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A Return to Penance and Abstinence

Fifty years ago, in anticipation of the First Sunday of Advent of 1966, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence. Most American Catholics today are not familiar with the Statement itself, but we are familiar with its general effect: the loosening of norms for Catholics regarding fasting and abstinence.

With fifty years of hindsight — and since we are within the penitential season of Advent and fast approaching the Advent Embertide–it is worthwhile to revisit the Bishops’ Statement. Because the Bishops summarize their intention at the end of their Statement, I’ll begin there:

In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God’s people.

I don’t wish to be too hard on the Bishops or to suggest that they had ill motives here, but the following fifty years have shown that the result of the Statement is quite close to the opposite of what the Bishops say they intended. Fridays, which are supposed to be penitential, have all but been abolished. Few Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays or embrace any voluntary penance. Few Catholics fast–either throughout Lent or at any other time of the year. And far from “heralding a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion,” the Bishops’ Statement has been received in such a way as to prove that Catholics no longer believe they are guilty of sin or obliged to do penance or mortification in reparation thereof.

But I said I don’t wish to be too hard on the Bishops, and I mean that. For whether their Statement was poorly considered or just poorly received, the Statement itself includes a worthwhile call to voluntarily and freely embrace penance. Moreover, I suspect that many of us who consider ourselves serious or traditional Catholics have ourselves been affected (or infected?) by the laxity of our age, and are falling short of what the Bishops recommended for the faithful in 1966. So let’s review the Bishops’ Statement more fully, and let’s do so with generous hearts open to embracing more rigorous penitential practices out of love for Christ.

1966 Statement on Penance and Abstinence

The Bishops began by calling to mind man’s guilt:

  1. Thus Sacred Scriptures declare our guilt to be universal; hence the universal obligation to that repentance which Peter, in his sermon on Pentecost, declared necessary for the forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38). Hence, too, the Church’s constant recognition that all the faithful are required by divine law to do penance. As from the fact of sin we Christians can claim no exception, so from the obligation to penance we can seek no exemption.

  2. Forms and seasons of penance vary from time to time and from people to people. But the need for conversion and salvation is unchanging, as is the necessity that, confessing our sinfulness, we perform, personally and in community, acts of penance in pledge of our inward penitence and conversion.

The Bishops then recalled that the practice of observing seasons and days of penance is one that Christian people “have from the beginning observed,” both communally, and through personal acts of self-denial.

The rest of the Bishops’ statement addresses the four main periods in which Christians have done penance: Advent, Lent, Vigils and Ember Days, and Fridays. For each of these periods we’ll see the Bishops loosen the obligations of penance and instead encourage voluntary penance.


The Bishops recognized that, even in 1966, “[s]omething of a holiday mood of Christmas appears now to be anticipated in the days of the Advent.” The Bishops reminded the faithful that Advent should remain a season of penitential preparation for Christmas and encouraged the faithful to “rely on the liturgical renewal and the new emphasis on the liturgy” as a means of resisting the modern trend.

While this prescription would seem to have failed, we should nevertheless heed the Bishops’ call to penance during the Advent season so that we can prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Some options include fasting on Wednesdays or Fridays (or both), fasting during the Advent Embertide, more frequent attendance at daily Mass, and a renewed emphasis on daily prayer–both mental prayer and vocal prayer (I suggest the St. Andrew’s Novena as a fine tradition of vocal prayer for Advent).


“[W]e hope that the observance of Lent as the principal season of penance in the Christian year will be intensified.” The Bishops then asked “urgently and prayerfully” that the faithful “make of the entire Lenten Season a period of special penitential observance.” After making these general exhortations to penance, the Bishops then relaxed the obligation to fast–an obligation that had previously bound all adult Catholics to fast throughout all 40 days of Lent–and maintained only two obligatory days of fasting, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The Bishops also maintained abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays throughout Lent.

We could be forgiven for thinking that the Bishops’ Statement concluded its section on Lent here, for the last 50 years have shown that Catholics have taken the Bishops at their word, reasoning: “If there is no obligation to fast, there is no need to fast; hence, I will not fast.” So it was surprising to me that the Bishops continued their section on Lent with some strong recommendations.

“14. For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting.” (Emphasis added.) The Bishops also recommended generosity to the poor, mortification, scriptural studies, and traditional Lenten devotions such as sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary.

