Friday, November 16, 2012


Noise is being made by certain dignitaries in the Catholic Church in America about the possibility of bringing back the Friday fast, or "meatless Fridays" as it had come to be known.  If it actually happens, and is not merely  a type of finger-in-the-wind move by media-terrified Bishops, then it would be a long overdue return to some semblance of sanity in Catholic practice.  The removing of the Friday fast rules by the aging hippies of the 1960s Vatican was a disaster of the first magnitude.

I have no doubt, either, that it is disaster that was intended.  At least by some of them.

There was an old man this writer once knew and worked with back in the mid-1970s.  He was a cheerful bloke, always managing to keep affable in his humble job as a janitor in a factory.  But there was something constantly troubling him which he would never talk about.  He was a Catholic, but his conversations about the Church whenever the subject came up were always tinged with a distinct touch of sarcasm.  One day the cause of this sarcasm was blurted out when we were engaging in a serious discussion about the Church's sole guardianship of the truth.

"I'll tell you what I think of the Church and the truth," he said with some anger in his voice.  "All the years I was growing up I was told that it was essential to not eat meant on Friday under pain of sin, and now the Church says I don't have to do that anymore.  There's your 'one, true Church' for you.  They make it up as they go along."

Here was an old man on the brink of losing his Faith, and the trigger for that attitude was the colossally stupid Vatican move to eliminate the Friday fast.  I don't know if the man stayed in the Church until his death, but if he didn't then the Church and the leaders thereof would be culpable for the loss of this man's soul.

It is not necessary to go into a long explanation as to the exactitude of this man's views on the Friday fast.  He was clearly badly instructed from youth.  But the nail in the coffin, the action that helped shatter his confidence in the Divine origin of the Catholic Church was the Pope Paul VI-approved elimination of Friday abstinence.

It is utterly without point, too, to bother explaining that the Church in removing this requirement stated that another form of penance could be practiced.  It is without point because nobody listened to that.  All they heard was that they could now enjoy red meat on Fridays.  They forgot (and were rarely if ever reminded of) the reason for Friday abstinence: giving yourself a weekly reminded of the sufferings of Christ on the cross who died on a Friday.  That was always the reason but in America at least, even before the Second Vatican Catastrophe Fridays had been ritualized into a visit to the restaurant with drinks and a lovely fish dinner.  While these pre-conciliar Catholics refrained from meat they weren't exactly being penitential by eating lobster,shrimp, scallops or fish.  They were keeping to the letter of the law but not necessarily to the spirit, and this writer is as guilty as the next in that regard.

Be that as it may a return to Friday penance - as long as the Bishops clearly instruct the faithful that the reason for the penance is to atone a bit for the sufferings of Jesus Christ - can only be a good thing.  There are rumblings in England about a return to the Friday abstinence.  This can only do good for a Church and a world on the brink of total and complete breakdown.

But what will happen if the Bishops reimpose this penance?  Therein lies the problem, though dire as the problem is it should not scare off the Bishops from going ahead with the project.  The problem, simply stated, is this: will Catholics who have been contracepting and NFPing themselves out of existence, and utterly ignoring the Church on vital issues, and whose Mass they attend is a supreme banality that would insult the intelligence of a seven-year-old, bother to obey the fasting rule?  They see priests, nuns, Bishops and Cardinals running around defying dogma and tradition without ever being disciplined by Rome.  They attend the 1970 "ordinary form" Mass (and goodness, ordinary it certainly is) with its dreadful music, words, vestments, preaching, prancing, dancing.  They view the utter hypocrisy of a hierarchy on the one hand condemning the buggering of adolescent boys by homosexually-disturbed priests (while never, of course, ever mentioning the word "homosexual", an indication of cowardice if ever there was one), and on the other hand they watch a Cardinal Wuerl chastising and publicly humiliating a good priest for refusing Communion to an insolent lesbian.  In the face of this will Catholics obey it?

That would depend on the Bishops.  Talk is one thing; action is another.  If it is not enforced it will not be obeyed.  We have the example of Humanae Vitae to reveal what happens when good talk is not backed up by decisive action.  It is not necessary here to review the sad history of that affair.  Priests, Bishops and Cardinals ignored it and refused point blank to implement it.  And the Popes did next to nothing to discipline them for that.  So our Lordships are going to have to commit themselves to enforcing the Friday rules should they decide to reintroduce them.

If it is presented properly, as a small sacrifice once a week to commiserate with Our Lord during His sufferings on the cross, it will do some good no matter how many or how few practice it.  It cannot but bring graces down upon us.  It will be a strong step back to the sane and the holy.  It will be a slap in the face of Satan.  It will change hearts and minds.

It may also contribute, one sincerely hopes, to the quick death of liturgical chaos and tampering.  It may hasten the day when the second-rate Novus Ordo "ordinary form" will enter the dustbin of history, and it may help save the Church.  For if Catholics are still being faced with these atrocious liturgies every Sunday it will be very hard to stop the rot.  And if the Friday abstinence rules come back the graces therefrom surely will ultimately help end the liturgical nightmare we are now faced with.

We are with you, dear Bishops, should you decide to take this vital step.

The Editors, The Eye Witness

post scriptum:
Your Lordships next move, it would seem to us, would be to eliminate the Saturday night anticipatory Mass.  It is Sunday, after all, that is the Lord's Day, not shopping day.

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