Catholics may eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day

DOVER — For the first time since 2006 St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday.

And for Catholics, that creates a bit of a sticky situation.

Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal. But Catholics are instructed not to meat on Fridays during Lent.

To avoid that conflict, the Diocese of Wilmington has granted a special dispensation for Catholics in Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, allowing them to eat meat this Friday.

The dispensation, issued by Bishop W. Francis Malooly, was created partly to “remind people of the abstinence and to get them thinking perhaps of ‘What else can I do?’” said Bob Krebs, a spokesman for the diocese.

Phyllis Spiering displays two packages of corned beef at the Camden Wyoming Market in Wyoming. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Those who choose to take advantage of the dispensation, the church says, should perform an act of penance instead. That could be abstaining from meat another day or helping at a charity.

The issuance technically allows Catholics to eat any meat on St. Patrick’s Day, not just corned beef. It has been announced in past years when St. Patrick’s Day was on a Friday, according to Mr. Krebs.

While there is no universal policy on the matter in the Catholic Church, many dioceses are granting dispensations this year. Among them is the Archdiocese of Baltimore which includes the Diocese of Wilmington.

Deli clerk Debbie Handges slices corned beef at the Camden Wyoming Market in Wyoming.

Feasting on corned beef on March 17 is more of an American tradition than an Irish one. But many people, even those without Irish heritage, do enjoy the meal every year.

Delaware has a relatively large Irish population per capita, though not quite on the same level as several New England states. In fact, the First State’s most famous resident, former Vice President Joe Biden, is an Irish Catholic, something he has proudly noted many times.

Not all Catholics will take advantage of the dispensation. Dover’s Holy Cross School, for instance, will continue its practice of never serving meat on Fridays, principal Linda Pollitt said.

Church leaders view the dispensation as a “teaching moment,” Mr. Krebs said.

Packages of corned beef at the Camden Wyoming Market in Wyoming.

Avoiding meat during Lent, he said, is a way for Catholics to make their own sacrifices, reminiscent of the much larger sacrifice Jesus Christ made.

“It reminds us that especially during this time of Lent that we should be the masters of our bodies, rather than our bodies and our urges being the masters of us,” he said.

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