Our experience shows that nearly all Catholics have ignored these recommendations. (I suspect that few serious or traditional Catholics both fast and attend daily Mass throughout Lent, let alone perform the other recommended devotions.) This experience, of course, suggests that the policy of loosening penitential obligations was a failure and should be revisited. In the meantime, we as lay Catholics can ourselves implement this call to penance in our own families and parishes by voluntarily embracing a renewed adherence to the Lenten fasts and devotions.

Vigils and Ember Days

“17. Vigils and Ember Days, as most now know, no longer oblige to fast and abstinence.” (Emphasis added.)

Before moving on to the Bishops’ recommendations for Vigils and Ember Days we should first pause because, fifty years later, most Catholics do not know what a Vigil or Ember Day is. (Of course, this fact itself confirms once again that the Bishops’ call to voluntary penance in this area was unsuccessful and should be revisited.)

A Vigil is the day before a feast. Traditionally, certain Vigils, such as the Vigil of Pentecost and the Vigil of Christmas, were days of fast and abstinence.

Ember Days occur seasonally and are days of fasting and partial abstinence (no meat except at the principal meal). Each of the four Embertides are “fasts before a feast” and themselves include three days of fasting and partial abstinence–Ember Wednesday, Ember Friday (fasting and full abstinence), and Ember Saturday. More on Ember Days is available at Fisheaters here.

Returning to the Bishops’ Statement, they continued by clarifying that fasting is no longer obligatory, but also suggesting “that the devout will find greater Christian joy in the feasts of the Liturgical calendar if they freely bind themselves, for their own motives and in their own spirit of piety, to prepare for each Church festival by a day of particular self-denial, penitential prayer and fasting.”

We should heed this recommendation and again embrace fasting and abstinence during the four Embertides. And now’s the time to start since the Advent Embertide is upon us! (The Advent Embertide begins the Wednesday after the Feast of St. Lucy, which is December 13.)


“18. Gratefully remembering [that Christ died for our salvation on Friday], Catholic peoples from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church.”

The Bishops then suggested that, due to changing circumstances, for some, abstaining from meat is no longer an effective means of practicing penance. They continued:

  1. Accordingly, since the spirit of penance primarily suggests that we discipline ourselves in that which we enjoy most, to many in our day abstinence from meat no longer implies penance, while renunciation of other things would be more penitential.

  2. For these and related reasons, the Catholic bishops of the United States, far from downgrading the traditional penitential observance of Friday, and motivated precisely by the desire to give the spirit of penance greater vitality, especially on Fridays, the day that Jesus died, urge our Catholic people henceforth to be guided by the following norms.

  3. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified.

  4. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.

  5. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.  [emphasis added]

Again, we see the Bishops removing the obligation to do penance and instead encouraging us to freely embrace penance. And again, with fifty years of hindsight, we know that this changed policy has not been fruitful. Few embrace Friday penance or abstinence; and even for those of us who do, I suggest that we are far more likely to celebrate Friday with the spirit of the world (e.g., TGIF) than to commemorate Christ’s sacrificial death through penance, mortification, and devotion. So let us heed the Bishops’ call and return to Friday penance–to make every Friday “something of what Lent is in the entire year,” i.e., a day of fasting, abstinence, and other mortifications and devotions.


By fasting and mortifying ourselves through other penances, we do penance out of justice for the guilt of our sins. We should do so out of love for Jesus Christ, in imitation of His own fasts and mortifications, in adherence to His counsel which encouraged self-denial and fasting, and in union with his sacrificial Passion and death. Countless saints have embraced this ascetical path and their witness confirms for us that His yoke is easy and His burden light. The examples of these saints also show that the heights of prayer cannot be reached if we are in love with the world and its pleasures. Rather, we need fasting and mortifications to help break the world’s hold on us, to aid our prayer life, and to increase our love of God and neighbor.

So this liturgical year, let us embrace penance–and particularly during Advent, Lent, Vigils and Embertides, and Fridays

51 thoughts on “A Return to Penance and Abstinence”

  1. Very good article, but I have to ask…..if the Bishops “give first place to abstinence from flesh meat”, then why in the world is it no longer binding? Then, as now, they speak out of both sides of their mouths. I remember when this happened and it was just another hatchet job to the faith. I’m sorry, but I think you’re cutting them far too much slack. Nevertheless, we need these reminders, thank you!

