BALTIMORE -- American Catholic bishops meeting in Baltimore this week are being asked to help sell the idea of "meatless Fridays" -- 52 weeks a year.
Currently, Catholics are urged to abstain from meat during Fridays in Lent, but former Milwaukee Archbishop and current Cardinal Timothy Dolan would like to make the "no meat on Fridays" rule year-round.
Abstaining from meat on Fridays is part of the Catholic Church's emphasis on the sacrament of reconciliation.
In his blog, Cardinal Dolan discusses the issue of "meatless Fridays," saying:
"What about us Catholics? For God’s sake, I trust we are recognized for our faith, worship, charity, and lives of virtue.
"What are the external markers that make us (Catholics) stand out? Lord knows, there used to be tons of them: Friday abstinence from meat was one of them, but we recall so many others: seriousness about Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; fasting on the Ember Days; saints names for children; confession at least annually; loyal membership in the local parish; fasting for three hours before Holy Communion, just to name a few.
But, almost all of these external markers are now gone. Some applaud this; some mourn it. I guess some were helpful, while others were not. Besides the black smudge on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, is there any way we Catholics “stand out” as distinctive?"
Right now, this is just a suggestion, not an edict from Rome.
In 1967, Pope Paul VI relaxed the "meatless Fridays" discipline -- decreeing it no longer obligatory but voluntary on Fridays, except during Lent.
Recently, the bishops of England reintroduced the discipline of abstinence from meat on Fridays.