Across the country, some Catholic bishops are excusing their flock from having to obey the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent during the coronavirus pandemic, NBC News reports. Many say that obtaining food at all is difficult for Catholics during these times, let alone being conscientious about eschewing meat one day per week.
Lost in the shuffle of the daily barrage of news about the coronavirus pandemic this spring is the fact that this is also a time of spiritual meaning and reflection for the world's hundreds of millions of Catholics. During Lent -- that is, the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday -- Catholics are expected to avoid meat on Fridays if their health allows.
However, these are extraordinary times, and some bishops say that now is not the time for the faithful to be worried about adhering to Lenten observation.
In Boston, The Most Reverend Peter J. Uglietto of the Archdiocese of Boston said that his city's residents have plenty of trouble as it is obtaining food, as going to the store can be a risky proposition for some. Even so, the stores might very well be low on food when they get there.
"In light of these circumstances, Cardinal Seán [O'Malley] is dispensing all Catholics in the Archdiocese from the obligation of abstaining from meat during the remaining Fridays of Lent," he said.
Uglietto did, however, encourage Catholics who are able to continue with the Lenten sacrifice, and to "offer it up for those who are suffering in any way from the pandemic we are experiencing."
In Louisiana, the Reverend Shelton J. Fabre of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes said this week that the cost of fish is proving prohibitive for some Catholics, to say nothing of the difficulties in obtaining food in general.
"Obtaining food, including meal alternatives from meat, the rising cost of fish and other forms of seafood, and even the challenge of being able to obtain groceries without endangering their health, make it clearly difficult for [Catholics] to fulfill this practice," he said.
In New Jersey, however, the Most Reverend James F. Checchio, the Bishop of Metuchen in Piscataway, said that Catholics can continue eating meat on Fridays during Lent with one exception -- on Good Friday, eating meat is absolutely not allowed as it's a "universal law," he said.
The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on the spiritual lives of the faithful all over the world, regardless of religion, as gathering in large groups is prohibited. Mosques, synagogues, churches, temples, and other places of worship have by-and-large closed their doors, and some churches are broadcasting their services online.