  2. A general trait of fallen man is that when something is not obligatory but is merely highly recommended, people tend not to do it at all. Which is precisely the end result of the 1966 NCCB statement. You cannot take centuries of obligatory penitential practice, throw it out the window, and expect people to “voluntarily” practice it anyway of their own initiative. Man simply does not function like that.

    The NCCB statement is also a nightmare for the scrupulous. What qualifies as a sufficient penance to take the place of abstaining from meat on Fridays? How much penance is enough? Et cetera, et cetera. Just chuck the 1966 statement in the trash bin and bring back the universal practice. People will grumble at first, but dammit, we’ve had 50 years of this nonsense. The least we can do is make ourselves a little uncomfortable, considering just what Christ went through for us.

    • Excellent point about ‘the scrupulous.’ Not only is it difficult to settle on a sufficient penance of prayer or almsgiving but True Un-Fun for the Scrupulous includes such questions as: Does one -or two?- piece(s) of buttered toast for breakfast constitute a collation on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday? If two pieces, should that breakfast constitute the main meal of the day?
      Detachment, real interior detachment from our appetites (for food and for the achievement of going without it) … there’s the rub for us all.

      • There was a precise weight given every Lent from the pulpit as to what constituted a ‘repast’. It was always far more than that consumed at the average breakfast probably on account of the many labouring jobs done prior to technology taking over.

        Why not just keep Friday abstinence anyway in remembrance of Good Friday. It isn’t a big deal! The Lenten fast also. It makes one feel more Catholic & with Ramadan now gaining popular support from the media we should not be shy of countering by keeping both fast & abstinence as & when they came up in the old calendar.

        • The traditional Catholic sources I’ve read cite a collation, not a repast. And I’ve certainly never heard precise guidance from a pulpit on just what that consists of. We are to figure that out ourselves, using our reason. At any rate, I don’t know why you assume that I don’t abstain from meat every Friday. It’s never a good idea to discuss one’s own penances, Lenten or Friday.

          • Prior to VII it was the practice to be told both by the priest from the pulpit & in written form both from the parish & national media the precise weight each repast (collation) should amount to. As I said it was well over the average breakfast, tea/supper in those days with no in between snacking except for drinks of the non-alcoholic type.

            I am not assuming whether or not you abstain from meat every Friday, but the general attitude since VII has been to substitute some other form of penance instead of abstinence from meat on Fridays because of false ecumenism, as Protestants didn’t refrain as we did. The only reason such abstinence was brought about was specifically to bring to mind Christ’s death & the pouring out of His Blood on that particular day. We can all refrain from other food types on other days as a penance but on Friday it should be from meat. The Lenten fast was also obligatory to get ourselves ready for the biggest event ever – the Resurrection of Our Divine Lord from the dead by way of His Passion & Death on the Cross.

    • I agree. My family usually substitutes either a Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet when we do not abstain from meat on Fridays. However, I know, for most Catholics, this is unheard of.

  3. The relaxation of fasting rigor in Catholicism began in the late Middle Ages when changes in the daily Lenten fast allowed a meal at about 3 O’clock instead of at sundown. The gradual relaxations of fasting by the Vatican over the centuries have eroded completely the penitential discipline in the Roman Catholic Church. The Orthodox observe the “great fast” which we Latins have thrown out. I suspect as more Catholics see the operation of evil in our world and the need to repent and do penace for the terrible sins that greatly offend God Our Father, we’ll see a revival of the Black Fast among the laity first, then among the clergy and finally in the Vatican.

    • Agreed from “…I suspect as more Catholics see the operation of evil…” through the end of this comment. But there was good reason for change in the Lenten fasting discipline when manual labor was the daily lot of many Catholics. And I’m sorry but if you think the Eastern Orthodox generally adhere to their mostly vegan (and complex, and varied) fasting disciplines better than Roman Catholics do, you’re mistaken. Very small numbers of either Roman/other rite Catholics or Eastern Orthodox Christians fast “well.” There’s plenty of failure to go around here.

      • I agree with you regarding the hypocrisy of the Orthodox but the regulations are still there as an ideal. It requires incentive — and love – to bring about change. That is, the incentive produced by seeing first hand the results of Satanic evil and the love of God that produces a desire to make reparation for sin.

    • The Great Fast begins two days BEFORE Ash Wednesday and is the Byzantine version of Lent.

