing practical forms of abstinence calls for intelligence and difference of opinion.

Church law calls, for instance, for abstaining from eating meat on certain days. According to current instruction, abstinence is to be practiced on all Fridays of the year, unless they fall on a feast day. Abstaining from meat, together with the commandment to fast, applies to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. All Catholics from the age of 14 are required to follow Church commandment. Children should be led into a sensible understanding of penance. The decree “Paenitemini” of 12.2.1966 repealed earlier Church commandments in respect of fasting adn abstinence. The bishop’s conferences, in view of different local customs, are entitles to prescribe other forms of penance or to modify the general rule regarding abstinence. In 1986/87 the German and Austrian bishops conferences formulated the abstinence commandment in the following terms: abstaining from eating meat (meaningful as a symbol put into practice particularly in families and communities), cutting back on consumption in general, abstaining from luxury foodstuffs, and engaging in works of charity and piety (for example, weekday Mass, reading the Bible).

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