Aussie bishops back return to Friday abstinence from meat

Several Australian bishops said they would support re-establishing year-round Friday abstinence from meat in their country.

Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliott of Melbourne, Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore and Bishop Michael Kennedy of Armidale are among prelates who would back the change.

Friday penance regulations were relaxed in Australia in 1985, allowing Catholics to perform an alternative form of penance.

This was in accord with teaching by Pope Paul VI on penance and with the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Looking back at the decision to end Friday abstinence in Australia, Bishop Elliott said it was a “big pastoral and spiritual mistake”.

“I can understand why that happened, in the mood of that era, but I believe it failed to take into account human psychology,” he said.

“Allowing people to work out some penance was idealistic and unrealistic,” Bishop Elliott said.

Since the change, Bishop Elliott said, most Catholics are unaware of or have forgotten the obligation entirely.

Having the Church decide what penance should be done would make it easier to remember and would promote stronger Catholic identity, he said.

Some bishops worry that the practice of Friday penance by Catholics has all but disappeared.

There has been no formal discussion on the issue at the Australian Catholic bishops’ conference level.

In 2011, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales restored Friday abstinence.



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