      St. Peter’s Fast (Petrivka in Slavonic; aka the Apostles’ Fast) starts on the Monday AFTER the Sunday of All Saints aka Trinity Sunday in the West) and lasts until June 28 inclusive. It varies depending on the date of Pascha (Easter).

      The Dormition Fast (aka Spasivka the Savior’s Fast) is from August 1-14 inclusive. It is usually the shortest of all the fasts of the Byzantine liturgical year.

      St. Philip’s Fast begins at sundown on November 14th (the Feast of St. Philip on the Byzantine calendar) and lasts until Christmas Eve (traditionally a day of STRICT and abstinence – no meat or dairy products and nothing with meat and/or dairy products in them).

      Btw, what is the Black Fast? I never heard of it.

    • However supposedly “watered down” the Western Church’s fasting practices may have become by the 20th century (and that’s debatable; simply look at any pre-Conciliar hand missal for an extensive list of obligatory days of fasting and abstinence [i.e., partial abstinence = weekdays in Lent, Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays, Vigils of Pentecost and either of the Assumption or the Immaculate Conception, depending upon location; complete abstinence = all Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, Vigil of Christmas; fast = weekdays in Lent, Ember Days, Vigils of Christmas, Pentecost, and Assumption/Immaculate Conception]), the pre-Concilar practices were head and shoulders more rigorous than what we have now.

      It also must be kept in mind that many modifications, such as what mentioned regarding the Church allowing a meal earlier in the day, were concessions made to address specific circumstances that arose organically over the life of the Church. For example, until the 1955 reforms of the Breviary, Vespers was anticipated at midday during Lent, as those bound to its recitation were forbidden from breaking the Lenten fast until after Vespers. Now, I suppose the Church could have been a harsh mother and forbidden the anticipation of Vespers on principle, but in her benevolence, she conceded that exception for those bound to the Office so that they could eat their meal at an earlier time of day. The 1966 NCCB statement, however, can hardly be defined as an “organic” development. Rather, it is arbitrary, wishy-washy, and, frankly, condescending (e.g., it implies that the traditional practices are just too dang hard for us modern folks, while our forefathers were more than capable of following them).

      • I agree, the pre-Concilar practices helped Catholics and even non-Catholics understand the spirit and meaning of Advent and Lent. Christmas and Easter had more importance in our spiritual lives when we fasted more vigorously. The significance of the Black Fast is that it was the most strict fast of any Catholic legislation. It was the fast of the early church until the late Middle Ages. It was a fast until sundown every day of Lent and Advent (excepting Sundays, I believe) with no meat, no dairy, no alcohol, no eggs. Fish was allowed. As with the Orthodox, it’s specific practices varied. I discovered it while I was in graduate school and started fasting according to those rules as often as I could.

      • My grandmother remembered when all days of Lent were fasting, with complete abstinence on Wednesdays, Fridays, and two Saturdays. And though it was allowed late 19th Century, her family kept the no milk, eggs, butter, or cheese rule.

  4. I am reminded how my mother surprised us by serving hamburgers on a Friday in early 1967 while informing us that it was “no longer a sin” according to the church bulletin.

    All these years later, it’s still not believable to me that the bishops didn’t intend their Pastoral Statement to have exactly that effect on the Friday menus of nearly all Catholic families, in spite of the pieties included in their statement.

    • Amen. AmCatholics have always craved the acceptance of their inferiors, the protestants, and there was no fear of casting away Divine Faith and replacing it with the personal faith (No protestant has a real christian faith)

  5. I nearly collapsed upon hearing a sermon a couple of weeks ago: the words fasting, abstinence, Catholic and sin were all referred to. A Franciscan church in North Manchester (UK).

  6. The bishops stole from us the merits gained by fasting under obedience to the Church. This is the worst part of the 1966 reform in my opinion. You might even be able to say that it’s a Protestant approach to penance, but I don’t have the knowledge necessary to say whether this is truly the case. I just know that the practice of fasting and penance has all but vanished today, and that gives the Enemy of souls vastly more power over us.

  7. I can’t seem to get accustomed to faithful catholics who gloss over and make excuses for so many post Vatll bishops, who were/are nothing more than betrayers of Christ and His church.

