Should Meat Be Eaten on Friday?
FOR centuries Catholics abstained from eating meat on Fridays. It was a Church law. Many sincerely believed it was a law of Almighty God. But now this has changed.
The fact is that the meatless-Friday rule was made an obligation only some 1,100 years ago. Pope Nicholas I (858-867) was the one who put it into effect. And how vital was it considered that Catholics abide by this rule?
A publication that bears the Catholic imprimatur, indicating approval, states: “The Catholic Church says that it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to eat meat on Friday knowingly and wilfully, without a sufficiently grave and excusing reason.” It adds: The “Church says that if a man dies in unrepented mortal sin, he will go to hell.”—Radio Replies, Rumble and Carty (1938).
Thus the devout carefully avoided eating meat on Fridays. They sincerely believed that failure to obey could lead to their eternal punishment in a fiery hell.
But then, early in 1966, Pope Paul VI authorized local Church officials to modify this abstinence requirement in their countries as they saw fit. The pope was acting in line with recommendations made at the recently completed Second Vatican Council. Thus, in one country after another, meatless Fridays were virtually abolished—in France, Canada, Italy, Mexico, the United States, and so on.
The effect upon many devout Catholics has been devastating. “All these years I thought it was a sin to eat meat,” explained a housewife in the midwestern United States. “Now I suddenly find out it isn’t a sin. That’s hard to understand.”
If you are a Catholic, can you understand how a practice that was considered by the Church a “mortal sin” can suddenly be approved? if it was a sin five years ago, why is it not today? Many Catholics cannot understand.
When a woman in Canada was asked how she felt about the changes in her church, she replied: “I don’t know. Maybe you can tell me. What are they going to do with all those people sent to hell for eating meat on Friday?”
Not just a few Catholics have asked such questions. The change in teaching has shaken their confidence in the Church. Would you not feel the same way if what you had always been taught to be vital for salvation was suddenly considered unnecessary? Would you not be inclined to question other teachings of your church also?
The Catholic Church, however, has not completely changed its position on Friday meat abstinence. Even now Catholics are still required to abstain from eating meat on “Good Friday.” Also, in some places they must not eat meat on Fridays during the Lenten season.
But why is it considered wrong to eat meat on “Good Friday,” but permissible to do so on other Fridays of the year? It has caused thinking persons to wonder.
Many persons have begun to ask questions regarding the basis for this teaching, as well as about other Church teachings. And what especially disturbs them is that they have not received satisfying answers.
What Becomes Evident
The inability of the Church to explain its position Scripturally makes evident an important fact: The Catholic Church has not based its teachings upon what God’s Word says. Rather, it has founded many of its beliefs and practices on the unstable traditions of men.
This is obviously true with regard to Friday meat abstinence. For, look as you may, nowhere in the Bible will you find that Christians were ever instructed to refrain from eating meat on any Friday of the year, or on any other day. It is not a requirement of God. In fact, the Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version Bible says that enjoining or commanding “abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving” is an evidence of a departure from the faith.—1 Tim. 4:1-4.
Thus, many truth-seekers are having their eyes opened to see that the Catholic Church has not been holding strictly to God’s Word. And they are wondering whether any religion that does not do so is worthy of their confidence and support.
But there are other changes that are also disturbing people today.
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What will happen to those sent to hell for eating meat on Friday?