Abstinence is the default Friday penance

Abstinence is the default Friday penance

Dear Editor, Prof. Stephen Bullivant suggests the Irish bishops follow their English and Welsh counterparts and reintroduce Friday abstinence (IC 7/2/2019).

Until 1966, healthy adult Catholics had to abstain from flesh meat on Friday. In 1966, St Paul VI allowed for substitution of abstinence with certain good works.  St John Paul II confirmed this in Canon 1253 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, making Friday (except Solemnities) a day of penance. Local Bishops’ Conferences were empowered to regulate this, which the Irish Bishops did later that year. Our Bishops allow a wide variety of alternatives to abstinence, but it is up to the individual Catholic to know their undertaking.

For example, one may attend Mass on Friday or forgo alcohol or donate to a charity instead of abstaining from meat, but it must be a conscious choice. Abstinence is the default, what might be called the ordinary Friday penance; anything else is an extraordinary form.  It might surprise readers that this is one of our obligations as Catholics in Ireland and it has been so for nearly 36 years, even if it doesn’t bind under the pain of sin.

It has been said abandoning Friday abstinence was a greater blow to Catholic identity than the near disappearance of Latin from the liturgy.

I would not advocate reviving abstinence to suit some secular worthies admired by the media but remote from its burdens on ordinary people in the name of a perceived good (veganism may have its own economic and environmental impact).

We could do worse, however, than look to the Orthodox, now Ireland’s fastest growing religious group.  In comparison, our ascetic practices on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are dwarfed by their fasts through Advent and Lent. The restoration of Friday abstinence would go some way towards common ground with the Orthodox and resurrecting something which has been part of Christianity since apostolic days. If it means solidarity with the developing world poor or if it helps the environment, so much the better.

Yours etc.,

Peadar Laighléis,

Laytown, Co Meath.


Clerical celibacy – why can’t it be both?

Dear Editor, Regarding clerical celibacy, why does it have to be one or the other? Why not both? In a book I wrote some time ago and in letters to the Catholic press I have suggested that both states could be accommodated in the Church.

While the general celibacy rule could remain for the secular priests, the Church might consider establishing a religious order of married men who would become ordained. They would work side by side with the celibate clergy as do the priests in religious orders at present. Of course they would not live in community but with their families.

Some Catholics do not seem to realise that while priesthood is a bar to marriage, marriage is not a bar to priesthood. The reason why some Anglican priests are ordained when they become Catholics is because their Anglican ordination is not recognised by the Catholic Church. Not all Anglicans are in this situation if they have received their ordination elsewhere.

Why not establish such a religious order and see how it works out? The Catholic Church has many married priests in the Eastern Rites in full communion with Rome.

Yours etc.,

Francis Bailey,

Killiney, Co. Dublin.


Is torture not a problem?

Dear Editor, It was disappointing to read that Fianna Fáil’s frontbench spokesperson on Foreign Affairs refused to tell The Irish Catholic whether or not he spoke with Iran’s ambassador to Ireland about the persecution of Christians (IC 14/2/2019). It is difficult to interpret this stonewalling as other than an admission of silence.

Seemingly Iranian Christians are routinely interned and tortured – is Fianna Fáil not troubled about this? Back in 2017 Fianna Fáil’s then Foreign Affairs spokesman pushed the Government to recognise ISIS’ actions towards Christians as genocide. I know we can sell things to Iran that we couldn’t to ISIS, but it’d be nice if our onetime ‘natural party of Government’ would have the courage to call a spade a spade for all that.

Yours etc.,

Marianne Brady,

Dundalk, Co. Louth.


Dublin’s parish structure has failed Irish speakers

Dear Editor, Dr Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin asked each parish pastoral council to canvass parishioners in respect of, inter alia (a) how can we keep the Faith, promote the Gospel and pass it on to future generations, and (b) how can we as a Christian community be more relevant to all people.

It is evident that a number of priests simply do not have any understanding or appreciation of the pastoral needs of Irish-speaking Catholics. This raises the question as to whether students for the priesthood are made aware that there are Irish-speaking people in the archdiocese, and that Irish-language courses form part of their training.

It is clearly evident that the vast majority of the 199 parishes in the archdiocese have totally abandoned any and all aspects of the pastoral care of Irish-speaking Catholics. The parish structure has failed Irish-speaking Catholics and is not fit for purpose.

Separate pastoral care arrangements are necessary throughout the archdiocese in order to cater for all aspects of pastoral care, general and educational, of Irish-speaking Catholics. It is necessary to recognise that there are Irish-speaking Catholics living throughout the archdiocese and that comprehensive pastoral care, appropriate to their language and their culture, should be willingly available.

Suggestions as to a structured programme of pastoral care were submitted to Archbishop Martin five years ago but there has been no evidence of any progress in the matter; in fact, the opposite has been the case. It is clear that this matter cannot be resolved at parish level. The ‘buck’ of pastoral care of Irish-speaking Catholics in the archdiocese of Dublin is ensconced in the middle of the archbishop’s desk and will remain there until he implements a comprehensive structure to address this.

Yours etc,

Séamus Mac Giolla Rua,

Clontarf, Dublin 3.