    Their rejection of the church’s rigorous requirements, pre Vatll, and instead their proposal of “voluntary penance”, was the least of their frightful sins. The church has been gutted. It,s no exaggeration that 80℅ of catholics since 1965 were/are heretics or apostates. That includes bishops and priests.

    Yet, you want to make excuses for them. You don’t want to be “too hard” on the bishops. That tells me thst you don’t really get the scope of the tragedy that has befallen the church over the last 50 years. That’s because of your attachment to abstract thought which keeps you remote from the LIVING HEART of the church.

    Those bishops you mentioned obviously rejected the church’s doctrine of Original Sin. They were modernists, through and through, full of optimism that mankind can choose peace and love if given half a chance. So we ended up with a fake church with today a fake “pope” Francis.

    Did God, who is Infinitely Holy, make excuses for them, at the moment of their death. like you do, or were they condemned by their unrepented sins?

    • Or maybe it’s because when everything is an admonishment, a lot of people just tune you out. We publish non-polemical articles along with our harder-hitting fare because we need to do more than just tear down. We also have to build up.

      • Dear Steve. You make a vey good point about building up but you are also a student of “The Liturgical year” and you know that Dom Prosper Gueranger (in quoting an earlier Pope) taught that diminution in the practice of penance led ineluctably to a rise in effeminacy.

        We have a church riven with effeminacy and sodomy and those execrable vices can only be rooted out by prayer and penance but what is one to do with a Bishopric so enslaved to anal sex that it had as recent past presidents effeminate men who were pro-sodomites who ordained men who liked to have perverted sex with adolescent males.

        • I’m not a fan of the bishops. I think that’s pretty clear. I just don’t think it’s necessary to bash them in a post advocating a return to the traditional discipline and flat out stating that the change has proven to be a mistake.

          The wound is acknowledged. The application of salt may just be gratuitous.

          • It would be gratifying to see Bishops treat Trads with the same courtesy – say nothing about apologising for their manifest errors instead of pridefully confessing the putative sins of other long-dead Catholics.

          • Of course it would. But we’re better Catholics than they are – or at least, I thought we were trying to be.

            Again: when I’m criticizing a specific action of the bishops on a given issue, they get full fire. But in this case, Will is offering a charitable reading of what they did (and let’s face it, most of those responsible, if not all, are dead) while still arguing that it was a mistake that has borne bad fruit. I didn’t think it necessary to send it back to him and say, “Sorry Will. You should be more of a jerk. They deserve it.”

            After all, that’s what the comment box is for.

          • Thanks for the defense. As I just noted above in the comment box, it’s easy to criticize the Bishops. But I wanted the focus of the article to be the need for us to re-embrace penance and other mortifications. Of course, I can exhort people to do so, but I found the 1966 Bishops’ Statement to be helpful since it already includes ample exhortation to voluntary penance.

            Unfortunately, as noted, there are other unfortunate aspects of the document; but again, I wanted to encourage penance, not bash the Bishops. There’s a time and a place for each and I appreciate your recognition of this.

          • Thanks, Will. I know it’s so hard for some people to believe, but I actually don’t prefer to wallow in negativity all the time. The reality of the crisis in the church is really bad, but the original mission of this website was more essays like yours and fewer of the ones I’m forced to write.

            Somehow, some way, this present disaster will come to an end. We need to remember how to be Catholic again after that.

      • “We need to do more than just tear down. We also have to build up.”

        This is an extremely important element of the site. Without this element, the site would not be what it needs to be, at all. Obviously covering the current crisis is a huge responsibility, but I am glad to see that these articles continue to be included. The day that stops, 1P5 loses credibility in terms of the first part of its twofold stated mission (rebuilding Catholic culture).

    • Criticizing the 1960s era Church for the faults of the last 50 years is easy. But that need not be the focus of every article, and it can also become an excuse for us to focus on the faults of others rather than on our own faults. And I have far less power to correct the faults of Bishops than to correct my own faults and those of the family that I lead.

      I state very clearly in my article that I think the removal of the obligation to penance was a mistake and should be revisited. But the point of my article is that we should re-embrace the practice of penance and other mortifications. That decision is up to us. Whether the Bishops will choose to revisit their decision is up to them.

      My suggestion for all who want to be critical of the Bishops is to be equally critical of yourself. Do you fast all 40 days of Lent? Do you go to daily Mass during Lent? Do you fast during the Ember Days and Vigils? Do you abstain from meat on Fridays and treat it like a mini Lent? Do you honor the penitential character of Advent? I know that when I ask myself these questions, I see that there is room from improvement. Hence, the focus of my article.

