Can Catholics Have Meat on St. Patrick's Day? It Depends Where They Live

Back in 2017, there was a similar predicament.

A corned beef sandwich

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St. Patrick’s Day is next Friday, and while some of us are doing the math to determine how many green beers would be too many green beers, others are wondering whether it’s cool to have a plate of corned beef. Many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, and the Lenten season does include March 17th this year. Whether or not Catholics can get a one-day pass to help themselves to some traditional St. Paddy’s Day food depends a lot on where they live. 

According to the National Catholic Register, there are 176 Latin Rite territorial Catholic dioceses in America and, as of this writing, 105 of them have given either a dispensation — an official OK — for their parishioners to have meat on St. Patrick’s day, or they’re allowing it if Catholics perform some other act of penance, like skipping meat on a different day of the week, going to Mass, or performing acts of charity. (Some bishops, like the one that heads the Diocese of Columbus in central Ohio, offered his parishioners the choice of five things they could do before having their first forkful of corned beef, including saying a rosary, reciting a prayer in honor of St. Patrick, or going to a church named for St. Patrick.) But this isn’t the first time that this issue has come up. Back in 2017, parishioners throughout the country waited to find out whether they were given the pass to eat meat on that particular day. 

Bishop Michael W. Fisher of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo was among those who said it was alright to indulge your meat tooth next Friday — but he did suggest that Catholics should pick another day to abstain from meat between now and the end of Lent. “I hope this allows for a joyful celebration of St. Patrick and Irish heritage, by blood or association, for all who find this day meaningful,” he said, according to WGRZ. “May the love and protection St. Patrick can give, be yours in abundance, as long as you live. St. Patrick, pray for us.” 

Thirty-two dioceses have said no, and expect that Catholics in their regions continue to abstain from meat, St. Patrick’s Day or no St. Patrick’s Day. In the Diocese of San Angelo (Tex.) for example, Bishop Michael Sis wrote that west Texas did not have any long-standing traditions involving corned beef or cabbage. “There are many beautiful and joyous ways to honor St. Patrick on his feast day without consuming meat,” he continued. 

In the Archdiocese of Chicago, which includes an estimated two million Catholics, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich opted not to grant a general dispensation, but did say that Catholics “who find themselves at an event where meat is served in celebrating St. Patrick” may partake, as long as they performed another act of penance or “a significant act of charity that benefits the poor.” 

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