      • Well, thanks for your response, even though nothing has changed. I think we are talking past each other. And what I said in my first comment still stands. It’s not just the “faults” of those Modernist bishops. A fault is a human weakness. We all have faults. They are not a sin in and of themselves. Those arrogant bishops took it upon themselves to defy the Will of Christ, the Bridegroom, when they proposed “voluntary penance”. And that change was just the tip of the iceberg. They no longer accepted the church’s doctrine of Original Sin. Which seemed to go right past you and Steve. Their betrayal can never be excused. So for you to say you don’t want to be “too hard” on them is inexcusable. So now you really have something on me to complain about.

        It’s a cop-out for you or Steve to say you don’t want to be “negative” all the time. I agree. But evil can never be excused. It’s absolutely true that when wounded men and women are inclined to make excuses for evil, they are coming from wanting to make excuses for their own weaknesses. With the subsequent self justifications.

        And that you and Steve reacted the way you did tells me you don’t get the depth of the bishops betrayal. You want to justify yourselves. Steve even said which appeared to be directed to me, in reference to my rather temperate comment that “…when everything is an admonishment, a lot of people just tune you out.”. Fortunately, a quick scroll through my will show a range of comments where I praise, affirm, sympathize, criticize, and yes, sometimes I get in people’s faces. I suppose that is my weakness which comes from an Irish temperament where I shoot first and ask questions later.

        That’s human nature wounded by Original Sin, that we want to justify ourselves. Which is what you both are doing.

        Now you’ll say – *but what about you? Are you not wounded too?*. *Yes, I’m wounded too.* And I rejoice that Christ had desired to show me my nothingness, without Him, deep in my soul.

        *…to be equally critical of yourself*. The Holy Spirit has never spared me. My life has been one long “Dark Night of the Soul”. And it’s from my own unworthiness that I can NEVER make excuses for those Judas bishops. And if that’s negative, then so be it. My understanding is not just conceptual, which is your weakness. And that was the point I tried to convey. Before God, it’s our hearts that will determine our worthiness. Even though, as a devout Cathoic, I know the importance of intellectual knowledge.

        It’s not an accident that starting with Church Militant.Com in 2012 and then to many Trad blogs including a couple of Sedes, that I have learned so much about the state of the church today. For that I’m grateful, even though I see the shortcomings of the Trads and the Sedes.

        The more I’m humbled by the Holy Spirit, the more my righteous anger obliges me to speak directly and clearly to the evil that is consuming God’s church.

        It’s amusing that Steve admonished me for admonishing you regarding my courteous, but blunt criticism. I mean the never ending relentless criticism, hopes, grasping at straws, anguish, fury, scorn, directed at Vatll, the post Vatll church. bishops, and Jorge Bergoglio by Church Militant(except Francis)The Remnant. Hilary White, Louie, The Fatima Centre, Canon212, 1P5, et al, suggests a double standard, regarding my rather mild comment, when Steve takes the time to lecture me.

        • It’s a cop-out for you or Steve to say you don’t want to be “negative” all the time.

          No, it’s the truth. Every time we do a post on some lost discipline or tradition or practice of the past, it needn’t also be a screed about those mean awful bishops or popes who did away with it. Yes, they’re mean and awful. Yes, they shouldn’t have done. But in addition to reaching the already convinced (of which we number many readers) we are also attempting to reach those who aren’t yet ready to believe that the hierarchy they were brought up to trust is a brood of vipers, a conspiracy of traitors, etc.

          If they find the beauty and joy in the ancient practice, though — without having to overcome the rhetorically superfluous fault-finding — they may just do some more research on their own. They may find, when they start looking into why these practices were abandoned, that the more important question was who led the charge and what their influences were.

          I haven’t polled in a while, but last time I checked, about a third, IIRC, of our readers regularly attend the novus ordo. You can only redpill people so hard.

          evil can never be excused

          And where in these pages has this happened?

          And that you and Steve reacted the way you did tells me you don’t get the depth of the bishops betrayal.

          I have over 600 articles on this website, the majority of which should handily prove the opposite.

          It’s amusing that Steve admonished me for admonishing you regarding my courteous, but blunt criticism.

          If you want to call it an admonishment, okay. The fact is that many of our regular commenters (who do not even comprise a rounding error in terms of the total number of daily readers we have) are often quite prickly about pretty much everything. I have an editorial approach to our work which has been successful so far — a blending of unflinching news and analysis and educational essays that build people up and affirm them in their faith. When possible, I try not to mix the two. I want the essays to stand on their own as arguments for the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness to be found in Catholicism; I want the critiques to demonstrate how the current hierarchy of the Church are deviating from those transcendentals.

          Nothing is published here without my stamp of approval. In that sense, every critique of every other writer is still one that reflects on me. I think I know what I’m doing, and as you may have guessed one needs to be in this line of work, I tend to be opinionated about it.

          • Thanks Steve for your response. I grew up in the church where all the penances and mortifications Will discusses were part of the church’s weekly and annual church calendar.

            Even though I don’t operate a blog, I can grasp the complex issues that must be grappled with. So, even though I stand by my comments, because my calling is to the spiritual life I see the stark spiritual reality of the lives of those bishops and popes who are betrayers.

            I also recognize how multifaced reality can be. I often notice the range of points of view in comboxes regarding single issues. Yet many of them are valid. Of course, in no way am I denying moral absolutes. I could even agree with Pope Francis regarding “discipline” if he did not play fast and loose with church doctrine.

          • Thanks in return for your response. I know it has been a point of contention in the past at times, but I really believe that just by pulling our punches enough to stay within the bounds of reasonable and non-insulting discourse, we have reached people who might never have considered many of the points presented here. It’s not to say that the punches aren’t deserved; it’s only to say that they are at time gratuitous and unnecessary, if our mission is persuasion (not just affirmation).

            A friend of mine is always reminding me that Chesterton debated fellows like George Bernard Shaw in such a way that while he clearly called out their errors, he gave them enough respect that they could convert without having too much egg on their face. (For some, the loss of credibility is enough to delay or forestall conversion at all.) It’s a rare skill, and one I aspire to develop.

  8. By listing all the things that “no one should say” about their decision, the bishops proved that they knew precisely why it would be a disaster.

  9. In England and Wales the bishops did the same as in the USA, but
    “… in accordance with the mind of the whole church … remind … obligation of Friday Penance.
    The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat.
    … come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011 …”

    • Is it your view that many do as required? I rather get the impression that only a small number of us actually keep to it, though some may occasionally.

      Certainly “Catholic schools” at any age do not appear to have heard of it, and that translates into the wider community.

      • I don’t think it has been very effective, but I have no evidence. On thing I hope has improved is that priests will have heard of it. Some years ago, around the turn of the century, I was dining in a seminary on a Friday when the second year student next to me remarked that it was always fish on Fridays, and he did not know why. Not a diocesan student, he was a member of the Neo-Catechumenal Way!

        • I’m not sure that there is any way to respond to that, except to say that I am both amazed and happy that you didn’t choke

  10. The truth is not optional. Are the 10 commandments written as recommendations? Or Must/Must Not pattern? We are fully free to take it or reject it but only as whole package. As long as we take it then there are obligations. The same with practicing the faith and being member of the church. Such a statements for particular part of the truth are nonsense and simply a lie and people get rightfully confused. There is no longer anything firm to catch to resist the temptation: ‘wide and easy is the path….’.

    I think that fasting is primarily about remembering – especially the every Friday fasting. So, that we make that day different and because of the sacrifice of Jesus the difference should also be some sacrifice. In order not to reinvent the wheel every Friday, the church made it simple by saying – do not eat meat. And it is not lack of meat which really counts but to remember that today is Friday and to organize ourselves with our eating, buying habits etc. to make it happen. Especially in today’s hyper fast reality, pressure, lack of time, hurry it is not that easy to make it happen each and every Friday. Those who do will likely agree I guess.

    On the other side to do more then restrain from eating meat has always been possible for everyone who felt like this. And fasting is truly powerful. I can share my personal experience of taking the challenge of not watching the pornography during one Lent. And I had been heavy porn addict for more then 25 years, moreover not seeing anything wrong in it. So it was about to restrain from something I really liked and needed. And yes it was extremely difficult as porn is extremely heavy addiction compared to hard drugs by neurologists. And just after the Lent when I happily intended to come back to my addiction I got the grace to realize how wrong it is and that I do not want it anymore. I was completely healed. Moreover our marriage started to improve at simply light speed every single day. We would have been divorced otherwise then. So I did not intended it, I did not wanted it but yet this fasting was somehow good enough for God to take action and drag me out of this swamp. Later I found in the Gospel the passage when some Jesus disciples complaint they could not throw out demons in some cases and Jesus responded that they could not because this types could be got rid off only through fasting and prayer.

    So looking for abandoning the fasting is simply abandoning lots of graces. And no-one and especially Bishops should suggest and even involuntarily encourage it.

  11. I’ve never missed doing a penance on Fridays in decades …never…but it’s never been meat consciously. It’s harder for me to give up bread and pasta than to give up meat. If I give up meat and eat stuffed trout…I prefer the latter. Coke, the soda, is more attractive to me than meat. To eat only kale and tomatoes all day is a greater penance to me by far. I’ll have no meat today just by disinterest. If Nate Diaz can fight in the ufc and mostly never eat meat, it can’t be so vital.
    All year I am now giving up each day alcoholic beverages as penance with rare exceptions like Christmas, birthday, Thanksgiving. That has drawn me closer to the Father because in my cabinet, I have two wonderful wonderful wonderful single malt Scotch bottles and Drambuie. They call to me each day just one or twice and I hand the attraction to the Father….and He strengthens me. Day’s end I thank Him that He accomplished with my cooperation another day of penance in me. Single malt Scotch by the way is like blended Scotch but tastes softer and deeper as though made by angels. It can range from $27 to hundreds$ a bottle. Buy one and give it up all year except on holidays and awful days (rare) as Proverbs says…” give strong drink to him who is on the edge of the abyss”….. like when you’re forced to listen to Piers Morgan on guns or Pope Francis on proselytizing or guns.

  12. Isn’t it interesting that one year after the last Garabandal prophesy that the bishops wrote this? That prophesy said : Our Lady’s Message of June 18, 1965
    “Since my Message of October 18, 1961 has not been complied with and has not been made much known to the world, I will tell you that this is the last one. Before the chalice was filling now it is overflowing. MANY CARDINALS, MANY BISHOPS, AND MANY PRIESTS ARE ON THE PATH OF PERDITION AND THEY TAKE MANY SOULS WITH THEM. TO THE EUCHARIST, THERE IS GIVEN LESS AND LESS IMPORTANCE. We should avoid the Wrath of God on us by our good efforts. If you ask pardon with your sincere soul God will pardon you. It is I, Your Mother, who through the intercession of St. Michael, wish to say that you amend, that you are already in the last warnings and that I love you much and do not want your condemnation. Ask us sincerely and we will give to you. You should sacrifice more. Think of the Passion of Jesus”. (Seer Conchita Gonzales)

  13. As James60498 and Anthony Hawkins mention, supposedly the bishops of England and Wales re-instituted Friday abstinence a couple years ago. I think it’s safe to say it went largely unnoticed. Our parish priest informed the congregation from the pulpit, with (I thought) a little embarassment, of the bishops’ volte face, and I haven’t heard much about it since, except on blogs like this.

    I must say that I think the bishops decision was very much a ‘horse already out of the barn’ move that has accomplished nothing (except forcing me to watch leftovers in my fridge go spoilt before the weekend). What’s needed in the UK, and indeed throughout the West, is the re-invigoration of Catholic life, and the first step is by admitting the failure of the post-V2 liturgical changes and encouraging the offering of the TLM in every single parish and re-enkindling the true Liturgical Movement that was cut off at the knees by the imposition of the NO on us. I would not call for banning of the NO, as that’s the same dictatorial spirit Paul VI showed and it would be uncharitable to those who are truly attached to it, but a bit of healthy liturgical competition would go a long way.

    Aside from nurturing a personal self-discipline, fasting and abstinence serve another important aspect: it promotes a Catholic identity. Moving away from the pseudo-Protestant liturgy we’ve had since the post-V2 days would do the same.

    • Suddenly a small piece of positive evidence, perhaps, on another blog “Aspicientes in Jesum”
      at :-

      ” Today I went to Tesco—it was on my way, and has usually parking
      spaces—to buy some fish for lunch. Over the display cabinet was a big
      sign: “Fish: not only for Friday’s”. Yes, I reproduced that accurately,
      apostrophe included. … “

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